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Meet Cosmic Homies O.N.E., the New Wave of Kenyan Hip-Hop

The four member music & art collective Cosmic Homies O.N.E. are the sound of #NuNairobi.

Cosmic Homies O.N.E. are the sound of #NuNairobi.


The four member music & art collective first met and formed in Kenya with the aim of challenging traditional and current stereotypes through their self-described “electro-organic” sound.

They’ve had major success in the past as two of its members—rapper/singer/DJ/producer TAIO and singer/producer Runkah—were both in Camp Mulla, a hugely popular Kenyan group that wrote the type of mainstream earworms that play on Top 40 radio.

TAIO and Runkah don’t speak too fondly of their major label days, though, citing that experience as what pushed them towards the underground and a more “organic” approach.

The two formed Cosmic Homies with Los Angeles-born singer/songwriter Marushka and rapper/poet/model Kiwango.

Alongside groups like East African Wave, Cosmic Homies O.N.E are pushing the sound of hip-hop in Nairobi towards a hazy and smoke-filled world.

The group just released their debut mixtape O.N.E. at Nairobi's The Alchemist bar during the "EA Wave & Friends" night, a show they played with Just A Band's Blinky Bill and the East African Wave collective.

We caught up with them during an earlier visit to NYC to get a handle on what the #NuNairobi movement is all about.

Who is Cosmic Homies O.N.E.?

Marushka: Cosmic Homies is a movement. It’s more than just the four of us. It’s an ethos about a new emerging and shifting paradigm. We’re a company. Label. Musicians. Creators. But, first of all, we’re a family.

Why "O.N.E."?

M: Only Now Everlasting. That happened sort of naturally, I was reading an article about graffiti writers, taggers always add “ONE” after their name.

How did you guys get together?

M: Fate, alignment and the perfect situation. We ended up meeting in TAIO’s studio after he broke away from his previous project. [TAIO] built his own independent studio at home where he hosts sessions.

We’re also journalists, actually. Our media partner is What’s Good Live, one of the leading independent platforms in East Africa. TAIO and I were working there together, writing and hosting shows about pan-African content.

When Talib Kweli came over, we talked to him for What’s Good Live. Same with Yasiin Bey.

Cosmic Homies in Brooklyn. Photo: Aaron Leaf.

How do you define #NuNairobi?

M: #NuNairobi is this sense of family and creative energy, made up of creative people, a lot of whom make music in their bedrooms. There’s so much talent in Nairobi and, thanks to platforms like Thrift Social and Creatives Garage, it’s coming together. It’s about more than art, it’s people digging deeper in life.

The thing to point out and say about Nairobi is there hasn’t been support or structures from the government, so we’re doing it ourselves. We're taking matters into our own hands.

What inspired the Cosmic Homies project?

M: People like Dan Eldon—a photojournalist who was stoned to death in Somalia—are a big inspiration. They found 17 bound journals that had all these different collage films and his family composed a book that became a huge influence on the whole of multimedia journalism. It’s called The Journey Is The Destination.

Dan was always my hero, then I found out he’s Karun's [Runkah] uncle!

There’s a new wave of sounds coming out of East Africa and Kenya, would you say you guys are challenging traditional models and sounds?

M: I’d say the trend in East Africa is once you get on the major platforms you sort of get scouted by major labels like Universal or Sony. So I would say in Nairobi, currently, I see a lot of young artists trying to form their own labels. From that you find that people aren’t falling for the same major label tricks.

People are vibing a lot more and finding that they’re in the position where they can bargain and work better and not fall for the traditional models that other artists have done.

Everyone’s thinking: we can do this on our own and take that to the world—whether they accept us or not that’s what it is.

Soundcloud has played a big part in it, actually, we were all on Soundcloud early on. It's really encouraged the community to grow.

Runkah: We actually had a big following [Runkah and TAIO as Camp Mulla] and people called us celebrities. But we wanted to start talking about things that were of our own to people. People now, in Nairobi, are less afraid to be themselves and be about themselves.

We were approached by these major labels at first, but we took a step back. Sonically, people are challenging what’s the norm and what it means to be "successful" and giving themselves the freedom of exploring different styles.

TAIO: I can admit that, before, we were following a formula, but now we're looking to completely redefine pop culture. In East Africa people don’t give a fuck. I can put this electric guitar with a flute and rap over it—it’s awesome to be a part of a scene like that.

What other acts would you name as contemporaries?

T: Ukweli, Jinku, EA Wave, they’re all homies.

We represent #NuNairobi, this new movement which we think was missing in the Kenyan industry before. We believe in the saying “the light that shines on me, shines on my neighbor.” It helps us reach more people a lot faster because we’re pooling resources with our friends.

The very first Cosmic Homies show wouldn’t have happened at all without EA Wave, Jojo Abot performed, Ukweli was there too. Just A Band are like our older brothers too. Big love from day one.

