|Researched by J4 for Africanhiphop.com - all rights reserved, copying not allowed
Tanzanian hip hop has been in development over the last ten years. Now there is a vibrant scene which has dropped some gems and keeps on surprising with ever more new stuff coming out, especially since the year 2001 when the release craze took off, and by June 2002 there was about a new album dropping every week.
This page gives an overview of some of the founding crews that have played their part from the early 90's up to 1999. Elsewhere on this site we have more recent info and there are several special pages on artists from Tanzania (see the Tanzania main menu).
Tanzanian crews - an overview A-Z
Members: Bonny Harmony, Nature P, Dray, J.D.
Nature P, a.k.a. Sebastian Muganga has his own daily radio show "Deiwaka" at Uhuru FM, promoting local artists to the fullest (and he's one of the few dj's in town to do so!). In the past he used to do the daily Dj show at Radio One. They recorded a few tracks in 1996 and 1997 with producer P-Funk, nice flows over a great jazz-inspred beat. Now the individual members seem all busy.
Members: Nigger Pure, Kassie, Soggy Doggy
Albums: Ilala (98)
Original crew of Soggy Doggy, who has also released solo albums and continued working as a dj for Times FM, then Radio Free Africa in Mwanza; and Caz-T whose solo album dropped in May 2002. They were also affiliated with Mack-D.
Members: Ally, Hamdani
Albums: Swahili Rap Zanzibar (96)
This is the first group of Cool Para who formed Da Struggling Islanders afterwards, before continuing solo. They recorded a few songs in 1996, using instrumentals like Mc Lyte's and California Love. The result was put on tape and distributed locally in Zanzibar. Cool Para still occasionally uses the name 'Boombastic Sound' for his mobile sound system which can be hired for weddings ('rusha roho') and birthdays.
Tracks: Keep it tight, Utaona (1998)
Very gifted young mc who on being interviewed by South African television was mistaken for an American rapper. However his lyrical content is strictly his own and he used to run with the Kwanza Unit Foundation before moving to the States, where he kept on rhyming and recorded a solo album in 2002.
Members: Sindilla, Othman Jaidi & others
Albums: Msela (95)
The Clouds are well remembered for their hit 'Msela' which was the first ever production from Mawingu (Clouds) studio, and one of the first Swahili rap tracks to hit the charts. The track was so popular that 'msela' is still part of popular expression in Swahili. Many of the Clouds group members are now working with Clouds FM radio station (this includes OJ and producer Bonnie Luv). Clouds itself still engages in fresh productions like this one, where popular artists are brough together.
Members: Abdul, Hakim
Albums: Mabishoo (93)
In the early 90's, the Mabishoo tape was widely available in Tanzania and so it has contributed largely to today's rap styles. Swahili lyrics over ragga instrumentals such as 'Tingaling' by Shabba Ranks, mixed live at Fuji disco in Zanzibar, this classic tape has a live feel.
Hakim went solo later on and dropped the album 'Kim Pekee' ('Kim on his own') with strictly local distribution. Then he stopped rapping for some time, but recently he felt like making a come-back in ragga when Ally Cool Para approached him for the use of his lyrics on a new track fusing taarab and rap called 'Nayaweza', so who knows... At the time of writing Abdul had gone to live abroad.
Cool James (R.I.P.)
Albums: Zooming you (95), Soft like a pillow (97), Bi Harusi (1998), Sukuma Land (2000)
Cool James sadly passed away in a car accident in Dar es Salaam in 2002, in the mid of a career move that promised greater success in Tanzania.
James, nicknamed 'Mtoto wa Dandu', first got professionally involved in music while living in Sweden, made some money from selling a lot of records with his Euro-house style singles under the name of 'Cool James & Black Teacher'. Then he came back home (his origins are in Mwanza), recording r&b flavored songs. However he even did a rumba kind of album which really was a fusion of ndombolo (Zairean) style with modern dance music and scored a big hit in Kenya with his remake of the evergreen Sina Makosa. Initially he was not really in the local hip hop scene, more on his own thing, but in the months before his death he had become very active in organizing his Tanzanian Music Awards and recording an album at Master Jay's studio.
