Our MCM for today is Meme Hadhija Mejja a.k.a Okonkwo, one of the hottest rappers in Kenya today.
He broke into the music industry back in 2008 with the single Jana Kuliendaje, a catchy track that won him a title at the Chaguo la Teeniz Award.
He speaks to Citizen Digital about his journey to his music career, relationships and what he is passionate about.
Rise to music career, humble beginnings
The artist, who grew up in Nyeri, always loved singing and wanted to kick off his career in Nairobi. Sadly, he did not have contacts in the city who could help him.
“I loved singing but I didn’t know anyone from Nairobi nor did I know much about the city.”
However, he did amateur recording as he looked for odd jobs to sustain him.
“I knew a friend who used Virtual DJ and he used to record and distribute tracks it to places that sell keg. So I did my rapping in between the songs-reggae songs-and he dispersed them,” recalled Mejja.
“In between rapping, I did odd jobs, one being selling Ketepa and another, selling ground nuts at Narumoro.”
In order to sell groundnuts, Mejja had to gain capital and so he decided to sell improvised amplifiers.
“My friends and I made these amplifiers by putting speakers in a tyre. You just take the tyre, the more the tyre-the more the bass. If you have plywood or even a bucket’s top, the better, the bass is crazy.”
They eventually garnered enough capital to buy a sack of groundnuts and a charcoal burner.
They also managed to find a house for Ksh300. Since the place was cold, they had to use newspapers and some cotton to create a comfortable and warm place to lay their heads.
This business slowly went south when his friend consumed all the profit they made on a drinking spree.
After he was disappointed by the groundnut venture, Mejja made money by putting up posters and this is where he met Jua Cali.
“We were being told to go to areas such as Umoja and Huruma and make sure that it was full of posters.”
Deep down, he still loved music, but he did not know how to go about it. This was all about to turn around with one prayer.
“I didn’t think that God would answer my prayers that quick… One day I was going to the mosque, I can even remember, it was on a Friday at 11:00 a.m. My mum was sick at the time, she had a brain tumour,” recalled the famed rapper.
“I was told that there was a talent search by Celtel, and that I needed a registered Celtel to participate,” narrated Mejja.
After he got his line registered, he was ready to show everyone what he was capable of. He was determined to shine and take the prize home.
The judge was DJ Wesley, who he was not aware of. As for the prizes, they were receiving gifts and cash.
He managed to take position two and because every province was taking their top performers to Nairobi for the finals, he won.
“I used most of the money to seek treatment for my mother at Kenyatta National Hospital. My mum doesn’t even know how I became an artist, she just saw me on TV.” He proudly added.
Being the winner came with many additional blessings. He met Clemmo, who wanted to produce his music.
“I then met Clemmo when I was with Jua Cali and he told me that he wanted to work with me,” he said.
“I told him I don’t know anyone in Nairobi. He told me to drop the things I had won back home, and he would call me but I didn’t think he was serious,” Mejja added.
Mejja went back home, and true to his word, Clemmo called him back..
“I went back to Nyeri and he called me back and he offered me a place to stay. I lived with him as he pushed me to record lots and lots of music.”
However, Mejja and Clemmo parted ways a few years later.
Mejja told Showbuzz that he left Calif because Clemmo was no longer keen on doing music but other businesses.
“I have now joined my friends Madtraxx and Kid Kora from Red Republik Records,” said Mejja.
Together, they have released a couple of hit songs like Nyongwa and Double Tap, under their group The Kansoul.
Mejja has released numerous songs that have been big hits. The most notable distinction in his style is how he is able to bring out humour in lyrics that most Kenyans can relate to.
His songs include: Landlord, Majengo , Jana Kuliendaje and Furahia Maisha
Meeting Madtraxx and why he values their friendship
Madtraxx and Mejja began doing music around the same time.
“He was the first person to buy me a burger but I wasn’t full, I told him I want dondo (beans) and he took me to a kibanda where I ate chapati madondo and tea,” Mejja said.
“He never judged me. Similarly when I met Kora through him he did not judge me as well,” he added
This is what he had to say about Madtraxx a while ago on a post on his social media.
“That Moment U Appreciate Your True Friend And It Hits u Hard!!!! @madtraxx He Has Been My Friend Since 2007 When I First Came To Nairobi, Yap Mi Ni Mse Wa Ocha Kuruka, I Used To Live With Clemo Madtraxx Would Lie To Clemo To Snick Me Out At Night, AkiNionyesha Nairobi Night Life (sic).”
“I Wish u Could See My Face The Nairobi Night Lights Mesmerized Me, He Never Judged Me From Where I Was From The Ghettoh, Dem He Was The First Person To Buy Me A Hot Dog, Mtu AkiNidharau Juu Yakutoka Ghettoh It Used To Affect Me He Would Sit Me Down And Encourage Me (sic).”
“Through Up And Down In My Life Amekuwa Na Mimi Always There When I Need A Brother, We Have Made Good Music Together And Still Making More, I APPRECIATE YOU MY NINJA GODBLESS YOU MY BROTHER Wagenge GODBLESS (sic).”
Mejja is currently in a relationship, which has been blossoming for more than a year now.
“I love my girlfriend so much, she understands me and is equally busy and we are looking to stay together for a while before speaking about marriage.” He said.
He posted this picture on Sunday.
What Mejja is passionate about
Mejja is passionate about nurturing talent, and he thinks that people should not be forced into complying with the “messed up school system that we have now,” he says.
“One can be a fashion model and they should be taken to fashion school. Be good at art, and be taken to art school.”
“My brother was good at electronic stuff, if he was taken to a school that taught what he was good at, he would have been far by now,” he intimated.
“One time he told me to tap his door knob twice and the lights in his bedroom went on. Just because one person failed chemistry or math-that does not mean that that person is dumb,” he added.
“No one is dumb in this world, we just need to change our education system and no job should be deemed less than the other.”