A Quick Introduction to the Biggest Names on the Keyan Trap Scene
Trap music, being essentially one third hip hop, one third dub and one third dance music, is a perfect amalgamation of some of the most popular genres in the world today, and that is reflected in just how quickly the bass heavy strain of rap has gone global.
And in the feverishly busy streets and clubs of Nairobi and Kenya at large, the sound is quickly rivalling if not besting any other for domination of play time, and the African nation is now forging its own style from the genre. Called Kenyan Trap or Nu Nairobi, it mixes 808’s with soulful singing, African influences and of course the trademark, low, gravelly bass. Now, although few of its proponents are yet to fully make it big outside the country, through the use of Soundcloud and other social media the sound is getting so incredibly popular within its own borders that people in the US are slowly sitting up and taking notice.
So to introduce you to the way Kenya is bringing its own vibe to trap music, we’ve highlighted five of the best acts that are pushing the sound as hard as possible across East Africa and beyond.
The Nairobi quartet, known individually as Taio, Runkah, Marushka and Tiwango, are a collection of visual artists, singers and producers that self define their sound as ‘Electro-Organic’, and bring soulful harmonies, tightly produced beats and a generally mellower vibe than a lot of US or UK trap based trap.
The group are staunchly independent after two of its members, Taio and Runkah, had previous experiences with major labels from their days with chart topping Kenyan pop group Camp Mulla that left a bitter taste in their mouths. This has led the group; like many others in Kenya, to embrace a DIY ethic and they now release all their music, like last years’ E.P ‘O.N.E’, on their own label ‘Cosmic Homies Records’.
It’s not gone unnoticed abroad as well, as last year’s tour of the US showed, compounded by a stellar performance at the highly influential SXSW Festival.
The T412 are a gospel trap group, one of the only if not probably the actual only gospel trap group in the world, which should already be enough to pique your interest if it wasn’t already religiously piqued.
Having came onto the scene six years ago, the group cooked up instant controversy by calling out other Kenyan gospel stars who they didn’t deem to be ‘Christ like’ enough, so it was kind of like normal hip hop beef that you get with American rappers but over how holy they are.
Saying that, their raucous and straightforward trap sound carries an important message that isn’t all about god and religion, and they frequently use their platform to discuss the issues currently plaguing their communities like drug addiction and crime.
Ukweli, AKA Brendern Denousse, is a hip hop, trap and soul producer that runs the groundbreaking Nu Nairobi crew EA Wave (short for East Africa Wave). With a sound that perfectly blends the smoothness of neo soul, the buoyancy of modern hip hop and inch perfect pop sensibilities, it’s no wonder that he’s already been asked to produce for artists as acclaimed as R’n’B duo Ibeyi, as well as recently dropping tracks for both Willow and Jayden Smith, both of which are surprisingly excellent.
Still only 19 years old, he has a bright future ahead of him, and he’s currently working on multiple projects with his EA Wave crew, as well as aiming to release a solo E.P in the very near future.
Another member of the EA Wave gang, Muroe built up a name for himself after taking up DJing in 2012 under his real name James Mburu. He quickly gained a reputation as a skilled producer thereafter, only recently branching out into producing, singing and rapping on his own tracks.
With a sound that would be more recognisable to listeners as classic US style trap, his ‘TRUE’ E.P was a bit harder hitting than many others in the Kenyan Trap scene, especially those peddling the more laid back Nu Nairobi sound.
Blinky Bill is a bit of a legend in the Kenyan hip hop scene. And although he does not have a sound that is immediately definable as trap, so many on this list, including the EA Wave Gang and the Cosmic Homies, cite him and his three piece collective ‘Just A Band’ as huge influences on their music, so it only seemed right to include him.
And a perfect introduction to his ‘Nairobi Bounce’ sound is this year’s ‘We Cut Keys While You Wait’ E.P, that mixes compact pop melodies, upbeat beats and fast paced flows to great effect, and is a perfect encapsulation of the wide ranging pool of influences that contemporary Kenyan music draws from.