Camp Mulla have been all over the news for the past year, and more so now, with a BET nomination in the palm of their hand and a Universal Music Group record deal stashed in a wall unit somewhere.
Considering that they made their debut on the radio in 2009, it is almost unbelievable that in three short years, they have received multiple local awards, made appearances at select events and even performed at the Big Brother eviction show.
Three years for a group of young men and a girl, who’ve barely stepped out of their teens is nothing short of a miracle. It takes talent, being at several right places at the right times, and something we never like to think about – WORK. In view of all this, and a little history, it is safe to say that one thing Camp Mulla’s accomplishment is not, is an overnight success.
In an exclusive interview with Capital Lifestyle recently, these young-ins – namely Taio tripper, Young Kass, K’cous, Karun and Mykie – told the tale of where they started and how they work to make their light shine brighter.
“I used to hear about Young Kass. We both had our little spots where we would free style to anyone who would listen to us. I never saw him though, you know as an emcee you have to hold your own,” said Tripper, who recently turned 19.
Kass, also 19, nods his head as Tripper speaks, because he had heard of Taio too.
Tripper and Kass used to strut their lyrical genius outside nightclubs in Westlands, while Karun would lend her voice to school events. At 17, she is the youngest and the shyest.
Mykie doesn’t sing, but being a young man with his mind on making money, he had a brilliant idea.
“It was his (Mykie) idea to have us come together, and once we got ourselves in one studio, it all just came together,” said Karun.
“By being a group there’s a lot more to offer. We pooled our strengths together, and came up with what we have now,” added Tripper. “Before that we would just whip our phones out wherever we were, have an instrumental on there and start free-styling.”
“Doing it together, it would be more than just music, it would be a movement,” injects Mykie, whose humble demeanour makes modest his entrepreneurial skill. “That way, it would get bigger and everyone’s name would be out there.”
Kass expressed that none of them knew how each would fit into the jigsaw puzzle, but they gave it a go and it worked. “It was like a culture of people trying to express themselves, that’s what we used to do. I would do my thing, Tripper would do his thing, and when we came together, it just got bigger.”
Marcus Kibukosya aka K’Cous, who was absent at the interview, is their producer. Coming from a musical family, he learnt by observation and honed his skill by putting it to practice.
All this happened way before their first single “Low” was played on Capital FM’s Hits Not Homework in 2009. From as young as thirteen, Tripper would free-style in front of the mirror, or before a group of teens gathered somewhere.
“I was in a high school band and didn’t really know what I was doing. I would hear a beat and just like get into a trance and just write. I would write all the time. It was weird because it came so easy. In boarding school I had so much time and wrote so much that I was like man when I get out it’s over! I would rap what I wrote to people and it would be like convincing people to believe in what I’ve written.”
Growing up in the 90s, Kass was caught up in the hip-hop era, and with musical influence from his father, Kasongo, who had a live band.
“I would listen to bands like The Fugees, and pick up from different kinds of music too. In Nairobi also, hip-hop defines how we as young people live and that’s what it means to me. Things started when I was about ten or so. I was watching TV and saw Lil Bow Wow and got upset. I was like ‘why does he get to do that, I wanna do that too’! I just wanted to be that kid.”
For a while Kass dressed like Bow Wow, before he eventually developed his own style; his latest hairdo being a Kid N Play type crew-cut.
Karun on her part, started singing at school concerts when she was just four and used to go to her dad’s friend’s studio where she started experimenting with music from a while back: “My mom and dad sing too, not too well, but there’s a lot of music in our house and I guess that’s how I picked on.”
To his credit, Mykie understood the bigger picture well and worked to get the name Camp Mulla out there. He tried to make sure people were talking about them on social media, put up their home-made videos on YouTube and hustled like mad to get gigs for them. Slowly the wheels started turning and the group worked harder. They had a determination to be heard, and nothing would put them down; not even the fact that it took just about 2 and a half years to release their biggest song yet ‘Party Don’t Stop’.
From cheers in a crowd and the occasional hoot during free style sessions, Camp Mulla is now all over the news both locally and internationally, placing fresh Kenyan music on the map and embracing their role as ambassadors.
“Things have happened sooner than we thought but this is not the end. We still have bigger things we need to achieve. I always tell people, mambo bado, cause there’s more to come,” according to Tripper.
“I haven’t even started dreaming,” laughs Kass.
“All thanks to God. He has really blessed us from the start,” chips in Mykie.
Fame and celebrity comes with wanted and unwanted attention. But Camp Mulla know all too well that without focus they will become a has-been quicker than they can say Oprah!
“We can never say that we’ve made it. You let it sink in but you can never get comfortable,” says Kass.
“What goes up must come down, and that’s the scenario that goes through your mind daily. I always say that if we’re doing this, we’re going in hard, leave no unmarked territory. That helps us get over the buzz, staying focused onto our goals,” says Taio.
“My personal mission is to bring back hip hop into the mainstream light. To unite these emcees so that instead of fighting each other, we can team up and help each other. We can help each other and hip hop can be the main genre in this country, based on what I have seen,” says Taio.
“People say that we need to develop our own identity instead of rapping like the hip hop stars in the (United) States. But unless we do what they do, nobody will see how good we are. I don’t think we support each other here, and that selfish mentality needs to end. People aren’t supporting what’s ours; rarely do we win things like Channel O awards because nobody is supporting. People don’t feel like it’s their job to support but it is,” concludes Kass.
As these young musicians get ready for next month’s BET awards, they will continue working and rapping and seeing how best to haul themselves to the next level, with a much needed boost from Universal Music South Africa.
Will they win it? That remains to be seen.
In the meantime, Kass will hope to meet J Cole after missing him in South Africa, Karun has sworn that she will say hi to Wiz Khalifa, Mykie has to shake hands with Samuel L Jackson and Taio will carry his camera, and try to hold his own as he asks for autographs.
(Pics by Susan Wong)