A Conversation with Vallerie Muthoni

-Kahvinya singing in the background.-

FLOABS: Should I mention the context of where we’re doing this?

Vallerie Muthoni: Yeah sure sure.

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How did you know J.Kali?

I’d always been a fan first of all, from the beginning. And then we kinda met a few times. Y’know, and then he followed my music and I followed him back. There’s a time – actually, at a very recent performance – we met and had a really intimate conversation where he really just advised me. I was very isolated. I was in a deep dark place and I wasn’t talking to people, but he was like “Yo, we’re talking before you leave,” and we sat on the grass.

So through the short experience I had with him, and now all these things I’m hearing: you’re seeing all the people who’ve shown up for him, you see his love. Sorry this a lot-

It’s fine, go on.

I’m so happy I met him at the time I did because he’s made an effect on so many people after his death. So many people who know “We have to do this for him.” It’s a beautiful thing to see.

Alright, onto you. Are you a singer or a rapper?

I really wanted to be a singer like Beyonce…is that Terrianne?

-Terrianne Iraki on stage singing “I was here by Beyonce.”-

-We listen to Terrianne for a few minutes.-

Sorry, where were we?

Beyonce.

Yeah I started out wanting to be a singer, and then I started rapping and people loved it. And it’s fun, it’s easy for me to do honestly, so I’m both. I embrace them both.

And when did you start singing or rapping?

Girl, I’ve been singing since I could talk.

Rapping, I’d always do poetry in high school. I’d do little raps in high school, and then I toa-d No Chances and I was like “Oh, people are fucking with this shit. I’m so dope.”

Taking no chances.

Taking no goddamn chances.

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Can say that’s when you started taking this rap thing seriously?

Yup. No chances. And then Brown Suga came and I was like “For sure”

For sure you’re a rapper.

For sure.

This is your first full length project?

Yes.

How many tracks?

5. It was gonna be 8, but we made it 5.

You cut it?

Yeah.

Why?

Quality over quantity. I had a conversation with MDQ a few hours ago, it just helped me understand and see some things.

Are you excited / nervous?

I am! I think so.

VALLERIE

What’s the one message you want to be the takeaway from your album?

There’s a song at the end of the album called ‘End Rape Culture’. It’s a story but just something that’s happening so often and something that frustrates me.

I could never articulate how I feel. I was never the type to post on Twitter or Facebook. Music was just the way that I could get that message out there. It’s one that makes you think a little bit.

Tell us about your songwriting process.

The minute I hear a beat; the first 30 seconds of a beat I’ll know if I like it. Singing wise – I kind of first freestyle a little bit, see where it goes; whatever vibe I go with, and then from there I can just stop and say “Okay I like where this is going” and write it down.

I use paper to write my songs ’cause a lot of artists these days actually use their notepads.

Yeah, on their phones.

Also I was on Kabambe life for very long so I didn’t have much of an option.

What producers did you work with?

Kahaelbeats. Fvzzkill. MANU-

Avionix?

Khasakhala?

I think that’s him.

He’s has so many aliases, I’m like “MANU pick one dammit.” It’s a five track EP, it’s not much. And then one international producer.

Do you remember your first live show, and how that felt?

Does high school count?

Yeah.

No, that doesn’t count. I’ll talk about the first one after school, when I finished highschool and I knew I wanted to take this music thing seriously. It was at Alchemist, of course. That was my first proper live show with a band. I took my friends – I was studying music production at ADMI.

You did ADMI?

Yes, for two years I did a diploma in music production. I had friends who could play guitar and drums and I was like, “Ay, let’s do this.”  It was actually The Lounge, remember YLM’s [Yellow Light Machine] event The Lounge that used to happen every so often?

Yeah. ylm

It was really dope. I enjoyed myself. I loved it. It’s usually when I’m on stage, I’m comfortable. I’m not nervous anymore.

What’s the most recent “Ohmigod is this real life” moment?

I’m so overwhelmed with happiness because I just got featured in True Love Magazine. And Colors did a feature on Brown Suga. And the Freshman HBR list.

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So you’ve basically made it. Why are you still hustling with the rest of us?

