Xpat Mkwanja’s riding high on fame and popularity. He’s a KU alumni whose latest music video is currently the talk of the showbiz scene. Before, it was even released; some quarters had vowed not to play it. In a rather daring manner, Xpat decided to do his video Jamaican style. Jamaican videos are renowned for their X-rated dances and skimpily dressed ladies. No rapper in Kenya had ever pulled this stunt, perhaps due to fear of backlash.
The fact that the video has been red flagged in some media houses hasn’t stopped people from watching the video on YouTube. Probably Xpat was going for publicity with the video. Just a few months ago, X-pat was another ordinary rapper. Now he’s hot property, in demand for shows-him and his supporting cast of bootyful ladies. I managed to catch up with him and ask him a few questions. This is what he had to say
Describe your musical journey
I started rapping a few years ago when I was in high school. However, I started taking my music seriously when I joined KU in 2009. The opportunities at KU helped me build a name as a rapper. When I graduated, I was well known among campus students. The challenge was to take my brand nationwide. The journey has been tough. Getting money to produce my music was difficult. Before ‘tear it up’ I had taken a short break to make some money for audio and video production first.
Do you feel that ‘Tear it Up’ has been your breakaway song
Not really. ‘Mkwanja’ was the track that pushed me to the limelight. I released it around 2 years ago. I did a few other tracks then went into a musical sabbatical. So most recently, when people heard about the ‘tear it up’ controversy, they said to themselves, ‘Oh, Xpat! I know that guy.’ I I’m surprised at how ‘Tear it up’ has been strongly received. It’s been overwhelming. To be honest, I didn’t expect it. The video has really boosted the song a lot.
How have you handled the controversy that has come with the video?
I’ve handled it like a man. The criticism keeps flowing in and so does the appreciation. My name is now way bigger than it was two months before. The critics keep trying to pull me down, but I’m standing tall and there’s no going down. They flagged down the video after it had gained 45,000 in a few hours on Youtube but I’m glad that it’s gaining again. A decade ago, Nonini experienced the same thing I’m experiencing now due to his hard hitting style. Look at him now, a legend. I’ve had to release a clean edited version for general exhibition purposes. International rappers do it all the time – clean and dirty versions of videos.
Describe your other life away from music.
I did a degree in Environmental Planning at Kenyatta University. I’m currently doing a Masters degree in International relations at USIU. I’m also an online writer. I do content and academic writing. Apart from music, writing is my other major income earner. I also own a few businesses which revolve around fashion. I have a lovely girlfriend and we have been dating for 7 years. When people see me, they don’t imagine I’m the type of guy to have one girl. But yes, I’m cool like that.
What’s your advice to other upcoming artistes who desire mainstream success
Focus on building a personal brand, not just releasing album after album. Look up to people who have made it. Personally, I look up to Rabbit a lot. He inspires me. Also, turn a blind eye to haters. Concentrating too much on haters will make you let go of your goals. I have been heavily criticized. Some say I need prayers, some say I can’t even afford a classy car for my video. Global stars release steamy videos all the time, then when a Kenyan releases an RDX-like video, hypocrites now want to call for the world’s end. My advice is, just focus and chase your dreams