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Album Review

The Invisible Currency- Khaligraph Jones’ personal story of triumph against the odds.

todayApril 5, 2020 706 10 3

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There are many other memorable moments the rapper has given throughout the years. Some are fantastic like winning awards or realizing dope projects and others are questionable like arriving for a stage performance in a casket or the alleged bleaching fiasco,Whether they happened to him, or he orchestrated them(the questionable moments),is a matter of fan debate,but they certainly  provide conversation fodder.These ‘escapades’ though they have gotten less of late ,(parenthood does mellow people), have earned him some haters over the years. There are a number of fans who just do not see him as the top hip hop huncho he claims to be.

 

But Khaligraph seems to be fueled by controversy. At least in the earlier stages of his career,he evidently was. He came to national and regional prominence, during a lyrical beef with some notable rappers.  Octopizzo  was chief on the list, but he managed to successfully address alot of diss tracks  aimed at him. While his opponents, attacked his fashion sense and fake rapping accent,he went harder,capitulating each one of them. He also owned the accusations brought against him, wearing them as a badge of honor instead. When one  rapper called him Omollo ,in jest and to try and paint him as a wannabe, he ran with it,and even showed on a few tracks that he could rap in his native language. His enemies real or perceived, have always gotten snide remarks loaded memorable sarcasm. For example, when he was once asked to comment about ‘faking it until you make it’ ,he turned tables on the presenter and remarked that said presenter would be in a better position to answer the question. 

 

Khaligraph Jones has remained controversial and misunderstood for the decade that he has been in the industry. However some fans like myself,he is the underdog you want to root for. He is the guy facing all these odds,and coming out the other side alive.  The album Invisible Currency is not just a  rags-to-riches,grass-to-grace  story. Many fans of hip hop, across the decades, are  aware  of the story. It is a frequent trope,to borrow stage lexicon. But unlike an actor who plays a script given to him, Khaligraph tells a true story. He raps about experiences that he has actually gone through,and his fans can believe that he has been in the trenches. This album is Khaligraph telling his story. But he is not just telling it as a narrator would,nay! He is explaining things from his point of view. He is telling us why he has made some of the decisions he has made over the years. He lets us into his process of thinking and doing things. This project is  open and intimate in a way we have never witnessed from the O.G.

 

Khaligraph Jones is Kenyan hiphop. No one else ,despite their talent , lyrical ability or achievements has etched their names into the psyche of Kenyans in such a way. And so Khaligraph Jones has been looking outwards for sometime.He started a big conversation about playing more Kenyan content and having Kenyan music compete on a continental stage. In the same breath,he started working with rappers in East Africa, galvanizing them to work together more ,and build a scene that could match those in the West and South.On the song, Ikechukwu, he shows his  obsession with being loved in the western and southern parts of the continent.This expansion into continental markets has seen the Kenyan fan base remain wowed and loyal. The song Hiroshima with Canadian rapper Dax, certainly raises the ceiling even higher for him,as stans believe he may just be on the path to worldwide recognition. And why not,  if the Burna Boys and Wizkids of Nigeria are doing it,why not? 

 

But even as he seeks more international appeal, and other markets, Khaligraph acknowledges that some fans are interacting with him for the first time. He therefore retells his  life story on Maombi ya Mama  &  How We Do.  He points out how poverty disadvantaged him, to the point he almost never went through high school,and when he did,he couldn’t pass his exams. He talks of his father’s long  illness, expensive medication, the eventual demise of their provider, burying the family deeper in poverty. A lot of religious influence is registered in this body of work,like  in songs about overcoming poverty, mentioned above,and certainly in the song  All I Need, which is an outright gospel number. He gives benediction,and dedicates the sum of all his achievements and experiences to God. The hook is done in a negro spiritual fashion, giving the song a churchy vibe  and mood. 

 

Love for God is not the only kind of love addressed.  Ateri Dala , featuring ohangla/luo benga singer Prince Indah ,sees the rapper dabble in English, Swahili and Luo lyrics. Wanguvu  with Ali Kiba celebrates beautiful women and  Ride For You featuring Nigerian star Rudeboy,talks about holding it down, for a loved one when sh*it gets real. Inner Peace- is about love too(self love),and it had another Nigerian,Kev the Topic, who I feel gave the best guest verse. 

Flee,Am on the Move and Tsunami with Scar Mkadinali,were straight up bangers. Vinc on the Beat, produces in a way that allows Khaligraph Jones to get his beast on and thie songs were just meant for rao heads. For fans of Khaligraph that love hearing him go crazy on beats. Mejja, got a feature on Kamyweso, a party song, because Khaligraph Jones is known to make those too,and who better for a feature on a booze anthem if not Okwonkwo.In the last song, Khali Chronicles, he literally chronicles his musical journey, how he learnt the ropes and made the sacrifices needed.

The  audio production of the project is superb..I think it is impressive how Jones entrusted the making of most of the album to Vinc on the Beat,a local producer,who has been slept on. It shows that he puts his money where his mouth is and is dedicated to building the whole Kenyan hiphop eco ecosystem. This sophomore album is a great improvement from the first one , Testimony 1990. A lot of fans, critics and opinion leaders have praised the maturity and creativity of the project. The rapper has taken risks but somehow ensured they all worked out. His choice to balance fast paced hard hitting bars with slower paced ones is a stroke of genius. Choosing to have songs that give a message and not just flaunt rap abilities is something I find refreshing and necessary for a good album. In terms of lyricism, and thematic  concerns, there is a change of approach that is welcome.  The pandemic allowed for alternative forms of music or those that otherwise require more deeper introspection to gain popularity. As a result, we’re seeing even mainstream artists experiment more.

The choice of sub genres needs to be more authentic and thought through. Khaligraph is a good rapper, perhaps the best in the continent on his day,but can he make a record that is flavored. Save for the songs featuring Prince Indah and Ali Kiba,a recognizable African element is lacking in the beats selected. There are also a few problematic lyrics that support misogyny and homophobia. In some cases casual violence and crime. The talented rapper must realize that he has transcended borders, linguistic and cultural barriers to create a name for himself. He must therefore bear a certain responsibility, and not mislead people. All in all, the project is superb,and certainly the best work of art he has released. We can only hope the next one is better than this one. 

 

Written by: 254 Radio

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