Manze no. Until the money comes, then I’ll start saying I’ve made it. Until then, I’m still a struggling artist.

What inspires you?

I don’t want to die doing something I don’t like, and I love performing so if I can get to a place where I’m no longer stressing, sijui fuata-ing who for money, and I’m just performing & traveling around the world. That’s what motivates me. That’s what inspires me. That’s what I’m doing it for so I can get to that place. Does that make sense?

It makes a lot of sense. Who are your biggest influences?

Beyonce. Anderson .paak. Michael Jackson. Masego.

Uncle Sego.

It will happen. And you’ll find him mysteriously missing after his show. Don’t ask questions.

VALLERIE 2

I will not ask. We’ll know where he is. 

Burna Boy. Childish Gambino.

In Kenya? 

Muthoni the Drummer Queen. Blinky Bill.

Cool. Any last words?

The Wavey Soul on Mookh.

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Vallerie Muthoni is a Kenyan songstress and rapper. You can purchase/stream her debut EP The Wavey Soul here:

Buy: Wavey Soul on Mookh.

Stream: Apple Music, Spotify

 

Cool Kids Only: DJ Mkuzi

This interview was recorded on 29th November 2017 and published on 22nd January 2018.

 

FLOABS: Where are we?

DJ Mkuzi: Hi, my name is Mkuzi. We are in Mombasa at Moonshine Beach Bar.

 

When did you know you wanted to be a dj? Like when were you first interested and when did you decide yes, I want this to be my life.

I think I’ve always been interested in music. The more I grew up, the more the burning desire grew inside me. Anything music related was just my thing. I always wanted to be a producer, I always wanted to be a dj and I’m so happy that im pursuing everything that I’m doing right now. Regardless of what I’m doing on the side, this is the one thing that drives me to wake up everyday; it excites me everyday.

 

How did your family react when you first told them about what you want to do?

I remember I was with my bro and my mum, straight out of high school. They asked “what do you want to be?”

I told them i wanted to be a producer and my bro laughed. He laughed so hard. He couldnt believe it. It got me scared kidogo, but as I kept growing up I kept on growing my confidence. They didn’t take it well. My older bro still doesn’t take it well right now as we speak despite the achievements that I’ve made but hey, one day as it comes. I guess one day they’re gonna realize how great of an achievement it is for me just to do my thing and be happy with it.

Talk about Mkuzi the DJ vs. Mkuzi the producer.

Mkuzi the producer is that sound that I really want to get out there, and it’s really inspired by my culture. I’m Mijikenda- Rabai to be specific and I think we have some really amazing music. I went up there, to the village, and just listened to those guys do their thing and I want to get it out there, make it cooler than it already is. Take it places. It deserves to be out there, enjoyed by everyone else, not just locally.

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Mkuzi the dj is a different dynamic. He kills it on stage all the time. He plays what people like- what’s fresh. He’s a cool kid.

 

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DJ Mkuzi at Diani Beach Festival 2017/2018

Real quick: Cdj’s or Controllers?

Cdj’s everyday. Yeah, controllers make things work a little bit easier but I think it’s just how I learnt. I learnt on cdjs and you have so much more control over what you do. There’s no guess work, let me just put it that way. If you see someone killing it on cdj’s, they really are. They dont need any help with anything, it’s just them expressing themselves musically.

And what’s your overall favorite piece of gear?

Favorite piece of gear, my headphones. These are my babies. Pioneer Hdj-C180. I would never appreciate music the way I do without a good pair of headphones.

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DJ Mkuzi (left) at Earthdance Nairobi 2017

What do you think about the music scene in Mombasa? What does it mean to be a house dj from Mombasa culturally speaking.

It’s tough. In the beginning, it was quite a challenge. Literally playing for no one. But I’ve put in a lot of work. This year especially, I’ve had the privilege of working with like minded individuals who also DJ. We formed the 808 crew, namely: me, Himmy K, Rathod and AQce. 

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As a collective, we’ve achieved quite a number of things and we’ve got other people who also want to come aboard and I think 2018 is gonna be bigger and better – watch out for that space.

