|© 2007 by By Buddha Blaze for Baobabconnections / Africanhiphop.com
Many black artists in the west are always singing about Africa and how they dream about coming here. They make it look like it cost a million dollars to make that first move. Very few of them ever make that forbidden trip back home to come chill and build with the people on their mother continent. Dead Prez made that big step by coming out to Kenya to hang, educate and spread positive vibes.
Dead Prez are the kind of hip-hop unit that is all about living what they preach and learning from what they are living. Their music has crossed boundaries from Mexico to Japan and even though they sing about the need for a black revolution people around the world feel their message. Their messages range from self-education, self respect, self organization and urge the youth to be productive in life.
On their East African Tour Dead Prez M1 a.k.a Mutulu and Umi visited one biggest slum in Africa a place called Dandora. Dandora hosts Nairobi’s dumping site and is quite frankly the most environmentally polluted places in Kenya. Together with crime, smuggling, unemployment, child labour, lack of social and necessary human amenities, prostitution and other vices. Dandora is a place that harbours plenty of stories of pain and struggle. Apart from that Dandora is also the home of Kenya’s royal family of hip-hop Ukoo Flani Mau Mau who were the hosts of Dead Prez at the base called The Project.
Leading the Dandora visit were organizers of Dead Prez’s East African tour Michael Wanguhu of Hip-Hop Colony, Buddha Blaze of Spark Africa, and Neno of FireBrand International. Also in the entourage to Dandora was Mama Charlotte O’Neal wife of Pete O’Neal, Black Panther member now exiled in Arusha, Tanzania.
On arrival at The Project, Dandora, they were welcomed by a big group of hosts including Ukoo Flani Mau Mau who were eagerly awaiting their arrival and what ended up being a great cultural exchange experience for both the residents of Dandora and the visitors. M1 and Umi were mesmerized by the graffiti painting of Haile Sellassie, Tupac Shakur, Notorius BIG, Bob Marley and many more leaders. The Project had organized a great forum of introductions, advice sessions, discussions and sharing of knowledge about music, revolution and life in general. They spoke about the importance of self-mastery, the importance of staying true to the struggle for freedom and using music as a tool for education.
M1 advised the young upcoming rappers in Ukoo Flani Mau Mau to keep doing what they do because someone had to do it otherwise it would never be done. They advised against believing everything that the big media corporations are trying to sell to them. “Don’t get caught up in all these bling bling dreams that the media is trying to sell to you. You see too many rappers claiming to own Bentleys, diamonds and material wealth but I will tell you that there are only 15 or even less rappers who own that much money most of the others are broke and struggling. All those things you see in the videos; the cars, the jewellery and girls are hired, don’t believe in that gimmick,” stressed Umi.
“Hip-hop is a powerful tool that we can use to educate those in the darkness so if a rapper grabs the microphone to rap about jewellery and material riches when his community is very poor then he is lying to the people because what he’s rapping about is not true. Our communities are poor we don’t own nothing so why should we rap about things we don’t own. The big companies pimping us so we should not easily fall in the trap,” advised Mutulu.
They spoke about the importance of rappers in Kenya rapping in the native languages so as to create a legacy that is unique to the rest of the world regardless of marketability. Mama Charlotte encouraged the young rappers who have revolutionized the hip-hop scene in Kenya to keep doing what they do, educating the young and making them feel worthy.
After hours of one on one discussion with the people of Dandora, the visit to the Project ended with an energetic freestyle session that featured Wenyeji, Wakamba Wawili, The Eatlanders, The Warroirs, Kah, Gaza and Kalamashaka. The highlight of the afternoon was the freestyle by little Empress Vicky a young 11year old girl from Dandora primary who was the favourite of everyone. M1 and Umi were so impressed that they insinuated that she would be on a Dead Prez album soon.
M1 and Umi also gotta a chance to visit Koch FM a community radio station in Korogocho slums where they talked and met with the young people who run it; Roba of KShaka and Big Toto. Koch FM is a radio station started by young people to educate the people in the neighbouhood. Although the radio station owns a broadcasting license, it is located in a freight container, does not have enough broadcasting equipment and money to employ a highly qualified staff. It is quite impressive that young people had Dead Prez vowed to organize for the donation of equipment when they get home.
“Thank you very much people of Dandora, I feel highly honoured to be here and appreciate your great hospitality. For me, this visit is just like coming home because I come from the same type of community in America. My community is where America dumps its bullshit; in my community is where all the unemployment is. So I am here as a brother, we fight against the same struggles just in different places. I have learnt so much from you people. You are very beautiful people and I will not forget my interaction with you all,” concluded M1.
For the people of Dandora this had been one of the greatest days of their lives being able to mingle and build with such great personalities. They were more than happy as these were people they had only seen on television singing and doing big things and now they were in their neighbourhood talking to them. Dead Prez uplifted many souls in Dandora.
Also read: Dead Prez in Nairobi