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“Mtindo” Review: Boutross Delivers A Collaborations Galore in His New Album

“Mtindo” Review: Boutross Delivers A Collaborations Galore in His New Album

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Through collaboration, Boutross might just have saved the project from the monotony his subject matter threatened to establish, although this ultimately hinders the profound connection his fans crave to establish with his music, and with him as an artiste as well.

By Frank Njugi

One of the foremost characteristics of the music industry is change. Sonic trends tend to evolve with time, as new innovative music-making mechanisms come to light, and previously unheard resonations from little-known artistes rise to introduce newer soundscapes into the local scenes, and subsequently bring about new cultures into the world. In East Africa, one artiste is credited for the creation of a soundscape that is novel to the region —  Boutross Mwebia Munene, popularly known as Boutross, a Kenyan rapper, record producer, songwriter and singer.

Boutross, alongside artistes such as Musau Mumo and Jovie Jov, is credited for conceptualising Shrap, the Swahili iteration of Trap music. Shrap is characterised by the normal Trap music anchors — synth beats, use of 808 drum kits with rolling bass and hi-hat — combined with Swahili and Sheng lyrical delivery. Boustross’ iteration of this  draws a thin line between Trap music and Dancehall, a style he has overtime become synonymous with. He has released albums such as 2020’s 6Ixviewsii8K, 2022’s Mawingu which was followed the same year by Kabla Mtindo, and now, its 2024 follow-up, Mtindo, which was recently released in April.

Mtindo has a lineup of 20 songs, which mostly reveal Boutross as an artiste conforming to an upcoming trend that seems to be making wave in the Kenyan music industry recently — that of releasing LPs that have features with many artistes as their main aesthetic. Mirroring what Fancy Fingers did with Love Language, and SewerSydaa with Mauru Unit, Boutross makes 17 of the songs collaborative, containing features with either one or two artistes. He features local, regional, and international musical acts in Mtindo, indicating his intention of garnering African and international recognition, as well as maintaining his stellar reputation within his home country.

The first of the features with local artistes is in the album’s intro song “Nyash”, whose raunchy lyrics delivered by Boutross alongside Bensoul make for a fun start for the LP. With a tonality similar to that of Dancehall, Boutross sings over a beat inflected with a bass paired with synths. Bensoul’s chorus is a candid declaration of his lust,  lyrically describing all of his lewd intentions. The second track “Baby Love” is ushered in by what sounds like some piano and trumpet samples. It then becomes  a danceable track characterised by an exciting Afro-Caribbean-inspired lyrical delivery by Mordecai from H_art The Band, a Kenyan musical group. The whole track is full of braggadocio lyrics from Boutross and Mordecai as they sing about having a good time. One can assume that the guitar riffs used here is  due to influence from H_art The Band’s guitarist, Kenchez.

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This kind of boastful lyricism is also witnessed in “Huwezi” which features Kenyan artiste, Riziki. While this song employs an exciting beat with some bright synths that could be euphoric, the lack of novelty in its bland lyrics robs the song of any majesty. Its chorus, “Ukifika hivi ni Air BnB” falls somewhere between being cringe and being really cliche. Another local feature, “Bad Habits” featuring Mejja,  starts wittily with a sample of a comedic skit. Similar to all projects involving Mejja, the song employs a narrative format, with both him and Boutross describing various real-life scenarios and their nuances. Mejja’s unhurried approach in the delivery of his lyrics works well over the whimsical beat of the track. 

“Fire”  features Nairobi’s fast-raising artiste Qwiss — it is an Afrobeats track where Qwiss’ deliberate vocal performance brings pizzazz to the song. His chorus, “Girl you fire, 10/10, Girl you fire”, is  a forerunner to a seamless change in his vocal delivery, the transition well complimenting the hypersexuality he and Boutross seem to embody.  In “Gangster”, Boutross features one of Kenya’s finest rap emcees, Timmy Blanco, whose strong melody and intricate lyricism in the final part of the song compliments Boutross’ beginning. The two establish an artistic chemistry with each other, which is also seen in the song “Gemini”,  where Boutross features Kenyan rapper, singer, songwriter and producer, Fena Gitu. “Gemini” sees the two sing of their  afflictions as their motivating factors,  and their feelings about them. There is a grandiose instrumentation to this track, with a mix-up in its soundscape giving a kind of cinematic feel.