 

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Introducing OkayAfrica's 100 Women 2020 List

Celebrating African Women Laying the Groundwork for the Future

It would not be hyperbole to consider the individuals we're honoring for OkayAfrica's 100 Women 2020 list as architects of the future.

This is to say that these women are building infrastructure, both literally and metaphorically, for future generations in Africa and in the Diaspora. And they are doing so intentionally, reaching back, laterally, and forward to bridge gaps and make sure the steps they built—and not without hard work, mines of microaggressions, and challenges—are sturdy enough for the next ascent.

In short, the women on this year's list are laying the groundwork for other women to follow. It's what late author and American novelist Toni Morrison would call your "real job."

"I tell my students, 'When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else."

And that's what inspired us in the curation of this year's list. Our honorees use various mediums to get the job done—DJ's, fashion designers, historians, anthropologists, and even venture capitalists—but each with the mission to clear the road ahead for generations to come. Incredible African women like Eden Ghebreselassie, a marketing lead at ESPN who created a non-profit to fight energy poverty in Eritrea; or Baratang Miya, who is quite literally building technology clubs for disadvantaged youth in South Africa.

There are the builds that aren't physically tangible—movements that inspire women to show up confidently in their skin, like Enam Asiama's quest to normalize plus-sized bodies and Frédérique (Freddie) Harrel's push for Black and African women to embrace the kink and curl of their hair.

And then there are those who use their words to build power, to take control of the narrative, and to usher in true inclusion and equity. Journalists, (sisters Nikki and Lola Ogunnaike), a novelist (Oyinkan Braithwaite), a media maven (Yolisa Phahle), and a number of historians (Nana Oforiatta Ayim, Leïla Sy) to name a few.

In a time of uncertainty in the world, there's assuredness in the mission to bring up our people. We know this moment of global challenge won't last. It is why we are moving forward to share this labor of love with you, our trusted and loyal audience. We hope that this list serves as a beacon for you during this moment—insurance that future generations will be alright. And we have our honorees to thank for securing that future.

EXPERIENCE 100 WOMEN 2020

The annual OkayAfrica 100 Women List is our effort to acknowledge and uplift African women, not only as a resource that has and will continue to enrich the world we live in, but as a group that deserves to be recognized, reinforced and treasured on a global scale. In the spirit of building infrastructure, this year's list will go beyond the month of March (Women's History Month in America) and close in September during Women's Month in South Africa.

100 women 2020

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Burna Boy 'African Giant' money cover art by Sajjad.

The 20 Essential Burna Boy Songs

We comb through the Nigerian star's hit-filled discography to select 20 essential songs from the African Giant.

Since bursting onto the scene in 2012 with his chart-topping single, "Like to Party," and the subsequent release of his debut album, L.I.F.E - Leaving an Impact for eternity, Burna Boy has continued to prove time and again that he is a force to be reckoned with.

The African Giant has, over the years, built a remarkable musical identity around the ardent blend of dancehall, hip-hop, reggae, R&B, and afropop to create a game-changing genre he calls afro-fusion. The result has been top tier singles, phenomenal collaborations, and global stardom—with several accolades under his belt which include a Grammy nomination and African Giant earning a spot on many publications' best albums of 2019.

We thought to delve into his hit-filled discography to bring you The 20 Essential Burna Boy Songs.

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(Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Rejoice! WhatsApp Places New Restrictions on Chain Messages to Fight Fake News

To combat the spread of misinformation due to the coronavirus outbreak, users are now restricted from sharing frequently forwarded messages to more than one person.

The rise of the novel coronavirus has seen an increase in the spread of fake news across social media sites and platforms, particularly WhatsApp—a platform known as a hotbed for the forwarding of illegitimate chain messages and conspiracy theories (if you have African parents, you're probably familiar). Now the Facebook-owned app is setting in place new measures to try and curb the spread of fake news on its platform.

The app is putting new restrictions on message forwarding which will limit the number of times a frequently forwarded message can be shared. Messages that have been sent through a chain of more than five people can only subsequently be forwarded to one person. "We know many users forward helpful information, as well as funny videos, memes, and reflections or prayers they find meaningful," announced the app in a blog post on Tuesday. "In recent weeks, people have also used WhatsApp to organize public moments of support for frontline health workers."

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Sarkodie Hits Hard With His Latest Single 'Sub Zero'

The Ghanaian heavyweight rapper shows up with the fire bars over an Altra Nova-produced beat.

Sarkodie has dropped a new aggressive track in the shape of "Sub Zero."

"Sub Zero" follows the star Ghanaian rapper as he throws back criticisms that have come his way from other rappers with his own ice cold flow. The new track was produced by Ghanaian beatmaker Altra Nova and mixed by PEE On Da BeaT.

"Sub Zero" follows Sarkodie's turn-up single "Bumper," which dropped bak in February.

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