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“Rhymebook Ya Nutcase” Review: King Kaka Takes a Trip Down Nostalgia Lane

“Rhymebook Ya Nutcase” Review: King Kaka Takes a Trip Down Nostalgia Lane

Rhymebook Ya Nutcase - King Kaka - Afrocritik

Across genres and styles, King Kaka maintains a consistent sound, making necessary adjustments to match the requirements of each song while maintaining chemistry with all featured artistes.

By Frank Njugi 

My music collection exists in two categories: records that are best enjoyed at home, and those best experienced at the club. On a Friday night, when I lack the energy to leave my house, you will find me enjoying the former, nuzzled up in the comfort of my home, lost in my thoughts and feelings. And on the days when I feel more alive and in the mood to be outside dancing and having a great time with friends, you will find me at the club enjoying the latter. King Kaka’s most recent EP, Rhymebook Ya Nutcase, proselytises me to create a third category — a collection which fits comfortably in both categories.

Since his first album, Tales of Kaka Sungura in 2008, King Kaka has always sought inspiration from his life experiences. In “Nutcase”, the first song in this nine-track EP, King Kaka takes a similar autobiographical approach, making references to his life before and after fame. His penmanship is still as fantastic as we remember it, rapping over a beat reminiscent of old-school Mandugu Digital productions. “Nutcase” maps the rapper’s life — beginning from his teenage years as a young boy with big dreams to his ruminations in a matatu, stuck in traffic selling his CDs, to today where he is balling — “tunataja macashflow”. His philosophy is encapsulated in a lyric in the song in which he says, “No person is born great, great people become great”, which according to King Kaka, he was already great. This song does two things successfully: It confirms his talent and introduces us to this new body of work that reminds us that King Kaka is a product of his environment; the people he has met over the years, and the rappers he grew up listening to.

Rhymebook Ya Nutcase - King Kaka - Afrocritik

Looking back at his first commercially successful track “Jam Nakam” in 2008, King Kaka has always been able to tell a good story. In “Nutcase”, the story is about his growth from dreamer to rapper. Similarly, in “Mtu Like This, the penultimate song in the project, the camera shifts from the rapper to the people around him. Throughout the song he assumes the role of observer, narrating his observations to a nosey audience. From the comfort of his car, he tells us of the neighbourhood thief now turned pastor, Mama Ronnie who might have exaggerated the size of her derriere to deceive Baba Ronnie, and of Sonnie who happens to have money after every rave and might be drugging men to rob them. King Kaka employs call and response to which the audience responds, “Weh wacha!” And when the chorus comes, we are met with the indictment: “Unapenda udaku, unapenda umbea? Wewe ni mtu like this”. He makes his lyrics a pastiche for people who like to gossip. In this project, as he has done in the past, King Kaka does not just write himself in his stories, but also those in his environment.

Throughout Rhymebook Ya Nutcase King Kaka’s range is evident in how he effortlessly moves across genres. As “Nutcase starts off the EP with a traditional Hip-Hop beat and flow, the second song, “Nairobi, throws us deep into Rumba, peppered with elements of Drill, with Halisi The Band complementing King Kaka’s flow with a feel-good melody, backed with vibrant background vocals and horns. The same formula is used in “Nice which features Jadi, the Afrofusion group comprising three members: Tumbo B, Vince, and Ethan. Both “Nairobi and “Nice”, which speak about life in Nairobi and the stress therein, are sure to send listeners to the dancefloor. 

The fourth track, “Leo, featuring Pascal Tokodi and Prezzo, veers towards an Afrobeats sound while things soften around “Me Na Weh” and “Ulikotoka” featuring  Ruguru and Masauti respectively. Towards the end of “Mtu Like This”, the slow Gengetone-type beat expands to incorporate log drums and suddenly the song is Amapiano. Across genres and styles, King Kaka maintains a consistent sound, making necessary adjustments to match the requirements of each song while maintaining chemistry with all featured artistes.

Rhymebook Ya Nutcase - King Kaka - Afrocritik
King Kaka

 

“I aimed to delve deeper into stories that resonate with my fans while simultaneously pushing my creative boundaries.” King Kaka says in an interview. This attempt to be venturesome is seen in how Rhymebook Ya Nutcase moves and weaves through disparate sounds, through an eclectic gathering of featured artistes, and his exploration of multiple themes. “Baraka Zangu”, for example, featuring Kontawa, is a gospel song with the lyrics throughout the verses, where both artistes maintain expressions of praise to God — a slight detour from other themes in the EP such as romance and his coming-of-age.

The last song on the EP, “Fail”, brings us back to familiar terrain. King Kaka tackles his mastery of fame, his nostalgia, and also his faith and convictions, all juxtaposed with his narration of his coming-of-age to success story. Once more, King Kaka reminds us who he is — a person who succeeded despite hailing from Nairobi’s Eastlands. The refrain “God hakuniumba nifail” doesn’t tell us anything we don’t know about how the rapper sees himself, but it does the work of inviting listeners to consider their own existence. We know what King Kaka thinks of King Kaka. This is not the point of this song. As we watch him take in his journey, the song demands the listener to consider their own journey. So perhaps like King Kaka, I wasn’t created to fail.

In Rhymebook Ya Nutcase, King Kaka has created a record I can enjoy in the comfort of my home and outside at a club with friends. This EP, his 12th project, is truly a wholesome experience, and one that ensures his name remains in the conversation with artistes who should be placed in the canon of Kenyan contemporary musicians.

Lyricism –   1.7

See Also
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Tracklisting – 1.5

Sound Engineering – 1.6

Vocalisation –  1.5

Listening Experience – 1.7

Rating – 8.0 / 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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