Dead Prez in Nairobi

© 2007 By Buddha Blaze for Baobabconnections /

Last Saturday, WAPI in Nairobi was like a scene out of a movie for a lot of people who had heard of Dead Prez’s music but had never thought they will ever get to see them perform live. In Nairobi this was a dream come true because underground music is not promoted by the promoters in the game maybe this is something they can learn from. It is possible; especially when companies run by younger people such as Spark Africa and Hip Hop Colony come into the game.

Usually an average WAPI day in Nairobi gets an attendance of close to 1500 people but by 11am last Saturday there were already 2,000 people booking space in the British Council parking lot. It was already looking like an interesting day from the visual arts walls with homage to M1 and Stic Man. The theme was Detox: Kicking the Habit; an anti-drug and alcohol campaign. One such visual artist; Maza had done a visual representation called Dead Prez: Detoxication of the Mind.

As usual WAPI is the space for visual and verbal artists from the underground so the MC; Angel called out DaVinze, Bien, Dashe B-boys, Neno, Morroco, Mama Charlotte O’Neal and many more acts in preparation for the big act. Graffiti writers had come out in large numbers to participate in the monthly WAPI Tag the wall competition. Graffiti is one of the most popular aspects of WAPI that has caught a lot of attention because it’s a new phenomenon here in Nairobi but artists are rapidly catching up with their more advanced counterparts.

Stepping on stage was Umi from POW (Prisoners of War) who stands in as Dead Prez’s tour manager and in place of Stic Man as he couldn’t make it on East African tour. He opened for M1 with the ‘Make Money Money Make Money Money, Moneey! , Take Money Money, Take Money Money Moneeeey! As M1 walked towards the stage the crowd went buckwild screaming at the top of their voices. The crowd surged forward all trying to get a glimpse and be in the space of a real hip-hop jam they had come in numbers forcing some fans to watch from the top of trees. M1 and Umi definitely brought the revolution to Nairobi a place where not too many underground hip-hop cats ever perform. They went through their all albums starting ‘I'm an African’ with the whole crowd repeating the lyrics with them; “Am an African, am an African and I know what’s happening, are you an African, are you an African do you know what’s happening?”

With fist up in the air they performed ‘Police State’ to the delight of many as this is one of the tunes that make Dead Prez so loved. They schools was also a favourite “They schools ain’t teaching us what we need to know to survive, they schools don’t educate all they teach the people is lies.” But they warned kids against rebelling from school but keep their minds correct and not to just rely on education from school but to do their own research and elevate their minds. They dedicated ‘Mama Cries’ to mothers of the world and for the beautiful ladies in the house they performed ‘Mind Sex’. After that it was back to revolution and they made everyone salute with the song ‘Warrior’. But it was the base from the song ‘Hip-Hop’ that got the crowd insane. All you could see was a sea of hands in the air loving this track matter of fact M1 had to tell the DJ to wheel the so he could begin the song again. The crowd was singing along so loudly Dead Prez didn’t have to sing at all. Whoa! it was a sight to behold. This has never been seen in Kenya ever.

They then finished the one hour with a dedication to Kenya, the song ‘Till We Get There’ to Kenya a song that M1 did with Somalian born rapper Knaan. “I did this song with one of your own brothers and one of the most talented artists in the industry today, this is for you Kenya,” said M1.

When the show was over you could see the satisfaction on people faces, they had seen one of their won do it in Kenya at a free show at treat that doesn’t always come around often. To some of the fans in the crowd this was like the rebirth of Bob Marley as Dead Prez are truly the one of the few hip-hop outfit speaking the real life. The show was highly energetic but what was surprising even to Dead Prez themselves was how the crowd new every lyric and chanted along every song. “We never knew that we are that big out here we are honoured and very blessed to have such a big following,” concluded Umi.

Many heads need to know that this was just the beginning of real hip-hop shows in Kenya. Talib Kweli, Mosdef, Knaan, Pharaoh are all billed to showcase in Nairobi. With Spark Africa in effect Nairobi is about to get a shine on the international hip-hop must perform list. Dead Prez left Kenya and headed out to Dar es Salaam to perform at WAPI as part of the whole east Africa tour.

Also read: Dead Prez community tour of Dandora

2007 ©