I think we inspire most people out there to get out of their comfort zone and y’know, not just listen to what their used to listenening or what’s being given to them, but go that extra mile to look for good music and appreciate it. That’s our point. It was hard in the beginning but it’s looking up, it’s looking really good.

What does the art of dj-ing mean to you?

The art of dj-ing means being able to express the music that you want to play to someone and not in the same way that it’s been given, if you can manipulate it or add something extra to it it, even if you don’t do any of those- just playing the right music at the right time, the right jams at the right vibe. That’s it.

If you can make someone just a little bit happier, make someone remember something from the music you’ve played, make someone forget all the problems they might be facing or going through – that for me is the most important thing.

Do you ever play songs you’re not feeling, just because it’s a crowd favorite? How does that make you feel?

I’ve played songs I am not feeling, many times I’d say. You just have to look at who you’re playing it for. Like I said, if it’s gonna make someone a little bit happier or someone is going to get a little bit more content just from hearing something that they enjoy, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I have to enjoy it.

Maybe it’s in a language that I don’t understand. Maybe that’s the reason I don’t enjoy it. As long as it’s making somone happy- that’s the most important thing. Don’t always look at it from your side, look at it from the other person’s point of view. If it’s making it better for them to enjoy their night, making it a little more pleasant for them, then why not?

Who are your influences internationally and in the Kenyan music scene?

Black Coffee. I used to play with the idea of being a dj but I really didn’t do anything about it for quite a long time until I saw Black Coffee doing his thing. There he was dj-ing with one arm and you could see he was going places. Each and every day, I kept looking up to him as he kept on growing bigger and bigger. That was one thing that gave me the extra push to just get out there and do my thing because I literally had no excuse- here’s this guy doing it with one arm. I started off and I took each day as it came. I still look up to him, he’s scaling higher heights than he was back when I decided to do this. One day I hope to grace a stage he’s played in.

Black-Coffee

Black Coffee

Locally, basically just the whole 6am crew. Drazen, Kuzi, Foozak, Suraj. They’re doing great things, they’re the pioneers of electronic music in Kenya. They’re growing bigger. Hopefully, one day I’ll be able to get to where they are. Maybe even surpass it.

What does the future look like for Mkuzi? What are some of the projects you have coming up?

The future is looking good, so bright. Right now, I’m just prepping for the Diani Beach festival. I’m in Diani in December from the 26th to the 1st.

By the end of the first quarter of 2018 I should have an EP out. I think there’s gonna be a lot of production on my side. A lot of gigs as well, but personally I’m just keen on the production. There’s gonna be some really cool stuff in 2018. I’ll keep you posted.

 

Peter Mkuzi is a fast rising dj/producer in the Kenyan house music scene. He is a member of the DJ/Producer collective, 808, and is based in Mombasa.

Follow DJ Mkuzi on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/mkuzi

Follow DJ Mkuzi on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/djmkuzi/

Finding clarity: Janice Iche

Floabs: Who do you think you are, Janice Iche?

Janice Iche: I think if there’s just one word that would describe me: it’s artist. Growing up and getting older, I’m using my brain more than I was and being more conscious and present. I’m learning many lessons, finally seeing the reason why things have been the way they’ve been since I was young, and there’s a reason I’m like this because I just have to be like this, y’know? By like this I mean-

Janice Iche-

Yeah.

Who do you want to be?

An artist, and I’m happy about this. I’m happy because everything I do is now productive in one way or another and it contributes to every piece of art that I want to make. I realize that I’m not just a musician, I’m so much more there’s so much more that I want to do and now I’m realizing why I’ve been wanting to do all those things and that makes it feel even more special.

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Why?

Because every single different art form has its purpose, but they all just merge into one. Growing up, I always felt very singular; it was always just me, especially in my teenage years. I felt different from everyone else, but all those experiences I had when I was by myself contributed to the person that I am today and I think it’s because I’m appreciating the person that I’m becoming. I’m starting to love it and I finally love myself. It’s exciting.

I’m accepting everything that I’ve seen and experienced in my life, and how they make me the person that I am today. It’s a very strong emotion and I’m happy about it. Literally, my heart is racing talking about it!

