Monday, May 20, 2024

The rise and rise of Kenyan Hip Hop outliers , Wakadinali

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Muumba
Muumbahttp://hiphopafrica.net
Founder & Chief Creative Mind at Hiphop Africa
Written by St. Bervon powered by Vibelab for Hiphop Africa

The Kenyan music industry is in safe hands now more than ever. In Hip Hop, the industry is experiencing a new world order spearheaded by artists and key players who have embraced art churning out timeless music. There is no better time to consume Kenyan music and at the center of the circus, pulling the strings is the group Wakadinali, under an entertainment outfit called ZOZANATION.

What we are witnessing now is Wakadinali’s music avalanche to peak levels after more than a decade’s worth of work.

Board this train with me and I will tell you all you need to know about Rong Rende. Forgive me if I decide to go wax lyrical about Wakadinali but in the words of Socrates “all I know, is that I know nothing” and one thing I know is, well, nothing.

Wakadinali history lesson

Fueled by passion and talent, four young men from the city of Nairobi joined talents and started the group Wakadinali in the streets of Umoja. Domani Munga (David Ramadhan), Sewersydaa (Slim Tangut) , Scar Mkadinali (Churchill Mandela) and Okenno (formerly) derived their rap name from the word “Cardinals” which in lay man’s language means “belong to the very nature of a thing, something you can’t replace”. In the music context Wakadinali are Umoja and Umoja is their music, they rap about the environment they grew up in and the experiences that fellow “Eastlanders” fully relate to.

This ground connection has endeared them to hoodlums and upstate fans alike who want to have an idea of the hullabaloo of living in the ghetto. Wakadinali met individually in school, each being a mutual friend of the other and immediately understood the connection among them. Rarely do you find a music group of three artists that you can not rank in any form since each of them is insanely talented.

In Kenya, it last happened during the Kleptomaniax era of Nyashinski, Collo and Roba. In my mind, God gave us Wakadinali for the years Klepto disappeared from us. They began making small-time music but their initial break came when they DM’d Khaligraph Jones on Facebook pressuring him for a collaboration. Khaligraph Jones had just hit commercial status so marketing wise, a collab with Wakadinali was not his biggest concern, but as the OG he is, he took them to BIG BEATS AFRIQUE to a producer by the name Ares 66  and paid for their first studio session, Ares had been Khaligraph’s producer for years before he switched to Motif on the beat with the Blu Ink Corp – a record label founded by Khaligraph Jones himself.

Building the Body of Work

Ares gave them a chance and I know this is what you expect me to write but “the rest is history”.

My class is still in session so I will teach some history. Wakadinali released their debut album “Ndani Ya Cockpit 1” which unsurprisingly was not a national hit immediately, but the songs grew on us. Scar Mkadinali showed traits of a superstar in the cypher “Khaligraph Jones presents” . So much was the belief in their hustle that Domani said “tunachill tukingoja scar atupeleke commercial” which is exactly what he did.

Ares went on to produce a major part of Wakadinali’s catalog ,which he still does to date. In a conversation I had with him at his studio, he said Wakadinali were not only easy to work with but having been born and bred in Umoja himself, they are related in life experiences which helped comprehend their music and how they wanted it produced. 

Through the years ,Wakadinali spread a message of defiance and misfits, they did little marketing of their work because most of their fans were on sight. After getting a little experience, they started the RYM GYM cypher where artists would showcase their raps skills monthly in Umoja.This move endeared them with ground fans and brought in more fanatics to the fold.

In 2020 scar released “Kovu”, a song that broke all the chains holding Wakadinali back. It became a household jam and artists jumped on the challenge to try and outshine the star boy.

Their catalog has ballooned in the last 3 years and when you look back ,it’s just now that you realize that they are the most streamed artists in Kenya by mistake, they have put in the work and the grind is paying them now. The song “Geri Inengi” which features SirBwoy flung them into the commercial music scene, the big bucks started streaming in and the streams started paying big bucks.

