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Coco Em. Photo by @Moharez courtesy of the artist.

Coco Em Is Nairobi's Hardest Hustling DJ

"We're building our own sound now. We just need to look inside of ourselves and see the things that makes us uniquely Kenyan."

Catching up with Coco Em is not an easy task these days. The girl seems to just be everywhere.

She picks me up at a gas station just before a rain storm; the interview a meeting that's wedged after two others for her, before she dashes off to Nairobi's Central Business District at rush hour for another. That seems par for the course for the Nairobi DJ, as she's clamped on to her chances and is currently not letting them go.

Coco Em has been playing on some of East Africa's most prominent stages, recently playing Nyege Nyege in Jinja, Uganda and going as far afield as spinning in Israel, bringing her own take on East African house mixes.

We sat down over chips in a nyama choma joint just up the road from Kenya's State House to talk about the music, the hustle and the journey that it's taken her to get here.

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Op-Ed
Photo: Lizzie Farida.

Op-Ed: Why Is the Kenyan Music Industry So Behind?

"In Kenya we have yet to have that kind of financial and moral support as a country," Fena Gitu.

It's a fundamental question, one that many discerning music-obsessed individuals have asked four rounds deep at 2AM on a throbbing Nairobi dance floor: why is Kenyan music so behind?

Not in the musical sense, that boat holds no water. Kenyan artists, while they definitely have a different sound, can go punch for punch for any other African industry—I'll happily meet any naysayers outside. The problem is that they're not getting paid for it. So what lies at the root of this problem, why do the two other major 'hub' countries in Africa, that of South Africa and Nigeria, outstrip Kenya's industry by such a wide margin? A 2016 report from Price Waterhouse Cooper shows the two former industries trending upwards, growing, outside of population size. The Kenyan growth is visually dampened.

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Interview
Stella Mwangi. Image courtesy of the artist.

Stella Mwangi: Hip-Hop Saved My Life as an African Growing Up in Norway

The Kenyan-Norwegian rapper speaks about the Hollywood hustle, the potential of East African music and what she's dropping next.

If it seems like Stella Mwangi is everywhere these days, that's understandable. It's nearly impossible to see all the rings she's throwing her hat into: her songs are getting featured in Hollywood and across commercials, films and movie trailers.

There's a reason why it's possible to stay on such a grind, to make it work after more than a decade in the rap game, and that's an underlying theme with much of what the Kenyan-Norwegian artist, who also goes by STL, does. She's charged with an incomprehensible current that would have burned out other artists. Even as I caught up with her, she was hours away from taking a flight to the filming of a reality cooking competitions in Norway.

So what is on deck for Stella Mwangi? As it turns out, seemingly everything.

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