A friend once told me that I’m an empath because I feel very deeply and I feel other people’s emotions as well, and sometimes you don’t even know whether they’re your own emotions. Most times, they aren’t- because with your own emotions you always have this piece of yourself that you’re able to maintain.

I’m having so much fun in my life right now, discovering all these things and-

Discovering yourself-

Yes, and what I want to do. Everything is clearer. I know exactly the woman that I want to be and I’m actively going for it. It feels amazing.

Sometimes, I wish it would hurry up and get there but I know you’re supposed to enjoy the journey and well, it’s always gonna be a journey.

Why did you start JaniceIcheblog?

I realized that there’s so much that I want to create and share and I needed a platform to do that. Besides my music, everything I write is going to be on the blog. I also realized that I can use my vulnerability as my strength: I’m a very sensitive person and for the longest time, I’ve been having trouble dealing with the emotions that I carry; pretending that I don’t have these emotions when these emotions dictate every single day of my life. So I’ve been figuring out how to use these emotions to my own benefit. Instead of letting them keep me sad, I can turn it around and use them to my own advantage.

First of all, because I hate feeling alone- I want to show other people who also might be feeling alone that we, basically, have no reason to feel alone. Being open with our experiences and being able to share them gives us a sense of community as human beings, because we’re going through human experiences and human emotions but for some reason, everyone’s pretending not to have these emotions and experiences which are such a part of being human and being at this age and being a woman or being a man.

These are things that are common, but then everyone’s pretending like they don’t have these emotions then everyone feels like they’re alone. I don’t understand why that has to be and I don’t like it. I didn’t want to feel alone so I don’t want anyone to feel alone when they’re people out there who feel the same way.

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That’s why I started the blog: I wanted to be open, I wanted to be raw, and I wanted to be honest. I want to stop pretending like these things don’t exist- they exist. Why are we still pretending?

And it’s not like pretending is doing us any good. Everyone is depressed because no one is talking about their issues openly and genuinely. I guess I also want to show that genuine people do exist and there really is no need to feel like we’re alone because we’re going through the same thing. I wanted to spread awareness on the importance of being open and how transformative and revolutionary it can be.

Who are your influences?

My influences are black women who are going after their dreams and just being themselves fearlessly: Hannah Faith because she’s a sick dj, Solange, Oroma Elewa, Sza, Lee Litumbe, Yagazie Emezi. These black women who are just doing things and are at a level that I want to get to.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

These same women.

And when I see someone’s work online and you can tell that they’ve put in so much love, effort, dedication and passion. When I see this work, it inspires me and I’m like, “I have to do the same thing. I have to put my all into it.”

Also, all the bad ass bitches near me who really motivate me and inspire me. Alexis Nereah because she has created her own path and she’s living it and it’s working out for her. It just goes to show how if you’re passionate about something and determined, it’s bound to work out.

Darina Anstis. She’s creating her own beauty standards and going with it fearlessly not giving a fuck about what anyone will say and it’s beautiful and she’s beautiful.

Lyra Aoko because she’s a boss ass bitch, simply.

My cousin Mary, who’s another boss ass bitch going after what makes her happy and stable.

My mom too.

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So what does the future hold for janice iche?

A lot. My music: I’m still writing music. That’s the one form that I feel has to be perfect so I’m really taking my time with it, but the future is going to be me with albums and performing on worldwide stages and at the same time, indulging in other forms of art which I am finding my place in.

Janice Iche is a singer-songwriter, a feminist, and an activist against emotional abuse. You can find out more about her at https://janiceicheblog.wordpress.com 

You can listen to her music at https://soundcloud.com/janiceiche

 

Images by : Adrian Kumli 

Outlet: Mr. Lu

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We are privileged to live in an age so grand. Life today is spectacular and this we take for granted. Sure, some of us claim that we were supposed to be born in the 50’s. Or 70’s music is where it’s at. That literature isn’t the same as it was with Hemingway and Fitzgerald. But I promise you that none of them could pull out their phone and call an Uber (or Taxify as we prefer these days). If you wanted to order food, you would literally need to go to a restaurant and get it there. It’s maddening, isn’t it?