Members: Dola, Saigon, Stigo, Trip Dogg
Albums: Are you down with the DPT (96), Tha De-Plow-MaTZ (97)
In the mid-90's Saigon and Stigo teamed up with Dola Soul who had just come back from living in Lagos (Nigeria) where he grew up. They started recording and after a few singles they went into the studio with P-Funk and Master Jay, this resulted in the De-Plow-Matz album. Their style and topics were refreshing, and a new audience was addressed.
With Saigon leaving for UK in 1999 and Dola getting onto his solo carreer, the crew sort of fell apart without officially disbanding. In 2002 Saigon returned to Tanzania, meeting up with Trip Dog and Dola for a possible come-back.
Albums: Balozi wenu (1999), Ubalozini (2002)
After most of Deplowmatz left Dar es Salaam to study upcountry or abroad, Dola Soul was left to protect the flag. He set up a succesful solo carreer and has been an example to many younger emcees. Being very serious about improving the state of music business in Dar, he went to seek more fair deals between distributors, studio people and emcees. A first result was his album Balozi wenu which sold well, and which he promoted himself. Dola Soul also worked together with Mr II whom he joined on tour all over Tanzania.
Solo artist with a few English language tracks on his name. He did a cameo on a track by Unique Sisters in 1998. Has been busy with his studies, but still doing rap.
Albums: Never gonna change feeling (96)
Graphic designer, rapper, singer and organizer of fashion shows in Dar city. The first album featured one Swahili track. There's been a second release after his debut, not a full album yet and we didn't get to hear it. He did his own album sleeve design, some posters for Mawingu disco and other emcees' artwork.
Members: Brathe 1, Mr White, Cholo B, MC S, Big H
One of the 'new school' groups of Zanzibar, sadly this second generation (1995-2000) has also given up rap, while a third generation has started to rhyme again.
While at school, in their free time the 5 Toilers used to stay outside in Zanzibar town rapping, all five of them. They did some recordings and then the master tape got lost - a misfortune which happens too often. Also did a track with the five members of Struggling Islanders, now that's a posse track clocking ten minutes.
Members: Crazy, Izzack Dog, Spac Dog, Jocob, Yzee
From the Arusha school of rappers, this posse included the Hardcore Unity (HU), infamous for their 'HU' shouts. Rap si mchezo (Rap is not a game!) is what they were all about. Yzee was also good at ragga toasting, even in Jamaican Patois (his father was from Jamaica). They also had a 13 year old mc of Indian parents and spent time practicing at Arusha's Mawingu Club, or Crystal Club on sunday afternoons.
Members: Harris Naught Wailer, Solid G, Solo K
Albums: Down with Foolz Skool
Young crew of three who recorded a 90 minute tape full of tracks in the late 90's including some recordings with Master Jay at his studio in Oyster Bay.
4 Krewz Flava
Members: Moss, Paul, Makey, Klo
Tanzania's first major r&b group, too bad they split up. Known to some as 'Boyz II Men wa Tanzania', they did a lot of concerts in Dar and went on tour to Arusha in 97. Paul went solo and had a hit with his 'Njoo mpenzi' featuring producer/mc Paul 'Halfani', and after that got a deal with Clouds who put out his solo album and lots of singles and features on other emcees' albums. Musa got to work with ITV and in 2002 he started doing music videos for local rap and r&b artists.
Gangsters With Matatizo (G.W.M.)
Members: D Chief, Easy Dope, KR
One of the most well-respected crews from the new school which came up around 1997. They were instantly known all over Tanzania for their lyrical genius, first seeing the light in radio hits like 'Cheza mbali na kasheshe' ('stay out of trouble') and other songs which showcased a high degree of urban slang. Their first album should have been out at that time, but due to business deals gone sour it only came out in 2000, a bit after the buzz. KR has since also joined the group Wachuja Nafaka.
