If there’s one debate that will never be put to rest, in Kenya and the rest of the world, it is who the best rapper of all time is.
If World War III were ever to erupt, this debate might have something to do with it. People side with their biases strongly and why not? Because music is a very personal and political issue to many of us.
For some, it has ebbed them away from traumatic experiences and lulled them into a comfortable space. For others, it formed soundtracks to some of their most memorable moments. Most just like the affiliation that comes with it, representing a hood, culture or gang. Music is something people are willing to die for and if you do not, believe me, Shakur is dead proof.
In the hip-hop world, ranking matters. Most guys will ask you to list your top five and should you share the same taste, an instant rapport is created. In these lists though, some get away with honorary mentions. Their biggest achievement not being their music even though it has something to do with it. But because they died courtesy of music or in the limelight of a music audience. Commonly the cause of death is a bullet wound, suicide, accidents or drug overdose.
In my opinion, these ones are lucky because they are immortalized by grief. Because death is the one thing humans have not been fully able to internalize, deal with or accept. As a result, the world feels like they owe them a spot on the list. Some sort of tribute, whether or not they deserve to be on the list.
Living rappers quote them as sources of inspiration while their works continue to deeply influence younger artists and a close observer might be politically correct to say that for your art to live you must die.
But as a writer, I have come to one conclusion and that is that there is no need to pit rappers against each other. There is a diversity in the industry that it is pointless trying to beat some into a box. Each rapper has their unique style. Each rapper has a different background – some grow up rich, some poor and others in between.
You will notice more sampling in instances where he mimics Kendrick’s crowd scene in Humble.
Also, these rappers grew up exposed to different genres and artists. Until we can find a common denominator in this ranking nonsense – we are all going down a rabbit hole. Pigeonholed to an abstract thought unable to appreciate the diversity each rapper brings to the table.
But still, here is my opinion.
Mine is simple, rappers need to be pitted against their previous works. From this, you can see growth, change or basically a loss of direction and a nose dive into mainstream music (what most people call “selling out”). When it comes to selling out, I have mixed feelings. Mixed because for some, their careers take a whole different trajectory. For some, it takes off. Insert Naiboi.
For others, it just stops feeling like them. It feels like they completely let go of all they believed in and chased the money. Others find a sweet spot. Like Nyashinski.
I want to talk about one of his songs – Finyo. For those not popular with the phrase, it is an old school street slang that means that can oomph, fronting or just being For lack of a better way of describing it. It is from a song like this that you can tell just how much Nyashinski has grown as an artist and as an individual.
The song starts with nice melodies which breaks into an acoustic type rap riddled with ingenious wordplay. Sample this:
Vuta hiyo trouser juu wacha kutuonyesha tako
Vuta hiyo Mini Chini unamwaibisha mamako
Ka unatafuta ule anajua kupika
Uji Sio kupiga picha uchi
Unfollow Nyako follow nyanyako Ukitaka nyama hapa sawa chief
Follow the lyric video here.
In his usual style, he sticks to sheng’ and plays his voice to his advantage. The one thing evident about Nyash on this song is the growth. The one thing I like is the blend in the beat styles. You can pick up hints of trumpets similar to the ones in The Man by Aloe Blac. I guess they sampled some of it.
His lyrical prowess at this point is almost unrivaled. He has fun with his words and you can feel that with his delivery. From his YouTube channel, he says that this is the 9th single. The only downside with this song is I am not sure what exactly it is about.
In each verse, it is not clear what he is trying to address. From Mungu Pekee, Now you know and Free we knew exactly what he wanted. In Short and Sweet with Sauti Sol we could also tell the direction. With Finyo, it feels like he is just flexing lyrical muscle and showing off while at it. I hope with the next release there’ll be more direction.
The video is a take-home point is it is an overall nice song. You will love the beats and the video even better. You will notice more sampling in instances where he mimics Kendrick’s crowd scene in Humble. But like I mentioned the art of music is all about learning and borrowing from each other.