God knows there is not a single act in East Africa that has the catalog of Wakadinali and ZOZANATION collectively. Their music release as individuals and as a group is unmatched relatively in the time they have been active in the game. As a group Wakadinali have; Mtoto wa Mama, Ndani ya Cockpit 1, 2 & 3, and Victims of Madness. Individually, Domani has released “Haitaki Hasira” “Exposed and Munga’s Revenge” .However Domani has a series called “Mungu 1-6” where he butchers beats with lyrics that can make a man cry.

Sewersydda is inarguably the most industrious of the three, releasing albums like “Jeshi ya Katululu, Wada, Nocturnals and Mauru Unit. Scar Mkadinali is the most commercial of the trio but he only has one album named ‘Easy’. On the contrary though, he has been the most-widely accepted member of Wakadinali as he literally took them commercial. To stress my point, that’s a total of (12+) albums as Zozanation. I can assure you there is no living artist with such a catalog in 10 years, from Timbuktu to Windhoek to Cairo back to Mogadishu. Wakadinali are them.

Growing The Brand

As beneficiaries of someone guiding them Wakadinali have gone above and beyond to create an outfit where they separate themselves from the rest of the artists and do everything in house.

There is music and there is music business, ZOZANATION is business. It is an umbrella outfit of artists, producers, directors any anything under the sun that’s art operating under a phenomenon I like to call “art attack”. The group comprises of Wakadinali themselves, Sudough Doss, Skillo and until recently Dyana Cods said “she left ZOZANATION because they didn’t match her worth”; it was most likely a stunt because she is set to release an album under Ares this month, but again Wakadinali doesn’t do stunts.

ZOZANATION the outfit

Imagine a production house that encompasses some of the most talented minds in the game, dedicated to ensuring your success as an artist, that’s ZOZANATION for you. As of 2023 , the outfit was championed by Wakadinali and Dyana Cods ,until they did the Intro Album of Sudough Doss ,S€£k in early 2023.

Again forgive my naivety or clear partiality but I want to tell you a secret, Sudough Doss is the Messiah of new generation HipHop. Think of your favorite HipHop artist; he who can sing, rap, storytell and give a hook that would easily catch Piranha in the dead seas. Sudough Doss has the hook abilities of Domani Munga, the lyrical sanctity of Scar and the conscious rap gift only Sewersydaa possess. As it’s no longer a secret, please tell everyone you know, Sudough Doss is the Messiah of Kenyan HipHop and if time has taught me anything, it’s very just.

The second wild card that was pulled by the mighty Rong Rende is a master by the name Skillo Odongo aka man a loski skillo. Now I know you have heard of a catchy rapper before, but if you haven’t consumed his debut album ‘The Rong Don’ , you don’t know what it means to be addicted to lines, other than cocaine. Skillo Odongo has been with Wakadinali for a while, but the roll out of the “ZOZANATION” blueprint was set in such a way that we only got to know his lyrical prowess in the Album ‘The Rong Don’.

This was a very busy year for Wakadinali and ZOZANATION as a whole owing to the fact that they released 3 albums in a span of 4 months. Skillo is a unapologetic gangster rapper who knows he is good at it, laid back on a beat while saying some of the most unhinged things , he literally said “ukidiss hii band unakuwa disbanded”. The fuel for Wakadinali succeeding lies in the chemistry they possess among them and the history. They have been in this kind of music business for a while and they are self aware that they’re actually miles ahead of anyone behind them. Skillo alias Mr Odongo is the wildcard in the ZOZANATION pack, I know for a fact that he’s better than 98% of Kenyan rappers ,they just don’t know it yet.

Equality would be hit below the belt if all we had in Zozanation possessed male spare parts below the belt, enters Dyana Cods aka the Female Munga. Sometimes you encounter an artist and your life is not the same again, not her though, but sometimes you do. I first heard of Dyana Cods on the HBR Trap Lab and I couldn’t believe my ears.