Members: Inspector Haruna, Lutenant Kalamah
Album: Simulizi la ufasaha (2001)
Popular group from Temeke (a residential area in Dar es Salaam) which comes from the same school of rap as GWM.
They first got recognition with the getto vocabulary of 'Ngangari', a single released in 2000. The next single 'Mtoto wa geti kali' ensured their continued fame, and the long awaited album dropped at the end of 2001, while their 'Gangwe Night' of 23 December became one of the most discussed events in recent Tanzanian hiphop history. Check out their website at www.Gangwemobb.com
Two girls singing and rapping and some male members, this was the predecessor to Unique Sisters. Party tracks like 'End of the week': 'We gotta get going, cause it's friday night'.
Most known for his productions (see Tanzanian producers section) but he's also dropped a few lyrics, first with his crew 'No name', and in 1999 recorded the track 'Au siyo' with Kalamashaka (Kenya) and Saigon. Back in the days he was notorious for his freestyles when drunk.
Members: Crazy One, KC 1, Trigger F, Tuff Jam, Luni T Albums: Mambo ya Mjini (94), Blast Nuff (97), Funga kazi (2000)
This is one of the longest standing Tanzanian groups, from their first release 'Ni Hard Blasters' they have ruled the airwaves. A long silence was broken in 2000 with the hugely succesful track 'Chemsha Bongo' and the album that came with it. This new style was much imitated but not really surpassed by any emcee. The new rapper in the group 'Nigga' Jay (now known as Profesa Jay), responsible for the most popular tracks on the album, went on solo in 2001.
Hardcore Unit (HU)
This crew is among the top groups in Arusha. Their 'Rap si mchezo' ('rap is not a game'), recorded live in Mawingu disco (1998) is one powerful rap with its shouts of 'HUUUU' (short for Hardcore Unit) that made the recorder distort.
Immeditation Kingdom (I.K.)
Members: Killa B, Kon B, Doobie-M, Double M
Albums: Kimara (97)
Killa B goes way back to the first 'Yo Rap Bonanza' rap competitions of the early nineties. Their English language raps go deep. Experience pays off! The 3 track demo that we got hold of was produced at Soundcrafters studio in Temeke. It includes the songs 'Maapu' and 'Kimara flavor', the latter represents their neighbourhood. They are into rastafarianism.
Albums: Ragga Mchicha (95)
Unique style raggamuffin artist from Mwanza, dope delivery over hardcore bubbling and ragga tracks playedback from scratchy 12 inches. His album was sponsored by Kuleana street children project. Used to rap with Niggaz With Power. Apparently he's in Dar es Salaam now.
Jungle Crewz Posse
Members: Bantoo G-Bro, Bantoo Ren, Bantoo Ciptak
Albums: Bantuwibak (95)
Despite all the 'Bantoo' stuff, this Dar crew has English lyrics as well. A home-made video could be seen on ITV a few times. G-Bro was last seen in Namibia.
Albums: Run Tingz & Dedicated
The youngest rappers on earth? 7 Years of age, they sounded fierce in 'Simama Kaa'. Production by Paul P-Funk. Their group is no longer as one of them travelled to the USA.
Albums: Kim Pekee Rap
Another old school Zanzibari rapper who put his tape out locally. Unfortunately the recording quality is strictly local as well. He was also with Contish (the 'Mabishoo' tape), and is in Dar es Salaam these days.
