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Lyrical UoN law student wins rap battle

He was born Richmond Sangara but no rapper will take you seriously if your stage name is ‘Richmond’, so he answers to Shahidi Xcalibur on stage.


“Shahidi is witness in Swahili. I chose the name coz’ I was rapping about conscious stuff,” says the 23 year old UoN law student.


He later added Xcalibur to complete his performance name and as a sign of his tool of trade. Excalibur is the name of the mythical sword used by the legendary King Arthur in medieval age, explains Sangara.


It is this mix of sharpness and a bit of magic on the mic that saw Xcalibur emerge as the king of rap in East Africa as the curtain came down at the ‘Nokia don’t break the beat’ battle. Thousands of wannabe, underground and established rappers competed in preliminary heats held in Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya, but only two from each country reached the final.


The young rapper took home Sh250,000 and a recording deal with Decimal records. Xcalibur will also get three sponsored music videos including one with the acclaimed female rapper, STL.


“My greatest competition was battling with self-confidence. I have not performed at such a scale before. The pressure to represent my friends and colleagues during the qualifying rounds was overwhelming.”


Xcalibur admits the Tanzanian rappers were a threat to Kenyan rappers. “They have natural flow and are poetic coz’ they are fluent in Swahili.”


It has been a long journey for the UoN parklands student, who is now waiting for the results of his fourth year exam.


“I grew up listening to international rappers like DMX, Wutang and rough riders. After I joined high school, I decided to write a few lines and it wasn’t too bad,” says Xcalibur.


Later, he looked for opportunities to express his talent at street rap battles known in rapping circles as Room 16 battles. There were also open mic’s at the National theatre and British council in which he participated.


“I did my first single in 2008 with two friends, Shirley and Kipis. I would record during the long holidays…actually one of the singles I did was during a lecturer’s strike,” says Xcalibur.


He adds that he remembers his lines because he mixes freestyling and written lyrics. “I usually record a demo and listen repeatedly which makes it easier to remember the lines. But sometimes I just need to remember the key words, the rest I can make up as I move along.”


Xcalibur is inspired by the works of MC’s such as Dubeez, Kenyana, Chiwawa and washamba. Internationally, he listens to Nas, Master Ace and Rakeem.


Richmond, the law scholar, is planning to enroll at the Kenya School of Law after he graduates at UoN and hopes to pursue commercial and criminal law.


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