How many African Hip Hop artists do you know? Could you name five? Of those five, who is your favourite? While hiphop in America has slowly lost its cutting edge, or if your Nas “dead”! In Africa its the opposite. Hip-Hop is on the up and up, It is slowly replacing RnB, it is, the new cool! Kids on every corner are ‘spitting rhymes and bullets’ and idolizing legendary Hip Hop artist such Tupac, Biggie, Nas, Jay-Z e.t.c more than ever. The art and relevance of hip hop is growing in influence. Even more, the old guard generation of MC Solaar and Kalamashaka are now being replaced by talented and ambitious young African artists such as K’naan, D’Banj, SixFoot, Pro kid, Skwatta Camp, Sarkodie, Camp Mulla and the endless list goes on. Those who have been fortunate enough to meet (our guest) this young Kenyan artist talk of him in the same lines as the aforementioned group!
Known by his stage name “Voodooseller” real name Elvis “Babu” Mashengu is an intriguing artist. His style is Unique (Click on the first video) where east African hip hop is concerned, he’s being compared to Busta Rhymes and some has described his style of rapping as a form of “speaking in tongues”. The African Perspective Magazine recently caught up with Voodooseller in Nairobi for his first exclusive international interview. If you’ve never heard of him, keep on reading coz its not the last time you’ll hear of him.
TAP; Introduce yourself to Tap, where were you born, where did u go to school as a kid and what are your favourite childhood memories? What’s the story behind your stage name?
Voodoo; My real name is Elvis “Babu”. Mashengu aka the Voodooseller. Others call me the Grim reaper but I’m just that simple down to earth guy from the Eastland’s part of Nairobi. Born in Huruma and raised in Jerusalem, I understand and respect the hustles that come with a hard knocked life and this is what i base my craft on. I try to expose the negativity and preach positivity through this music platform. I went to school in Ofafa Jericho Primary School, am a very straight forward guy who tells it like it is. My stage name came to be through the combination of my childhood nickname and my style of rapping which guys said “it’s like speaking in tongues or calling the spirits”.
TAP; When and why did you start making music? Who was your inspiration? Are you a self motivator?
Voodoo; I do Music for the love of music. It. My love for music began way back when I was a kid and the inspiration comes from different people and situations I’ve been through. For instance, my brothers always believed that i was the best rapper even when i didn’t believe in myself; they were always pushing me.
TAP; Were your parents for or against you becoming a musician?
Voodoo; At first my mum thought it was a waste of time but one day i was shocked to see her in the crowd while i was competing in the ‘UHURU CELTEL MUSIC SPONSORSHIP’ and i nearly chocked on that Mic.After seeing how the crowd reacted while i was on the stage, she made a full turn and now she supports me wholly.
TAP; What is your favourite music album? favourite hip-hop song?
Voodoo; I don’t have a specific favorite album but I can give an example of different albums that i enjoyed and were also legendary as per my rating, Illmatic-Nas , The black stars Mos def & Talib kweli, Blue print-Jay Z – Chronic ,welcome to our house-salughterhouse kilio cha haki & Dandora Burning by Ukoo flani Mau Mau. Favorite hiphop song should beMine Lol
TAP; Who are some of the artists you’ve collaborated with?
Voodoo; Already done collabo with Abbas (KE) Kalahari (Moroko & Droopy) Kayvo K force, Sixfoot (Sudan), Joy (ke), Kimya,
TAP; You have a pretty unique and new style in the local scenes… tell us how you came up with that style and how people have responded to it?
Voodoo; The development of my style of rapping is a result of a lifetime of musical influence. Growing up in a talented family meant that different forms of art always surrounded me. My Father was an Architect cum creative artist, drawing pencil sketch Portraits and designs as his career and one of the biggest fans of “Elvis Presley” thus my name Elvis. My sisters were and still are choir singers in church, my uncles were huge fans of ragga and reggae, not to mention the infamous Harrison ngunjiri aka Hardstone who was a family friend and a neighbour. He also introduced me to kalamashaka one day when they had visited him in the hood and they were bumping bustah rhymes, all these exposed me to a wealth of Art as a child, all of which influenced my development. The Response has Been Amazing so far, the people of Kenya have got my back like a spinal cord TAP; At the minute, do you feel you’re the best Hip Hop artist in Kenya? Where do you rate Camp Mulla? –
Voodoo; Well the response to this question lies with the audience you know what they say in the Swahili saying “a barber doesn’t shave himself” all I can say is am gonna try harder to better my best, As for Camp Mulla we give them props for their nomination in the Bet because they opened doors for the Kenyan music to go global, if what they do works for them then may they continue
TAP; Your hit song Hip Hop Politics! Can you tell us all about it? What inspired it?