She is what we had been missing in the Kenyan music scene ,sorry for my profanity but, she’s a bad bitch for real. Dyana Cods can rap and sing like a parrot, her voice when she smolders on the mic can do miracles to a man.Hers is the kind of voice you record on a Walkman and carry it with you to war, the constant thrill of seeing the owner of that voice will keep you alive, true story.

Dyana Cods is the female Messiah ,she’s no Maandy Kabaya but they are on different levels and genres in the scene, but she is HER. Imagine STL if instead of Norway, she grew up in Eastlando,east kwa mabeast. Dyana is a combination of a rapper , a singer and a baddie all rolled into one talented woman. I have met her , watched her perform , had casual conversations with her and all I can say is, on all those occasions I was the bitch in the room, she sends shivers down my spine honestly.

Music wise, her catalog is not as broad as Wakadinali but she has more material than her fellow Zozanationals. Having been in Wakadinali projects from as early as 2019, her chemistry with Sewersydda is specifically exceptional as evident in “Riswa 1 & 2” , “Cry baby 2” and many more.

I could go on and on about Dyana Cods but the one thing you should do is listen. Credible sources reaching my ears is that she is about to release an album this month of March (never dropped).

Ares 66 is a bigger and more mature name in the industry than Wakadinali even, he’s been in the game since the late 10’s when they were starting out with Khaligraph Jones. What sets him apart from other producers is that the man can rap ,with two albums in his name, his first ‘Black Milk’, his latest project ‘Gangsta Points’ is a culmination of experience, pizzazz and talent carefully molded into an album. A laid back professional, Ares has been instrumental in the careers of many artists but most notable is Wakadinali and ZOZANATION as a whole having produced more than 70% of their catalog.

On albums like (Ndani ya Cockpit 1,2,3) ,he’s the main man and his Big Beatz studio has been a homeground for Wakadinali throughout the years.

It would be a big rookie mistake if I left without acknowledging their business model which involves production and distribution of albums by artists not in Zozanation. One such arrangement is the album ‘Me against Me’ by Katapilla Katavelli. In a sit down with Ares 66 , he informed me that the company would take care of everything, from production to distribution and recoup their investments in album sales, streaming numbers and performance fees. A genius move I would say, since Wakadinali have numbers, they put out the music in their official chanel but under a written agreement on profit sharing.

Another Zozanation album production is the upcoming album by KITU SEWER, a legendary Kenyan rapper who blew the scene back then as Mashifta. The chemistry between Kitu Sewer and Wakadinali in the songs they have pieced together must have fueled the decision. This will be a revolutionary album, similar to Kiswahealing 2 where Kitu Sewer teamed up with Maovete to launch a masterpiece.

If you’ve heard “HR pump hio track bana” you must wondering who the tag belongs to. 

Zozanation have teamed up with other like-minded professionals in the Industry to achieve their plan for industry domination. One such genius is HR the Messenger, a Kenyan Rap-Producer with unimaginable talents. His chemistry with Sewersydaa has birthed “Healing of a Nation” a collabo album “Nocturnals” and many collaborations including production of his latest album

“Mauru Unit”. Other producers include Eyo Chinoh of the famous “Avoid those people” and Alex Vice, the man who produced “Kovu”; a song that changed their fortunes.

There may be a lot I have left out because of fact checking and because I can’t afford a real lawyer if I get sued, but I have told you a lot also. Zozanation will be a musical powerhouse in Kenya and there is nothing that can stop them. A mixture of talent and relentless hard work has ensured that their projection is only up. After conquering Kenya,the next step is East Africa and then the continent, the plan is visible and this might be actualized by their long awaited album ‘Victims of Madness 2’.

Truth is, the time is now, this is Wakadinali’s world , we’re just living in it.

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