With Bboy Settingz, Buruklyn Boyz continues to influence the musical sound, culture and lifestyle of inner-city Nairobi.
By Frank Njugi
In the past few years, the Buruklyn Boyz duo – Ajay and Mr Right – have established themselves among the best acts in the Kenyan Hip-Hop scene. Their songs are characterised by a display of monotonous lyrical delivery and an affinity for fast-paced beats and catchy melodies, with lyrics that are uncompromising in their gritty description of the lifestyle in Buruburu, Nairobi. The duo has adopted the Drill rap prerogative of making music for those who pledge loyalty to inner-city street life. They are also the first-ever artistes to drop a commercially successful Kenyan drill song, the 2020 “Nairobi” which propelled them to notoriety, and resulted in later songs such as “Dream Ya Kutoka Kwa Block” and getting a feature in the British urban music outlet and entertainment platform GRM Daily – known to be one of the foremost purveyors of Drill music and culture.
The influence of Buruklyn Boyz with other artistes who explore the Drill genre in Nairobi has been far-reaching. Aside from the music, the dress code of many in the inner-city estates has evolved to now include Burberry coats and jackets, baggy denim jeans, bandanas and balaclavas or monkey caps. And with the passing of time, the duo is still undeterred in their pursuit of making Swahili and Sheng Slang-influenced Drill the foremost portrait of Kenyan urban life. The optimal evidence of this is their latest EP, Bboy Settingz, released on New Year’s Day.
Bboy Settingz, released under the banner of Five8records – their Buruburu-based collective that terms itself as one that embodies music, fashion, and the essence of the Buruklyn Boyz lifestyle – is a 7-track EP that contains songs which best showcase the duo’s effectiveness in using lyrical rawness to demonstrate how Kenyan Drill ought to be lyrically; a representation of the happenings within the Kenyan environment. Like UK rap artistes who combined elements of Grime and Road Rap to create a unique UK Drill sound in years past, Buruklyn Boyz combines their dexterity in rapping in Sheng, with beats clearly inclined to off-kilter 808s to deliver seven uniquely Kenyan Drill songs.
The first song in the EP, “Gear Five”, metaphorically proclaims an acceleration in their already booming career, one that the duo aspires for. The delivery in this intro track by both Ajay and Mr Right is light and breezy; their verses flow and complement each other’s with a precision that reminds you of a cypher rather than a single track. The second song is “Patient” whose flow and tempo from start to finish showcases the blueprint zest of boyish enthusiasm which Buruklyn Boyz is usually associated with.
Following up “Patient” is “Charlie Chaplin” which makes a case for itself as the best song in the EP, with its sizzling poem-like lyrics which allegorically use the 20th century English silent film comic actor Charlie Chaplin as the point of reference. The song features fellow Buruburu-based rapper, Buruklyn G. “Charlie Chaplin” has a catchy melody, with the beat heard to be heavily influenced by an 808 synth which gives rise to a song with a captivating groove.
“Kill Opp” sees the duo take a page off renowned Australian Drill group, Onefour’s book, employing dark lyrical content that advocates a no-mercy approach to an opposition (whose American slang abbreviation is an ‘Opp’). The song stays true to the core of Drill music by being lyrically dark and aggressive in its description of the violence Buruklyn Boyz believes antagonists should be dealt with.
“Germany”, the fifth song, has skippy double patterns and drum snares with bouncy hi-hats similar to those of Brooklyn Drill, with a memorable Swahili\Sheng hook “Morio hatufanani hatufanani/ Drip ni ya Germany Germany/ (translated as; We never look alike, look alike/ I get my drip from Germany, Germany).
The last two songs both feature fellow Kenyan rapper, Younglouie58. “Vertical” and “Strange Faces” see Buruklyn Boyz attempt to experiment, employing Boom Bap & Trap-like beats while trying to retain their Drill lyrics. Both tracks see Ajay and Mr Right dive into interpersonal relationships and their resilience in overcoming the banes that they sometimes find themselves in.
Bboy Settingz, as confirmed by Ajay, is a prelude to Buruklyn Boyz’s forthcoming second album, Favourite Flavour. Already sampling songs from the upcoming project, Bboy Settingz serves as a revelation of what to expect from one of Kenya’s biggest Hip-Hop acts; an unwavering commitment to their blueprint Drill rap aesthetic. With Bboy Settingz, Buruklyn Boyz continues to influence the musical sound, culture and lifestyle of inner-city Nairobi.
Lyricism – 1.7
Tracklisting – 1.0
Sound Engineering –1.5
Vocalisation – 1.3
Listening Experience – 1.7
Rating – 7.2/10
Frank Njugi is a Kenyan writer, culture journalist and critic who has written on the Kenyan and East African culture scene for platforms such as Debunk Media, Sinema Focus, Wakilisha Africa, The Moveee, Africa in Dialogue, Afrocritik and many others. He tweets as @franknjugi.