When I think of East African Hip Hop, that thought process barely lasts a moment. Not because East African Hip Hop is non existent, as that is far from true, but rather because in comparison to the motherland at large, the gap is indisputable. Despite our local heroes; Octopizzo, Khaligraph Jones, Navio, just to name a few, in contrast to the continents heavy hitters (M.I, Cassper Nyovest, Sarkodie etc.) they are merely a grain of sand in the beach of African Hip Hop.
With that in mind, the mindset upon inserting East African Hip Hop into my medulla is one of zero expectation. With the region being ever experimental, there is no monolithic ‘sound’ one is to expect.
With his ‘Life So Far: DEMO’...H exhales a breath of fresh air.
‘The Message’ introduces us to what we will soon unearth as, a real ode to Hip Hop. The dominant drums off the intro embody the African sound wholly and the tone is set as he “cuts the cameras and leaves the mic on” we quickly become accustomed with the importance of Hip Hop to H, something he claims to (at times) ‘love more than life’.
‘The Message’ doesn’t hesitate to articulate its point, the mission is clear, H wants our ear, but not passively his verbiage is evidence of this, a lyrical mastermind.
It becomes clear throughout the project that, H is a product of the 90s, a 90s baby! The bullish bounce in his vocals is reminiscent of the 90s Hip Hop wave; you know that contagious Biggie flow, the uncherographered Puffy dance moves, with the synchronized head and shoulder bopping, you know...the whole shebang! This 90s Hip Hop theme is carried throughout the project.
On ‘I Know Doe & Ride’ we can hear this play out. The bouncy beat off ‘Ride’ explains the song title, that energy is instantly transmitted and perfectly translated, you’re on a ride, H’s ‘Ride’. The 90s vibes are selective, he cherry picks his references, a notable one being “today was a good day” off ‘Today (Don’t Trip)’, a popularly used Ice Cube reference. In addition to that he steers the beat with his flow, not the other way round and commands a level of control on the mic resembling that of the MC.
The incorporation of Swahili and English place him in a unique lane. He finds a way to naturally mingle the two, at one point pointing preferences to his native language (Swahili). The natural feel of this linguistic mix is a strength, the audible fluidity of it is something he carries as ammunition, something he has crafted and mastered, admittedly stating he ‘used to rap in English but my rhymes they didn’t get though’ a line I understand to mean, his sound was once Western (English).
This same bar comes full circle on his performance on ‘STOP’ with the first line being ‘Hi STOP me ni Tanzania, now that I’ve got your attention’ and continues to champion his African heritage in the hook off the same track (STOP).
H’s journey is embodied in this project, in the beginning we are bombarded with lyrics and beats that aim to purely impress, and impressed we are. He then shifts gears to focus on his Message, he delivers a message of love, pride and truth. ‘BEACHism’ is an interlude with the message of afrocentric self-love. The capitalized ‘BEACH’ text perhaps places emphasis on his roots (TZ) a coastal nation. With L.S.F, H has undeniable placed himself unto the beach of African Hip Hop, now a part of the grains of sand, the journey to sculpt his sandcastle will be enticing. Ever boastful in his African pride, and unapologetically so! H ties the ribbon on this gift with ‘Soul Truthful’, a heartfelt moment in which he bares nothing but the naked truth, constantly prophesyinghis “so truthful, the booth toothful” and like a prophecy, we cannot deny it.