Amnesia – Redefining Zambian Hip-Hop

chef187-2I love music. I love all kinds of music. I grew up listening to RnB, Rap, Soul, Kalindula, Rhumba, Jazz, the list is endless. Today, however, I am going to talk about Zambian Hip Hop and a young man making great strides in this genre. I am talking about Kondwani Kaira aka Chef 187.

Most of you know him as the young brother to Kopala Music king, Macky II and granted, he has been under his brother’s shadow for a while. This time, he has broken free and is no longer under anyone’s shadow. With the Amnesia, album, he might as well go ahead and claim the crown as the King of Zambian Hip-hop/Rap music. Yeah, that’s right!

It all started with rappers like MC Suicide and crew, Crisis, Daddy Zemus, and many other young rappers who pushed for this kind of music to be appreciated in Zambia. They were called American wannabes, ama Yo Bally and other names labelling them as fake copycats of American culture.

Yes, Hip-hop culture was born in the US but it has spread across the world so fast Zambian youths, especially in the 90’s caught it and wanted to be part of it. The music has developed from rapping in English to a mixture of local and English to completely rapping in local.

Now we can brag of a long list of Zambian hip-hop artistes like Slap Dee, Macky II, Dope G, Jay Rox, Day Walker, Joe Swax, K-Star, Camster, Willz, and many more. This type of music has grown and some artistes have gone further to create a Zambian sound that mixes hip-hop and Zambian beats.

Chef 187’s Amnesia album shows off the production skills of several producers who are heavy weights in the game. The songs each are unique and have a different sound, feel and life. Listening to the album, I could not help but compare it to Ready to Die, one of the greatest albums by one of the finest MCs, the Notorious BIG.

In Amnesia, Chef 187, not only proves his skills as a wordsmith but he allows us to enter his creative mind and savour his intelligence and deepest of thoughts. For a rapper of his age, the level of intelligence and knack to rhyme using things that are current in the news or things that are part of our history and culture is genius. This rapper reads. This rapper knows his current affairs. This rapper knows his Zambian history.

When The Notorious BIG released his first album, Ready to Die, it took the world by storm. Rappers from the Westside who were enjoying popularity at the time, Dr. Dre, Snoop Doggy Dogg and the rest took notice. Amnesia is not Chef 187’s first album but it sure has taken Zambia by storm and the heavy weights in the game have surely noticed. Amnesia has redefined Zambian Hip-hop.

The album opens with an intro entitled “Betrayal”, a song laced with a touchy Spanish type lead guitar sound that lingers in your mind. Chef 187’s rap on the beat will give you goose bumps as he talks about betrayal amongst friends in the music industry. He talks about remaining focused and working hard and paying no mind to the drama and the fake friends that surround him. He asks the question:

“If Judas could kiss Yesu in betrayal bushe abachensele ebanensu?” (If Judas could kiss Jesus in betrayal, are those smiling at us our true friends?)

From issues of betrayal, he takes us into “Winning”, a song reminiscent of Notorious BIG’s Juice but a tinge harder. In this song, Chef 187 brags about making it big. He talks about living a good life now and no longer starving or stressing. The rhymes are deep. Check this verse out.

“After year imo, album tapasheleko copy/Late comer alya ama bonzo yashileko poppy/Nkembo na ma pressure yali no uli ne myaka forty/Still nakana kulolesha kunuma nga muka lotty/Life yalibafye simple timaichaya chabe compuliketi/Coz ukulya ichani abanandi ngepomuli teti/unless fye mwaliba feki/njangala na ma sineki/lulya epondi mulensekela, nselepo muli fuseki/But.. to hell nafyena/vingazi newo nalema/I’m never afraid to speak my mind fulu ninebo Malema/Shout out to bonse ma Lazo, nali mu cell nabena/I’m single but ngababempesha gelo ni Thelma beba/Thelma never/Apobe ale uma labour/imilomo shilabalanga but it’s hard to say umabema/…..

The skill in rhyming words in Bemba and English is just genius and he is not talking about things off the top of his head but things that he has seen or read. In the verse, there is reference to the Bible, and Julius Malema. In verse two he uses Bruce Lee’s son Brandon in a rhyme and talks about Charles Musonda. Now, that’s Zambian history right there for you!

Another outstanding song on the album is Angelina, featuring Silent Erazer. It is a fusion of some Zambian sound and the Hip-hop beat that has a catchy Chewa chorus.

In “Can’t wait to tell you I told ya” featuring Pilato, Chef 187 goes wild into a completely different type of rap style. A ragga style of rap that is faster amid meaner. He is backed by a fierce chorus done by a girl called Lucy! This is another very strong song on the album and is certain to drive his fans straight to the dance floor.

And of course, I cannot write about this album without mentioning the song that is enjoying a lot of radio airplay and whose video is also prominent on local TV stations – “House Party mu ka One Room”.

In this song, he shows off his story telling prowess. This song kind of reminds me of the Notorious BIG’s song from the Life After Death album entitled “I Gatta Story to Tell”.

In this song Chef 187 narrates the goings on at a house party. The story is catchy, somewhat tragic and full of humour. It gets you imagining just how wild that party must have been!

Out of 10, I will give this one 8 points.

With this album, Chef 187 has definitely killed all the other MCs and all I can say is who is next?

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