When Kenyan rapper Khaligraph Jones drops bars, one gets the impression that he does so with a protruding sense of indifference as to whether he is endearing or not, such that in the event that everyone stopped listening to his music, he would still rap. Papa Jones, as the proudly-Kayole-bred rapper is known, seems to have embraced an attitude where he isn’t working to necessarily entice his audience as opposed to him simply inviting them to withstand his musical defiance and respect his artistic wherewithal, all the while being dismissive of his ostracizers.
Khaligraph raps on one part to entertain – you’ll enjoy the music even if you’re a hater, seems to be his poise – and on the other, to affirm that he is still the Original Gangster, the OG, and that his central clarion call to the “fans in denial” or “trolls” is for them to step up and match his energy and the bravado, as his critics to come at him the way he comes at them for a proper duel.
In Hao, in which he features Masauti, Khaligraph presents an argumentative ground to account for his dismissive attitude towards trolls. But that is not without successfully revisiting the instances in which other artists have been victims of cancel culture in the music industry, and you can only conclude that the case studies he so wittingly reflects upon lead towards attaining one goal: demonstrating that he remains steadily unbwogable.
1. Wanajifanya wanapenda, hao, ila wanadidimiza, hao (They pretend to love, instead they are depressing).
In various interviews, Khaligraph has admitted that indeed, it is the fans who have supported and elevated him to his position in his now radiant music career. He acknowledges that the power he seems to inherently possess is given to him, out of love. However, he makes it eloquently clear that there are, among the people manifesting their affection, those whose preoccupation is to push out of stage – literally so – the artists, and if not for anything, then out of nothing, and so as to yield a more intense definition of cancel culture. How so?
2. Bahati akianza alikuwa mtoto wa mama, saa hii Twitter amegeuziwa yeye ni mtoto wa Diana.
Bahati, born Kevin Kioko in 1994 in Eastlands, is a gospel-turned-secular artist. He started his music career after high school and remained an almost unknown artist until 2016, when he released his song Mama. The song became popular with his newly made fans who, in an expression of their love towards him, branded him “Mtoto wa Mama” or Mother’s favorite. That, over the years, has since been reversed to a condescending moniker, “Mtoto wa Diana,” in which to mean, his wife’s child; Diana being his wife’s name. In an interview, Bahati said that “I was fought a lot in the industry and I knew I was not doing gospel for the people…”, qualifying allegations that he had stopped singing gospel music and had switched to secular music. He also acknowledged the fact that they- he and his wife- were among the most hated couples. And they were cancelled in the gospel industry.
3. Mmefanya mpake Poze awache injili, amewacha kuimba ngoma za Holy Spirit.
Like Bahati, Wilson Abubakar Radido alias Willy Paul jumped the gospel music ship. Interestingly, he cited rampant hate in the gospel industry, stating that his rivals were too committed to ensuring his music was denied airpla. According to Willy, the hate he received was because he was a successful musician, only comparing to Khaligraph Jones, about whom he said he had tremendous respect and admiration. Hoping to make it in the secular music world, Willy agued that the same God who blesses Sauti Sol, is the same God who blesses the gospel artists, and with that assurance, he would continue reaping God’s blessings in his new genre. The hope in God became an optimism strategy to overcome the pressure from his fans turned critics.
4. Si nyi hu-troll Stivo Simple Boy ka kila siku, but Kipchoge akivaa nguo the same mnamsifu.
Stivo Simple Boy’s is a case of ostracization and classicism. Like Khaligraph and Bahati, he comes from the informal settlements, only his hood is Kibera, the largest slum in Africa. He is a multi-genre artist who impressed the fans with his courage in the gospel industry, and his unmatched self-confidence, and dare I say, self-love that is evident in his music. He came into a contrasting limelight after he released his song, Tuheshimu Ndoa, in which he implores married couples to uphold their marriage vows.
However, what caught the attention of a majority, or at least what was emphasized on was his attire: a pair of brown shorts and sleeveless shirt, wielding a baton and playing the role of a local Kenyan chief trying to arbitrate a conflicting couple. Eliud Kipchoge, the renowned world marathoner, donned similar attire while modelling for GQ, the prestigious men’s fashion and style magazine. Of course, the two are in different professional fields, and they are stars in their own rights. However, it would be accurate to aver that the backlash Stivo Simple Boy faced was unwarranted when Kipchge received cheers for dressing the same way.
5. Mimi ni gangster mkini-troll haiwasaidii, kwendaa!
Then Khaligraph. His attitude in Hao seems to transcend the challenges that his fellow artists have faced, and particularly, the pressure that comes with online trolling, and as Willy Paul and Bahati called it, “a lot of hate” from the people, whom Khaligraph calls “fans in denial.” His choice of words, which informs his attitude, can be called nothing more accurate than dismissive.
But does he confirm that? Yes:
6. And though wengi watasema ni kiburi, but that’s the only way utawezana na hawa ma-bully.
Khaligraph seems to have decided that a no retreat no surrender attitude is the way to counter ostracization, being cognizant of the fact that his carefree attitude and playing deaf to the noise from “fans in denial” may be construed as arrogance yet still maintaining this stance the best antidote to being bullied. Similarly, in Kwendaa!! Khaligraph advances his technique for withstanding trolls and other entities who are out to not only dismiss artists but also take away from them. The song, presented in a back to back conversational style, and in which other accomplished artists including Nyashinski, Bien from Sauti Sol and Willis Ramburu feature, also advances the same I-don’t-give-a-damn attitude.
Translated loosely, “Kwendaa!” would imply “Get lost!”
7. Mimi sitambui Omollo Maze huyo boy huringa (Kwendaa!!)
Khaligraph puts together the dismissive statements trolls use against him, especially the particular accusation thrown his way that he is arrogant and fakes an American accent. Yet these jabs don’t seem to dissuade Khaligraph, who never tires to remind everyone of his journey from rock bottom to stardom, having surmounted every imaginable obstacle. Khaligraph’s thick skin could be as a result his upbringing – like Bahati and Stivo Simple Boy, he came from an informal settlement and rose to fame through music.
Born Brian Ouko Robert in 1990 in Kayole, Khaligraph began writing lyrics in his teens, and in 2009, won the Channel O Emcee Africa award. He released his first song, Tema ma Verse featuring Abbas Kubaff in 2012, and in 2014, released his studio debut album, Point of No Return. That was soon followed by his second album, Testimony 1990 which was released in 2018. Most recently, in January 2020, he was feted as the best hip hop act at SoundCity MVP Awards in Lagos, Nigeria.