Members: Rhymson, D-Rob, KBC, Fresh G, Eazy B, Y-Thang
Albums: Tucheze (94), Tropical Tekniqs (95), Kwanzanians (99)
Kwanza Unit is the longest standing rap group in Tanzania. They were around in the early 90's, before any tapes were released and when the Yo Rap Bonanza competitions were just kicking off. KU was also early to rhyme in Swahili, and in 1993 we got hold of a newspaper announcing the release of their first tape. Unfortunately the distribution of that effort wasn't very good and few copies were spread, however the tracks on that tape got played a lot on national radio, 'Amani' is still well remembered as well as several other songs. Second effort 'Tropical Tekniqs' was laid down in Soundcrafters studio, and again it didn't get a proper release. By that time KU were well known within hip hop circles for their energetic performances and simply because the KU foundation - a kidn of extended family - grew larger and larger. Eazy-B got ill and had to stop performing with KU. Their third album recording 'Kwanzanians' was done under the new and improved studio circumstances of Jay and Paul's studios, and featured production which at the time was no less than groundbreaking. 'Msafiri', the single from that album made it to the top of the charts with its sampling of an old Swahili song by the same name. Some older people considered the use of the Msafiri guitar as theft, but many more people -hip hop heads and others alike- loved the tune and it was one of the most popular of 1999. Shortly after, group leader Rhymson left for Canada where he is still living with his wife. KU released Kwanzanians on cd but it wasn't too well advertized, and lacked tape distribution which could have lifted it to major sales. Internationally the album was available through our site for a while. Member Ksingo left for America to study, and Fresh G was also not around, which left most work to D-Rob and the KU foundation members such as Bugsy Malone and KRV. Unexpectedly, D-Rob got seriously ill in early 2001, was hospitalized and died shortly after. According to Rhymson, the KU thought is still alive and most people affilliated are still involved in music, including Rhymson doing solo rhymes and home-produced beats, Ksingo and Bugsy recording with American crews, Rhymson's cousin Suda Soldier dropping solo singles every once in a while, and reportedly Eazy B is cured and back into rhyming.
Albums: Afrika isidumishwe
Always solo, he's been busy with three cassettes in stores since 1995. Lately Mac lived in Nairobi where he planned to put his songs on cd. A 1996 video clip and the 2nd album featured Ziggy from X Plastaz (Arusha).
Some may say that Pemba Islanders don't know what's happening in the world but for sure the world knows about this ragga rapper from Pemba. His song 'Buzi' was a big hit in 1997. It talks about women 'scraping off' husband's skin as if he were a goat. 'Watch out, she only wants you for your money'. People named their roadside stores after this song. Afterwards, Makoya went to South Africa to record a mini album including the song 'Tuma nikutume' which got some airplay in 2000.
Albums: Dunya (96), Fahari yako (2002)
Mr Ebbo started out in Arusha doing ragga rhymes. After putting out two cassettes which got distributed locally, he switched to r&b, one of his songs even got covered on some American compilation tape. After moving to Tanga with his family he moved out of rap for a while, and came back in 2002 with a new approach, dressing like a Maasai and rhyming with a Maasai accent. The funny hit song 'Mimi Mmaasai' discusses life in town from the eyes of an ignorant Maasai warrior who has a different look on the luxury lifestyle that some people rate so high.
Albums: Ni Mimi (95), Ndani ya Bongo (96), Niite mr II (97), Nje ya Bongo (1999), Millennia (2000), Muziki na Maisha (2001), Itikadi (2002)
Solo artist 2 Proud or Mr II is the face of Swahili rap. From Dar es Salaam to the smallest inland village, everybody seems to know him, his lyrics and even what he looks like. His conscious lyrics refer to street life, the everyday life in Tanzania, politics and more common he does a lot of bragging. Deservedly that is, since he's the only Tanzanian rapper who is able to make a living from his music. The first also to go abroad on a tour to Holland in early 98, Mr II was responsible for giving local rap some international recognition. He was also down with Deplowmatz, mostly Dola Soul who came to join him on most tours within TZ and abroad. In 2002 Mr II decided to quit making music and concentrate on other ways to support the local industry.
Niggaz With Power (N.W.P.)
Apparently there are two groups by this name. The other is from Mwanza and featured Jontwa Jokeri. At least this group has a tape out, using 1995 instrumentals from KRS-1 and others.
