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HIP HOP is alive and conscious!

Meet a Kenyan Representative – Hustlajay Mau Mau:

If Hip-hop still sounds like Bling-Bling, Bitches, Booze with Bass and Beats to you, this little article will introduce you to a broader view. There are awakened forces in the industry that hold the spirit of the spoken word to be a sacred tool to actively take part in building a community, strengthen identities and lead towards unity, peace and love. Celebrating the transformative power of the strongly rooted culture Hip-hop, the artists refer to the term Conscious Hip-hop to distinguish them from the commercial or gangster vibe. Conscious Hip-hop is a sub-genre of Hip-hop which challenges social and political inequalities by questioning the status-quo of a society. A conscious MC will aim at creating awareness and imparting knowledge about current issues that exclude, abuse or hinder especially young people from becoming meaningful members of their community. In this tradition the artist becomes part of the solution – he/she is not THE solution, as being a (Hip-hop) musician is also not for everyone – but an advocate for education, political involvement and non-violent social activism.

In this spirit and deeply disturbed by the post-election violence 2007/08 in Kenya, the young James Masaii starts voicing his pain and anger about his divided nation as a Hip-hop MC aka Hustlajay MauMau. Inspired by his grandfather being a powerful teacher and preacher in his county and international artist like Common, NAS, Immortal Techniques and his now fellow MCs Kenring, Vigeti, Salif Keita and Babaluku from Uganda, Hustlajay turns his poetry into deep and deadly rhymes.

“It’s our time to reclaim Kenya from the thugs. Keep spitting those deadly and courageous lyrics!” (Boniface Mwangi, dedication to Hustlajay in his book “Unbound”, 2017)

With his first album in 2010, Minyororo ya haki and early stage performances in 2011 at AmaniLazima meets Wapi in Kibera supported by Sarakasi Trust and the Norwegian Embassy, 2014 Blankets and Wine in Nairobi and Fete de la Musique and the Annual Hip-hop Summit in Uganda under the mentorship of Babaluku in 2015, he begins to establish himself within the reigns of conscious Hip-hop MCs.

Through his mostly Kiswahili lyrics and socio-political themes in his songs and videos, like Uhuru Africa 2012, Hewani 2012 and Continental Scares 2015 (produced by Tedd Josiah), the arising Street Philosopher from Mombasa, becomes known under many more names:

In 2016 he is called Hip Hop crusader by Douglas Baya on OMG networks in regard to his invitation by Chief Justice Willy Mutunga to perform at the Supreme Court of Kenya. The call for peace before the 2013 elections expressed in Hustlajay’s songs caught the judiciary’s attention and they wisely used it to reach out to the general public to vow for the new constitution and the changes it’s to bring. The message of this collaboration of the arts and politics was carried forward in a documentary “Voice of Justice: When Hip Hop Meets the Judiciary” to deepen the understanding of music being a tool for social transformation and a bottom-up integration of the “mwanainchi” into socio-political processes and discussions. Willy Mutunga tweets that day:

‘’Today I met Hustlajay, an inspiring artist who uses music to champion social justice’’ (Willy Mutunga, Twitter, 2014)

Later the same year Greg from World Hip Hop Market networks referred to Hustlajay as a Human Rights MC, who is re-shaping the image of Hip Hop as a whole in Kenya and beyond. By this time

Hustlajay has already established Africa Is Now, a foundation for social change in Kenya and a platform for appraisal among the unprivileged ghetto-youth. He initiates the movement Hip-hop beyond the Mic, with first demonstrations and community activities in Malindi, like beach cleanings, active support for voter’s card registrations and open discussions about drug abuse and health care in the region. His foundation and movement intend to use the power of art and culture as an instrument for EDUtaining and enlightening people without former education and who seem voiceless in their society.

“Music, art and culture shape an individual’s worldview and the community’s perception on changes and challenges that are faced on a daily basis. Therefore, there is a need for the artists to understand consciously their role and keep on initiating this type of programs to promote, empower and preserve the role of art and culture in the development of mankind.” (Hustlajay, 2016)

His genuine struggle and great achievements are further picked up by Professor O’Connor and the president of Rhyme and Reason in the U.S.A. Hustlajay is featured in her book Telling Our Own Stories (2016). The book shows the growth of Hip Hop as a way to voice socio- political issues and to protest non-violently.

