What happens when a popular radio station decides it’s time to give air time to deserving artistes? In the words of one Neil Patrick Harris It’s fucking – wait for it – legendary. Over the years we’ve had the airwaves dominated by the same old artistes with the same old sounds on heavy rotation. To be honest it drove me to near insanity. You see music is an art, it’s not a business or an industry that should be controlled or monopolized. What people want is good music, regardless of the artiste or their celebrity status. So when HBR started the freshman initiative it was a much needed breath of fresh air in a rather stale industry.
So what is the freshman initiative? It’s where HBR gets behind fresh new rappers with the potential to blow up in the industry. HBR, just in case you live under a rock, is the station behind a popular hip hop show known as The Jump Off, with the one and only hip hop queen Miss Corrine. Selected artistes get featured on the show and have their music on rotation getting them the exposure they need. It’s a beautiful thing as talent gets nurtured and hard work rewarded. Finally an artiste’s years of hard work scouring the internet using social media to push their music pays off. Suddenly Pablo Picasso’s words make sense “Everything you can imagine is real”.
This year, the freshman list is out and it features a number of super talented rappers. Listening to them on sound cloud you have to admit their lyricism is on another level, the flow is smooth and they have the ‘it’ factor. They are time bombs waiting to blow up. These individuals are here to switch up the game, rattle snakes and take the industry by storm. Meet the HBR freshman class of 2015 (my top 3):
Have you ever listened to a song and wondered why you’ve never heard of the artiste until that moment? This is what Pray does to you. The beat starts off and you can swear you hear an African celebratory ululation in the background. Then the rapper drops the first verse and it hits you – this is pure gold. This is music that captures your attention from the first kick and keeps it hostage for the whole song. You develop a Stockholm kind of syndrome with this song as you’ll have it on replay getting acquainted with the rappers style. The best part is that every time it plays it has the same effect – mind blowing!
Don’t’ believe me? *cues uptown funk* just listen.
An artiste can only be as good as his producer. It’s a team effort. On God-speed, the beat is crisp and Shukid’s mellows in shouting out his home town, Kakamega, before taking it up a notch and laying his verses giving off a Kendrick Lamar type of vibe. Listening to this track you don’t need an explanation as to why he is on the freshman class of 2015. A definite one to watch out for this year.
Beyond the city skylines past the lush estates all the way to the diaspora hails one female rapper by the name of baby T. The name shouldn’t fool you her punch lines do not kid. Representing the 125 switching flawlessly between English, Kiswahili and Sheng’. Her flow is more up-beat and you bump your head from start to end. Listen to Mnare to know exactly what I’m talking about. If her beauty doesn’t hypnotize you her flow will.
Going for the trap music sound he might have etched his way into a niche that most artistes in Kenya struggle with. Listening to Lupita – yes the Oscar winning Luopean (ION looking for some to translate that jaluo rap when the song begins) – you can feel the energy as he delivers bars with the preciseness of an air force airshow. However, I decided not to stop at “Lupita” I wanted to listen a little more to this rapper so I pressed play on Bembeleza. The name shouldn’t fool you he sticks to his style as he churns out line after line in English save for the hook. Forget the hype about Kenyan musicians aping style – he owned it!
The song starts and you get a young thug type of vibe off it – only you can hear each word and don’t have to wait for the hook. I won’t sugar coat it too much though this crew has lines that could be better invested in deeper songs. With songs such as she-ratchet and feelings you enjoy the flow but their prowess feels like a caged beast – a Ferrari in a garage. I’d like to hear them get out of their comfort zone and do something other than taking a girl home and cars.
All in all as artistes they definitely got the juice and are set for a meteoric rise.