Now, people conduct whole orchestra’s from the space of their bedrooms. If Mozart or Beethoven were born today, they would be on Soundcloud making fire beats. If you think about it though, we really don’t need them here. We already have Mr Lu, and boy aren’t his concerto’s amazing.

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The phrase ‘musical expression’, if taken literally, means to express one’s self through music. Artists are at their most creative when they have something to express. Think of Eminem’s “Stan”. Or Bobby Shmurda’s “Hot Nigga”. These artists needed to put their thoughts and emotions out there. Sure, one of them got arrested for it, but they created something incredible in the process.

This project is Mr Lu through musical expression. Full Moons was an awakening and Outlet is his catharsis. We did an interview with him for his upcoming project and this is what he had to say:

1. I’m assuming you weren’t baptized Mr. Lu?
_Well, funny story about my name is that my dad used to call me Mr Lu instead of Luther. I never used to like it when he called me that (and him too) at that time. Kinda grew in me, I guess. 😂

2. What drove you to start producing?
_I was rapping way before I got into production. I honestly just love the whole process of making a song. Greats like George Benson, Roy Ayers, Fela, just to mention a few, they lead me to see things differently from the way they played keys to their drums and very distinct percussion wmd just generally my love for the music. I was always so inspired to work with sound and make music off anything. I dream to lead a Japanese orchestra one day. They’re amazing. (I have a song in my forthcoming tape inspired by that)

3. What was your first piece of gear?
_It was a Novation midi keyboard with 49 keys. Boii I was excited! I still have it to date. I also have an Akai MPD18, which is what I use for my drums.

4. What’s your current set up?
_We call it “The BlueRoom.” It’s in a secret location but you can sure bet there’s always fire brewing. 😉

4. Do you have a process? Or do you let the canvas do the painting?
_I pretty much usually go with how I feel at the moment. I always surprise myself.

5. Your top 5 producers of all time.
_Not in order!
Tyler The Creator, J.robb, Plainpat, Matt Martians & Kid Cudi!

6. Tell us about Slinkky.
_Slinkky is my rap alter ego. Originally I used to rap which is what led me to being a Producer. Slinkky is a name that came to me in high school, during physics class. The teacher was teaching on slinky springs so it caught on and stuck. I loved it.

7. When did you realize you were starting to blow? And has this changed you in any way?
_I can say 2016 is when I was really out there I began making beats ’round 2015. This year has already been so dope! Playlist 2 was a movie! Shout out Camille Storm for that one. Looking forward to the future. Grateful for the far I’ve come really. I can’t say I’ve changed but it has def opened many new doors for me.

8. It’s been almost a year since Full Moons. Any new projects in the works?
_I’m currently working on a tape called OUT(let) which is about just ‘letting it all out’. Kinda like a “vent” tape where different artists come together and articulate different stories. There’s something for everyone. I have personally also rapped in the project, bringing in some old songs with fire-er beats and a few remixes. I open up about a lot so, let’s cry together when it’s time to cry, lol. I had a good time making this all in all.

9. XPRSV Radio 002?
_I know I said this too many times but, it’s coming! From episode 2, everything will be smooth. New episodes gon’ be out every month oh.

10. What does the future look like for Mr. Lu?
_I don’t know for sure but I’m always ready for whatever comes my way. Call me a blender, cause you know, life gives you lemons and… (comedy kinda looks like a plan btw, lol!)

11. Other than music, what else do you do?
_I am a graphic designer. I take black tea, I have it all the time. I also kinda shoot and edit videos. I can make people laugh (and cry too).

I have a huje jazz collection (of samples I’ve used). Maybe one day I’ll throw that listening party where guys come dressed retro. (is it retro or retro?)

12. The glasses. Gimmick or medical condition?
_Incase you want to know anything about Gimmicks ask BNRD Mars. 😂 “Eye have eye problem.” (see what I did there?) I have both for my eye sight AND for gimmicks.

13. Any upcoming performances?
_Not any, at least not yet. 😉
Twitter, Facebook, Soundcloud(Mr Lu), Soundcloud(Slinkky), Instagram, Youtube.

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Images: Jones Waihenya; Chris Macharia