Voodoo; Hiphop politics is a hip hop poetic satire that acts as a mirror to our society, just observing our Members of parliament on TV during campaign Period gave me the Idea. The Video idea was all Mushking the videographer who shot it , he connects well with my music and its like he read my mind
TAP; What does mainstream music mean to you?
Voodoo; It’s supposed to mean Quality music, quality videos, skill and apt delivery but in most cases its not like that we have a long way to go
TAP; What else do you do beside music? How do rising artists make ends meet in Kenya? What’s your view on piracy?
Voodoo;Am an Entrepreneur/CEO of an events and PR Company Called ON THE DIAL SERVICES also A Business Development Manager for a local firm in Kenya. I also invest in myself i.e I gather money from my side hustles and boost my music career. Am also lucky that the CEO of Headbangaz also helps out when he can as for other artists, some are under management, some do the odd jobs in order to boost their careers and others are lucky to be backed financially by their parents. Piracy is a bad Cancerous disease that needs a cure
TAP; What are the three issues affecting the youths in Nairobi the most today?
Voodoo; Unemployment, Crime & prostitution
TAP; Nas says HIP-HOP is dead, do you agree
Voodoo; Hip Hop Is a Culture, a way of life, a movement hence it’s hard for it to die, so I don’t agree. I think Nas spoke in a metaphorical way, which states that, the educative & Real life experience hip-hop is no longer there, the kind of hip hop we have is not like the good old days.
TAP; What is the most played song (other than yours) on your iPod?
Voodoo; First of all I don’t own an Ipod ,..I use a PSP coz am a big fan of gaming. The music On my PSP is mostly hiphop, reggae & riddims with some rock,neo soul and Afro-fusion (African music). The majority being J cole mixtapes, kendric lamar, joey badass, slaughterhouse, pusha T, cassidy, kanye west jay Z , jay Electronica ,Bustah, Red N Meth etc
TAP; Whose music career (dead or alive) would you want to model yours against?
Voodoo; JAY Z, BUSTAH, LUDACRIS, KANYE WEST, NAS, MICHEAL JACKSON; Mostly because of the respect and successthey have gained in the industry.
TAP; When should we expect an album or next single from you?
Voodoo; First of all I will maximize on the singles so there’s no haste on the album. This is because in Kenya albums don’t sell as much, I’ve already done 3 singles so by early next year or mid next year I should be dropping one as for my next single, its right on the way
TAP; If you could work with any artist outside Kenya, who would that be?
Voodoo; BUSTAH, JAYZ, KNAAN, SKWATTA CAMP (SA), PRO KID (SA), SARKODIE (GHANA) (ASA) DBANJ’ NIGERIA, LUDACRIS, KANYE ,COMMON, TALIB KWELI, MOS DEF, TITO LOPEZ etc
TAP; What are some of your hobbies?
Voodoo; Gaming, Drawing, Dancing, Swimming, Sports (SOCCER & NBA ETC) Watching Movies and reading
TAP; Tupac Or Biggie
Voodoo; They are Both Hiphop Pillars who are skilled in their own ways but I was more of a Tupac fan
TAP; If you could perform at any venue/arena in the world, where would that be?
Voodoo; Cochellah, BET, MTV, STAPLE CENTRE, Anywhere as long as am there representing Music and hiphop. It doesn’t real matter where you are; you do it for the love of music. Spread the music, spread the love.
Special thanks to Elvis and his entire team for being super professional and for making our job very easy. His a well rounded artist whose invested in poodle around him which makes it easy to work with. Also, thank you to SpaxTheRoyal of Jayels Family for his work on this project.
Interview by @RasMutabaruka
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