The world’s coolest granpas are reinventing what it means to be a rapper. With their vintage style and old school rhymes, Kenya’s Hip Hop grandpas recognise that the future is bright when you take a look at the past
Words: Tshiamo Seape
The world is turning at a faster pace; moving at breakneck speeds towards a future we can’t conceive, let alone prepare for. Progress seems to be the only religion and we are all blind worshipers to its indomitable will. it’s exhausting. Every aspect of our lives is dictated by how much novelty we can manufacture, but despite our best intentions, we just can’t keep up.
This obsession with the latest and (probably not) greatest has permeated up from the youngest to the oldest generations. Look, I’m not saying your average middle aged dad doesn’t fancy a new pair of loafers, but there’s no way you’d find him camped out in the cold to cop that hot new Spitz collab. And this makes perfect sense, because why would you listen to a young person anyway. They think they have all the information, but having abundant information doesn’t make you smarter, it only makes you more distracted. That’s fine, just don’t ask me to take life advice from some kid from Generation Z, or whoever will be gobbling up trends when we run out of alphabet.
So, short of looking to pre-schoolers for breaking news, a change needed to come. After decades of following the lead of one newly named generation after the other, the only way forward was to look back – all the way to the Silent Generation: The demographic cohort who were characterised by their focus on career, social conformity and an aversion to activism.
A change has come. In Kenya’s Kariobangi informal settlement is a group of enigmatic OG’s (OctoGenarian’s) who are causing a stir. The Hip Hop grandpas, or Kabangu, as they are known in their native land are a breath of fresh air gusting in from the late 70’s early 80’s. The group of emcees have come together to mentor many of the young hip hop heads as they try to make it in the industry. With decades of experience in life and in music, the hip hop grandpas are taking to the streets, bars, clubs, and spreading their message. They teach them on values such as peace, equality, prosperity and social justice. The group has remained a mystery for many years, but like all things of any importance, the truth eventually comes to light.
Dressed in baggy pants, overalls, and sporting the high top fades reminiscent of the formative years of hip hop, Kabangu are living breathing time capsules. But, they are also repositories of knowledge that they regularly dispense to up and comers in the Kenyan rap scene.
It seems a sense of duty is in their DNA. They mentor by day, and by night they serve as security guards in Kariobangi. These old school values are so endearing, it’s impossible not to like them. While the current mainstream is concerned with accumulation and consumption, the Kabangu are mostly concerned with giving back in talent and in time.
Without likes or a single retweet between them (until now), Hip Hop’s eldest statesmen are proving their worth IRL.