Kenyan rapper Khaligraph Jones has a flow as fast as Twista’s and grit to last a lifetime. When I first met him a couple of years ago, back when I used to work as a TV host and co – producer at KBC’s Grapevine TV show; Khaligraph’s talent was definitely undeniable and since that day to date—he’s only grown taller and into a finer act, like good wine matures.
His anticipated debut album, released on his birthday, 13th June 2018, is titled: Testimony 1990. It is a testimony to the road he has traveled—from a struggling Kayole rapper, rising ranks and paying his dues to becoming Kenya’s top rapper and one of Africa’s most sought after. The album’s 17 tracks feature 10 collaborations and apart from “Now You Know” featuring Tanzanian rapper Rostam, all it’s singles are brand new releases (even though some were recorded as back as three years ago). Interesting strategy not to include his mega hits like “Mazishi”, “Omollo” and “Nataka iyo Doh” which I feel played a big part in cementing his status as East African rap king. The new album is a new version of Khaligraph with most songs in English and in versatile styles –he’s obviously targeting a wider audience and reintroducing himself to us all.
The album title track “Testimony” featuring Sagini – Khaligraph’s signee at Blu Ink Corp is such a proper intro. Khaligraph touches on his come-up: why he never gave up, how (even know at his fast rise) he still has non believers, and why he won’t stop at working at his talent and worth. I really love that the whole song is only a Piano Piece. From Sagini’s magical singing and the church choir vocals at the end, the song is very different and poignant, bordering gospel.
“G Like That” is a typical Khali track where he goes real ham – here’s the “Mazishi” rapper. “Beat it” sounds like a real love story even though from my interview with Khaligraph, he said that it was a song that he wrote from various experiences and even before he broke up with Cashy. I love the song because you hardly ever hear super star rappers in tales of heartbreak and regret.
He’s also featured two of my favourite Nigerian music acts: Ycee on “Gwala” and Mr. Eazi in “Superwoman” on the album. You know Ycee’s is in a hip hop track and that he can never do wrong in any track. I just never imagined Khali in a banku / afro beat song. The one with Eazi is a beautiful surprise.
Some chilled tracks that appeal to not just rap fans include “Blessings”, the nostalgic “For life” and “Go Hard” featuring Esco, with the reggae vibes. “Complicated” with Ria is also a vulnerable track with Khaligraph’s touching on his insecurities and trust issues. In his second verse he tackles on societal issues like corruption and bad governance around Africa, questioning when this will ever end, with Ria’s chorus providing some kind of redemption with a message of hope.
My replay tracks of the album include: “No Change” featuring Kenyan femcee Fena. Beat is sick and lyrical flow so deep. Here Khali delves into some of past disappointments like being denied a USA Visa. Fena’s just too cool. I can’t even start with her. It’s a perfect collabo. In terms of the storyline and arrangement, “Instagram Girls” is a really cool track. Love how melodious the chorus is.
“Don Know” featuring South African Skhanda rap king is a must-play-it-loud! I am not even sure if the whole of Africa’s knows how badass K.O is. His background is actually is quite similar to Khali, having hailed from the ghetto and then finding himself at the top of the game – South Africa’s hip hop scene. Knowing their background, listen to the song and notice it’s documenting their stature in the rap game. Love the bravado!
I did K.O’s PR before. Read: K.O meets Octo in “Music’s role in defining Africa”: Artist Talk Back
All the songs in the album are replay material. It’s the kind of album for the long time. I know this because everyday I listen to it; I end up loving particular songs more.
BONUS: Get the album on the following links via Apple Music | Boomplay | Khaligraph’s album launch event will be on 26th June 2018 at KICC’s Helipad. By invite only. Congrats my G on this major milestone!