OCG used to be with the X Plastaz crew from Arusha. Since he is now staying in Dar es Salaam he went solo. His style is very similar to that of XP's but he took the act of one emcee with two voices (a low one and a high-pitched voice) one step further.
Members: Stoppa Rhymes, Lucargo, Kriss G, Eazy J, KB-La
Arusha in the house! Their influences include Junior Mafia, Dr Dre, Bustarhymes, Onyx, NBN, Lost Boyz and Tupac.
A ragga artist who used to perform with live instruments. He did an album which (like most Dar es Salaam recordings) was never commercially available. He fights for the rights of the have-nots.
Albums: Maisha (96)
Group from Tanga who got airplay with their 'Hakuna kama mama' which was a Swahili version of 2Pac's 'Dear Mama'. They can be seen performing an anti-drugs song in a Tanzanian ninja movie called 'Unga Adui' which is out on video tape and deals with a cocaine gang vs the police, Pulp Fiction style.
Albums: Swahili Rap - Ice Ice Baby (91)
Classic stuff, this tape which really is American songs translated to Kiswahili. Saleh was the first (1991) to do an album of Swahili Rap. Ever heard 'Ice Ice Baby' in Swahili? Probably one of the last strictly party albums in Tanzania, as lately conscious lyrics have taken over. Check out our exclusive interview here to read about his history and come-back plans.
Sos-B entered the local top 10 with his 'Kukuru kakara zako' and some hits after that. Recent work includes 'Saturday' and 3 other tracks recorded using instrumentals by producer Master Jay. He went to Moscow for his studies, but he's in Tanzania again, working as a radio dj for Radio One. Read a massive interview with Sos, by Dola Soul.
The Struggling Islanders
Members: Cool Musa, SJ, Cool Para Albums: Zanzibar Swahili Rap Vol. 1 (98)
The first Zanzibar group to have a video shown on TVZ. They came together in 97, with two female and three male rappers. A song about child abuse in Tanzania (rapped over Nas' 'If I ruled the world' beat) , got them well known locally. AA Cool Para (Ally), formerly with Boombastic, is a dj at various spots, at this time for Bwawani FM club. He's the cousin of Dola (Deplowmatz). Early 1998, two members left. The other three won a rap competition which was to take them to Oman for a performance, but unfortunately the money (or tickets) never came - another case of promoters whose mouth is bigger than their pockets?. They have recorded a second album in 1999 and 2000 for Madunia music, and Cool Para featured in the video documentary 'Hali Halisi'.
Members: Mack, Daz, Rich
Read more about Ugly Face in an update by Dola Soul.
Members: Abbas Maunda, Baraka Kongwa, Steven Mbowe
Underground crew who are well respected by true heads. They used to prefer rappin in English but recently changed their policy. Abbas used to live in England for years, now he's back in Dar and trying to get that first album done. Read more about them in a short update. They got a track played on Radio One in 1998, produced by Master Jay.
Weusi Wagumu Asilia (W.W.A.)
Albums: Sauti ya wagumu (95)
First TZ rap group to record an album in a real studio. The beats suck, we can say now. Their lyrical skills are still appreciated though. This is where we got the name 'RUMBA-KALI' from: it's the name of one of the tracks. To listen to that track, go to the Rumba-Radio section (Show #2: Tanzanian hip hop).
Members: Rough-Nell, Zig-Lah, G-Son
The Arusha hip hop heads have rated this group high. Their homestead Mawingu Club Arusha has enjoyed an XPs performance every now & then. The X Plastaz (Rough-Nell and Zig-Lah) and G-Son work in a hair saloon. G-son used to perform solo and he won the Mr Retro Arusha competition at Mawingu Club in 1997 with his afro and dressed in seventies style.
More recently they have been experimenting with Maasai music, were joined by a true Maasai singer, and recorded a single and the album 'Ushanta' up for release in 2002. Also check out their website www.Xplastaz.com for the latest news.