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Sailors in "Weekendy"

7 Gengetone Acts You Need to Check Out

The streets speak gengetone: Kenya's gengetone sound is reverberating across East Africa and the world, get to know its main purveyors.

Sailors' "Wamlambez!" which roughly translates to "those who lick," is the cry the reverberated round the world, pushing the gengetone sound to the global stage. The response "wamnyonyez" roughly translates to "those who suck" and that should tell you all you need to know about the genre.

Known for its lewd lyrics and repetitive (often call and response) hooks, gengetone makes no apologies for belonging to the streets. First of all, most artists that create gengetone are grouped into bands with a few outliers like Zzero Sufuri riding solo. The songs themselves often feature a multiplicity of voices with screams and crowds coming through as ad libs, adding to this idea that this is definitely "outside" music.

Listening to Odi wa Muranga play with his vocal on the track "Thao" it's easy to think that this is the first, but gengetone fits snuggly in a history of sheng rap based on the kapuka style beat. Kapuka is onomatopoeically named, the beats have that repetitive drum-hat-drum skip that sounds like pu-ka-pu-ka-pu. Artists like Nonini were asking women to come over using this riff long before Ochungulo family told them to stay home if they aren't willing to give it up.

Here's seven gengetone groups worth listening to.


Sailors Gang

The 5-person group started in 2017 as Trio Sailors with Miracle Baby, Lexi Yung and Qoqos Juma before Masilver and Shalkido joined. Having dropped numerics from their name, the Sailors are best known for their club banger "Wamblambez," but have other underrated tracks like this one.

Ethic

If Sailor's "Wamlambez" took gengetone global, it's only because "Lamba Lolo" by Ethic took over nationally. Taking the country by storm with their anthem to the art of cunnilingus, Ethic (Seska, Zilla, Rekless and Swat) have been dubbed the founding fathers of gengetone. The hashtag #PlayKeMusic threw the group to centre stage again in 2019 this time with their fans calling out the rest of the country for sleeping on them. Will you?

Mbogi Genje

The streets of Nairobi speak one language, sheng, and Mbogi Genge are fluent. Miltan, Smady Tings and Guzman Teddy hail from Umoja, the birthplace of sheng, so it makes sense that language becomes their weapon. The group are best known for finding the obscure corners of the language and rejigging the syllabic structure, creating music that both awes and confuses. In fact, the first verse on this feature by Miltan went viral around the country as people tried to decipher what it actually meant, collecting words from different dialects of sheng across the city.

Ochungulo Family

Nelly the Goon, Dmore and Benzema propose a different approach. Leaning heavily on the memorability of onomatopoeia over minimalist beats with, the group tell vivid stories in a laissez-faire easy going way that will have you swaying along all through to the end. Their song, "Kaa na mama yako" pushed them to the national spotlight after they sampled a voice from a politician's speech to create one of the catchiest, most dismissive and sleaziest of hooks.

Zzero Sufuri

If there's one person in the world who could out smoke Snoop Dogg, it would be Zzero. The son of a pastor found himself front and centre when his freestyle turned stoner anthem "Zimenishika"—meaning 'they have caught me' with the 'they' in question here being marijuana—went viral on social media. We're yet to know if his captors ever did set him free.

Boondocks Gangs

You'd be hard pressed to believe that Odi wa Murang' a, Ex-Ray and Maddox started off as a gospel trio, but that's the truth. They still claim to hold that ground saying that anyone really listening knows their music does not exalt drugs and the party lifestyle, but rather speaks about what they see in it. Recently they even released a gospel track with artist Bahati condemning the party life.

Ssaru

Bar for bar for bar, Ssaru is taking names and wasting no time. The Kayole bred rapper had been making freestyles long before "Swagger" brought her to the limelight, she is known for her brutal honesty both on the track and(rumor has it) in person.

Interview

A Candid Conversation With Olamide & Fireboy DML

We talk to the Nigerian stars about the hardest lessons they've learned, best advice they've ever been given and what Nigeria means to them.

Olamide and Fireboy DML have been working together for three years, but the first time they sit down to do an interview together is hours after they arrive in New York City on a promo tour.

It's Fireboy's first time in the Big Apple — and in the US — and the rain that's pouring outside his hotel doesn't hinder his gratitude. "It's such a relief to be here, it's long overdue," he tells OkayAfrica. "I was supposed to be here last year, but Covid stopped that. This is a time to reflect and refresh. It's a reset button for me."

Olamide looks on, smiling assuredly. Since signing Fireboy to his YBNL Nation label in 2018, he's watched the soulful young singer rise to become one of Nigeria's most talked-about artists — from his breakout single, "Jealous," to his debut album Laughter, Tears & Goosebumps, hit collabs with D.Smoke and Cuppy, and his sophomore release, Apollo, last year.

Even while he shares his own latest record, UY Scuti, with the world, Olamide nurtures Fireboy's career with as much care and attention as he does his own, oscillating between his two roles of artist and label exec seamlessly. His 2020 album Carpe Diem is the most streamed album ever by an African rap artist, according to Audiomack, hitting over 140 million streams. When Olamide signed a joint venture with US-based record label and distribution company, Empire, in February last year he did so through his label, bringing Fireboy and any other artist he decides to sign along for the ride, and establishing one of the most noteworthy deals on the continent.

Below, Olamide & Fireboy DML speak to OkayAfrica about their mutual admiration for each other, what makes them get up in the morning and how they switch off.

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