As an indigenous Hip-hop practitioner and a Back to Source Hip-hop artist (Babaluku 2015), Hustlajay sets out to Tanzania in 09/2016 to meet one of his great idols, the Black Panther Pete O’Neal, to gain more wisdom about some of the academic concepts behind Conscious Hip-hop, like pan-Africanism, socio-political Identity and bottom-up activism. With scholars like Julius Nyerere, Markus Garvey and Martin Luther on his reading list, he states:

“Until one acknowledges their roots, there can be no true understanding of who they are, for identity is a nagging issue for many African wo/men. Who am I? Where do I belong? Many of us are disconnected from our ethnic origins and cultures of our parents and only by looking deeply into our past can we evolve new insight to help define ourselves. So I identify with Hip- hop to define myself.” (Hustlajay, World Hip Hop Market Interview, 2016)

Together with his fellow MC GP Rowdix (Mstaafrica) he reignited the Arusha Poetry Club with our Elder and Mentor Charlotte Hill O'Neal "Mama C". “Through sharing”, so Hustlajay, “people come together and solutions can be found and wisdom gained.”

Hustlajay Mau Mau also hosts a radio show on WhatsGood Radio, ‘Tafakari Kwetu (Fridays@5pm), where he interviews and presents up-coming artists and talks on current socio-political affairs, trends and culture:

“....surely, what we see while seated is not enough - you need to stand to be able to see and let your sight be beyond, not only where your urine reaches.” (Hustlajay, Masaii Elders, 2016)

In 2017, Hustlajay releases Nani Sio together with GP Rowdix in regard to the teachings of telling our own stories, expressing that the beauty of Africa is not all about poverty and ignorance, but about rich cultures and a lush and diverse environment. Further he has become the Kenyan Ambassador for Generation Hip Hop, a US based foundation working with the Universal Hip Hop Museum to establish new forms of representation of the Hip Hop culture on a global level. Working together with Microsoft and Sony Music, the globally-linked network is producing collaboration albums and huge events in their representing countries but foremost in the US. Generation Hip Hop also builds online college curriculums for education around the world as well as publishing platforms, mentoring and internships.

In late 2016, Hustlajay became the Manager on the ground for Masa Music East Africa, one of the biggest music production label in the region under the Swedish rapper Kenring. He will ensure the smooth running of the studio in Mombasa, arrange media tours, launches and other events as well as oversee artist development and their work, like Duane Stephenson among others. With his experience in artist-management through Nyota Ndongo, X Plastaz Kamaa, Mstaafrika GP and Mamalao, he was the perfect fit for the label. In a blogger interview he states regarding his vision for Masa Music EA:

“You should be only expecting the best! Beats, Lyrics, Sound and Videos are all top caliber, unique and simply F.A.T! I hope that Masa Music will bundle the existing professionalism in the region and take the music industry to the next level.” (Hustlajay, 2017).

And truly, Hustlajay is all over East Africa as just recently he performs at the Green Peace Festival and KINASA , a Kiswahili promoting event hosted by Nash MC in Daressalam.

Looking at Hustlajay’s story so far- we might just be lucky and are witnessing the making of a legacy.

“Angles are on assignment and the Holy Spirit is moving. TRUST the Lord at ALL times and in every way. Praise and thank Him for EVERYTHING. Learn what He wants you to learn. Find what He wants you to find. Do what He wants You to do as He wants you to do it. Touch the lives He wants you to touch. When the job is complete the victory will manifest. Soon after that it will be time for the next lesson. AT ALL TIMES GOD IS THE AUTHOR AND FINISHER OF OUR FAITH. Do not look to man but see God in the man (or woman) and go with God. We go through testing from time to time in order to strengthen our faith and improve our wisdom. You CAN do it. Dump ALL the old ways and ideas. The more we dump that garbage the more God can put all that He is and has IN US! I could NEVER spend the hours, days, weeks, months, years, and decades I have spent IN the Lord and doing what I do had I not learned, with total understanding, the lesson I give you here. God Bless” (Hustlajay, fan page, 2014)

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