By Richard Wetaya
If there is one hustle; which has consistently proven difficult to push in Uganda, it is a rap career.
Through the years, numerous Ugandan rap artists have rhymed for pittance; barely making make ends.
If you are ever in any doubt about the validity of that; ask the Big Trill’s, Lyrical Proof’s, Burney M.C’s, Don M.C’s, Unique’s, etc of this world.
They may not unequivocally share with you their disillusionment, but needless to say, it is a rough and tumble jungle out there.
The law of the jungle applies in the Ugandan rap industry-only the strong hearted survive.
Looked at in the abstract, that status quo has made it hard for both prospective and established rappers, alike.
It is just harsh fact that there is no love lost between corporate entities and the rap industry.
The corporate bodies probably don’t foresee any long term gain in supporting the genre.
To that end, the prospect of sustaining a rap career in Uganda for many seems as unrealistic as nailing jelly to the wall.
This being Uganda however, you will still find cockeyed optimists, who refuse to look reality in its face. To them a new lease of life will one day dawn for hip hop. That is a long shot. It probably will happen when every emcee embraces the Gravity Omutujju format.
The likelihood of that happening is two to one, because lets it straight the guy is not hip hop.
Keko, Uganda’s premier femcee however demures noting that the future is hip hop.
“All these other genres will soon fade out and hip hop will take centre stage,” she states.
The apathy towards Hip hop in Uganda has, by and large, meant less return value for rappers who put in work in the recording booth and that has been manifested in the few and lukewarm radio spins, few endorsement deals, fewer crowds at shows and ofcourse the minimal album or single sales.
“It takes more than the conventional methods of marketing to push a rap career in Uganda. It is twice the hustle and the budget compared to other genres. This leaves most rappers discouraged and frustrated,” states Rugged made, a veteran hip hop emcee and a mainstay on the battle rap scene in Kampala.
Hip hop lacks distribution and visibility. For hip hop to emerge as a force in Uganda, it will take a new day, an industry shake up, increased love for artist’s poetry genius and most of all, capital to fund promotional material,” Keko explains.
Plenty of anecdotal references can be adduced to prove how hard it has been to push a rap career in Uganda.
Let’s get it cracking with GNL the Baboon Forest head honcho.
If GNL had a day job then, I reckon he quit because the lad had a real brush with fame and fortune at the threshold of his career.
GNL had it all, vocal charisma, an enchanting rhyme style, a remarkable gift of gab, nice creative lyrical poetics and a cockalorum flow to boot.
Those qualities got him quite a big fan base.
GNL essentially resurrected Luga-flow and gave it mainstream appeal.
That is ofcourse an indictment on the guys that bore the flag of Luga flow before him like Saba Saba, Sylvester and Abrams and Babaluku, to some degree.
Songs like Soda, Singa, Mr. Right, garnered GNL awards, radio spins and got him love from the corporate world.
At some point, it seemed as if GNL had literally opened new horizons for Ugandan emcees to pursue worthwhile rap careers. A career in rap for once seemed plausible.
At length, however, his career and shine seemed untenable.
He kissed his hard earned money good bye on many fronts.
The upshot was a drop in popularity and corporate endorsement.
The irony with it all; is that it was happening at a time when G was dropping some of his most potent Luga flow records; to wit-Ghetto mentality, Mbawe, Ceasar and Tebangatika.
At the time his shine was dwindling, GNL just seemed like a person
casting pearls before swine; as the appreciation for his music plummeted.
GNL however did not however dispense with rap or poetry. He figured relocating to another country would suffice; and so he made off for the States, where he is pursuing acting as a second string to his rap bow and from the look of things, he seems to be living a charmed life.
Lyrical G, Enygma and Lyrical proof, Benezeri, J.B, Sylvester and Abrams, Saba Saba, Atlas, The Mith, Keko, Unique, Don m.c, Cyno emcee Rugged Made, Babaluku and many others have all; found pushing and sustaining rap careers in Uganda formidable, though they have all hard brushes with fame.
Lyrical G who has 4 PAM award to his name is currently in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, hustling as you would expect. Life had gotten hard.
In his hey days, Lyrical G gave a good account of himself with his brass rhymes and braggadocio. Did he however have deep pockets as a result of his rapping? At some point yes, but things went topsy turvy, at length.
Babaluku as every hip hop acolyte is aware is into grassroots hip hop activism; juggling his time between Canada and Uganda.
It would seem as if fame, money, a rap career and the glitz weren’t his means to an end, when you listen to him speak.
Being the clever guy he is, he probably figured out the pitfalls of pursuing a rap career in Uganda quite early.
Eventually he opted for the elevation of other hip hop fundamentals, amongst his young acolytes.
As one would expect Babaluku has his own theory on why Uganda has been a hard rap terrain.
“It has been hard due to rappers lack of desire for rooted knowledge to explore and understand the vastness of Hip hop Culture beyond stages studio and mics. To this day, all those who can claim a bit of success have had to go through the usage of our local dialects,” Babaluku opines.
Moonlighting has been the path rappers such as Lyrical Proof, Engyma, Cyno have carefully chosen, cognizant of the status quo.
Cyno works the 9-5 at a bar in Kisementi, Engyma practices law, the Mith moonlights as an Urban TV presenter and Sylvester is into business.
Navio has however been the exception, curving out a niche for himself with his consistent musical output.
Does his longevity however mean that he is a success? His videos and his rap braggadocio can certainly make one believe so. That however is a moot point.
Give Navio credit though. He has in some respects proved that it can be possible to push a rap career in Uganda.
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