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April 20, 2018

Album Review: Wahenga & Rio's "The West Wave" EP

Wahenga & Rio's "The West Wave" EP cover art
Wahenga & Rio's "The West Wave" EP cover art

Title: The West Wave - EP

Artistes: Wahenga & Rio

Genre: Hip-hop/Rap

Release: January 22

 

The productivity of Kenyan musicians has constantly been questioned. Some fans say we need to replicate the tireless workrate exhibited by West African artistes. Others think it’s the kind of intricacy exhibited by globally recognised acts that sets apart a good artiste from a wannabe.

Well, it is important for an artiste to find strength in their works as they push through the pains of the creative process to the moment they have a final product to exhibit. It’s rare to see our artistes releasing titled and well-organised compilation works. More often than not. they prefer to thrive on singles. But in the midst of all this rarity, there are those in the new rap class who are ready and willing to incorporate the traditional style of releasing EPs and LPs.

Two rappers, Mhenga Mhengare and Mhenga Kanner of the duo Wahenga, and their producer Rio, strike a perfect balance on their joint EP, The West Wave. The artistes find common ground as they skulk through verses to give us a taste of the Dagoretti vibe, which is not as popular as that of Nairobi’s Eastlands. The collaborative effort is a short, enjoyable and uncomplicated compilation.

It begins with “Cheza Chini” and almost whirls out of control on the sensual second track, “Like It”. And maybe being the first time we are experiencing the rappers, we are exposed to their strengths and weaknesses in equal measure. It is more gratifying when they trade off Kiswahili bars with an impressive rhyme scheme compared to English. But whether they are narrating survivalism on ‘Kijana wa Ghetto” or talking about triumph and success on “Cheddah”, they offer introspective street rap and youthful swagger.

On a tape with zero features, they offer a set of free-flowing punchlines. Their talky-pace delivery goes against the mainstream song structure common with top rap artistes in Kenya. They rumble infectiously and give the kind of charismatic performance you expect a rapper to exhibit in his formative stages. Wahenga and Rio are determined to lay it all on the line.

If anything, The West Wave is a reminder that there’s so much talent out there. The tape never loses sight of what it is about: simply testing the waters. 

 

Star Rating: 

3 out of 5

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