Boutross decides to include his 2023 hit song “Miss Behaviour” as the 12th track, featuring Gengetone artiste Farthermoh, alongside Sauti Sol member Savara. “Miss Behaviour” is an euphoric, energetic single, whose tempo makes it hard for one not to dance. Savara and Fathermoh pick up where they had left with their previous collaboration, “Kuna Kuna”, offering a groovy — ready for the club — rendition. 

There is an interesting interplay between conventional and novel soundscapes in the songs “Tujiachilie” and “Darling” which feature V-be and Blinky Bill respectively. In  Tujiachilie”, a sombre, intense beat is outpowered by strong vocal performances by Mshairi Spikes and Tuku Kantu — the V-Be members. “Darling” sees Blinky Bill give his usual peripatetic and soulful lyrical delivery, his voice raspy and moderate as he and Boutross sing about their lovey-dovey traits. “Next”, the 17th song, features fellow Shrap artiste, Jovie Jov. It is a Shrap song whose heavy bass lines and high tempo, alongside aggressive Sheng lyrics, reiterates Kenyan Shrap music as an authentic alteration of Trap. Its follow-up, “Dera” featuring one half of the Buruklyn Boyz duo, Ajay, delights with Ajay refixing the popular Kenyan Classic songKamata Demby PiliPili. “Dera” employs a Genge type of beat, with its fast rhythm and an old-school kind of cutting and scratching by a DJ heard in the background.

In regards to the performances in the regional features, “Mannerless”  — the third song on Mtindo’s tracklisting —  sees a super-slik offering by the featured Joshua Baraka. The Ugandan artiste’s voice rumbles, as his transcendental voice marches the tempo of the beats , coupled with how expertly his Swahili lyrics are juxtaposed with English, make a case for the track being the best in this whole project. Boutross and Joshua Baraka sing on their effective yet unhurried approach to potential lovers, keeping banter to a maximum. The 16th track, “Formula 1” features Nigerian rapper, singer and songwriter, Ice Prince. A Hip-Hop song similar to “Next”, the track contains quick high-hat cymbals and sees Boutross present a raw narration of his sexcapades, as Ice Prince raps on his lyrical prowess.

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In terms of the international features, the sixth track, “Blocks Hot”,  features the UK rap collective NSG member OGD, alongside Khaligraph Jones. NSG brings an Afroswing aesthetic to the song, delivering a memorable verse over a beat characterised by a complex drum pattern and a bass kick and snare similar to that of Hip-Hop – which subsequently enables Khaligraph Jones to jump in with his verse with precision. The ninth track, “Bounce”,  is a collaboration with London–based Backroadgee and Ediv. “Bounce” is a party song, where the artistes use a lady’s voluptuousness as a window to dive into how one should have fun. There is an enticing unhurried tempo to this song — different from normal club staples — which makes it a good listen. The penultimate track, “One Two” features Puerto Rican artiste, Black Viking.  The song’s lyric, “Baby call me once if you want to” becomes an earworm enhanced by some drum patterns that kind of remind you of Reggaeton kick drums.

At some point while listening to Mtindo, one realises most of the lyrics by Boutross seem to be confined towards describing exuberance (women, partying, money, etc.), with the reprieve from this coming from the verses by the featured artistes. On the tracks where he goes solo, “ Intro Freestyle”, “ Too Lit”,  and the last song, “Business Mind”, he sticks to this theme of self-indulgence and hedonism – although “Business Mind” deviates from this a bit as Boutross gets introspectory on intervals. The three tracks though have a certain quality to their production —  “ Intro Freestyle”  and “Too Lit” are Trap songs, with complex drum patterns and deep 808 basses, and “Business Mind” has a slow-flowing tempo which suits its position as the outro track of the album.

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In essence, an LP should be a gateway to dive deep into certain artistic sentiments of the lead artiste. With Mtindo, one cannot help but feel short-changed as you kind of wonder if this is a project that could have been better with fewer  collaborations — and of course more depth in its lyrical themes. Through collaboration, Boutross might just have saved the project from the monotony his subject matter threatened to establish, although this ultimately hinders the profound connection his fans crave to establish with his music, and with him as an artiste as well.

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Lyricism – 0.9

Tracklisting – 1.0

Sound Engineering –1.8

Vocalisation – 1.5

Listening Experience – 1.2 

Rating – 6.4/10

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, Republic Journal, Culture Africa, Sinema Focus, Wakilisha Africa, The Moveee, Africa in Dialogue, Afrocritik and many others. He tweets as @franknjugi.

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