Khaligraph Jones: Kenyan showbiz is boring

By: JOSEPHINE MOSONGO

BUZZ: Have you met Julius Yego?

No, but we’ve communicated; he called me and we’ve been talking.

Did he like the song?

Of course he did; that’s why he called me, I didn’t look for him. He called and said he liked the jam.

Is he a fan of rap?

He wasn’t before I released that song but after listening to it, he is becoming a fan of rap and my music as well.

Do you have an album out yet?

I was going to drop an album this year but I’m holding it back. I postponed it because I feel the album has a lot of potential in terms of features. I’m looking to work with big names in Africa and so far I’ve managed to get a couple. I still believe I could get more. I want my first album to be something that is going to be talked about. It will feature Wyre and Victoria Kimani. At the moment, those are the names I can mention.

When will it be ready for release?

Often, artistes don’t have enough tracks to put out an album, but so far I’ve recorded over 140 songs for the album. That’s the difference between me and the others. I have more than enough. It will really help in the launch if I have big names because it’s easy to convince corporate sponsors of the potential the album has. That’s why I’m holding back.

You are very confident in the song RIP Competition; do you really believe you have no competition in Kenya?

In Kenya and Africa, there is no competition. Do you know how much I have to dumb down my content so that I can relate to people on the ground level? Even when I’m working with rappers in the country; I have to dumb it down somewhere close to their level. For me, there is no competition in Kenya because people get into comfort zones once they are famous.

Do you think you are better than Rabbit?

You have to be confident in what you do, and rapping is territorial. I think I’m better than him, but that is something you let the fans decide. But he’s good.

What about Octopizzo?

I don’t really like talking about that issue.

Not the beef, just musically

The fans will you give you their opinions.

What is ‘bubble gum rap’; you mention it in RIP Competition?

Getting to this level and still taking the time to perfect the art is a sacrifice, because once I go to the studio and do a track, I do it from the heart because of the passion I have for music. Like I told you, many people, when they become celebrities, don’t put too much thought into what they write; they write some silly things.

Is that what’s happening in Kenya?

For mainstream rappers, Yes. Apparently, people are made to believe that that’s what is hot right now — for your song to be catchy.

Don’t you think you are doing your fans a disservice by dumbing down your lyrics?

The music industry is a business and you have to make money from it. But I also go to the studio and make music for the core fans who’ll understand what I’m talking about. That’s what I did with RIP Competition. Do you think there’s any rapper I could have put on that jam who could match up to that?

Do you think your name should be bigger than it is right now?

Yes, but you have to start from somewhere. Three years ago, I wasn’t in this position; I was very low down but I put in the work. I’m constantly trying to come up with strategies that will elevate me. Three years ago, I couldn’t get a feature with a guy like Ice Prince or Victoria Kimani. Now I’ve got people like Kuli Chana from South Africa talking about me. Two years from now, it’s going to be different because my work ethic is still the same, or I’ll even take it a notch higher.

Do you have to infuse Kiswahili to your songs for your music to be accepted?

Kenyans judge you a lot on the language that you decide to use, but how you speak it — that’s the thing. When I introduce my tracks, people think I’m trying to act American and ask what’s up with the accent — that I have a fake accent. But this is just me. Cool, I’ve never been to the States and I never went to posh schools but the influences that I had and the things I was doing when growing up, they account for the way I speak. That’s why I tell people I’m as original as I can be.

Do they judge you too much because of the accent?

When I use English only on a track and they don’t even know it’s me, they never have a problem with it, they think it’s dope. But when they do know, they say “this guy is from Kayole; why is he rapping like that’?

What was your childhood like?

I was born, raised and went to school in Kayole, Nairobi. And I did music when I was still there, like We Be Happening. Having grown up in one of the roughest neighbourhoods of Nairobi, I wouldn’t want to raise my children in such an environment. That’s why I’m working hard to get out.

I did get out but I’m still trying to go even further. I’m trying to use my story as a testimony. It was crazy; many people who I used to hang out with were killed.

Do you think music saved you from that?

Music did, but I was a good person, either way. My mum raised me well.

At what point in your career did you realise that you had made it?

I’ve never thought I’ve made it, because I haven’t. My vision is way bigger than what we have here. I get opportunities to hang out with celebrities who receive lots of attention and, for them, that is enough. That is nothing compared with what I want to accomplish. I still have a long way to go. Some people might think I’m successful, but I believe I have enough potential to be a person of greater influence in Kenya and Africa.

Why don’t you smile often?

(Laughs) I do, I’m a comedian. I have multiple personalities.

Why don’t you do more music like Songea that show a softer side of you?

I can’t do a lot of those because people will no longer be surprised. Everything I do is calculated.

Does your background give you a lot of street credibility?

When I was coming up, a couple of people asked me to stop mentioning Kayole. They said it’s not a place I would want to associate myself with because the corporates wouldn’t want to work with me. I’m a very rebellious guy; I just want to do my thing. And because of my physical appearance and where I come from, people are scared. Many celebs out there are afraid, they probably think I’m violent, but I’m not. It’s about how you’re going to present yourself and what you put on the table that’s going to make the corporates jump on board; not where you come from.

Do you have close celebrity friends?

Kristoff and Rabbit is also a good friend of mine, I just shot a video with him. But friends aside when it comes to music, I’m the King. I like Rabbit because he understands it’s about music; there are some people who don’t. This is showbiz and we are lagging behind.

Casper from South Africa filled up a whole stadium because he’s beefing with AKA; that is showbiz now. When we had issues with Octopizzo, people thought I was looking for cheap publicity, but they already knew who I was. We give people something to be excited about, and fans will pay money to come see you. Kenyan showbiz is boring.

What do you think of Abbas Kubaff?

He’s one of the real people I’ve had a chance to meet and work with. When I wasn’t even known, he gave me a chance; he had the ‘Toklezea’ jam at the time and it was big. He came to the studio in Umoja and we worked on like five songs. We have a good friendship and I look up to him; he has a clean heart.

But when it comes to rap, I’m the king (laughs). However, I cannot start contending with Abbas for a title; we are from two different generations. It’s like Jay Z and Kendrick Lamar.

SOURCE: DAILY NATION