The rise and rise of Japesa: Is this Kenya’s new Luo Rap King?

The Kenyan music industry has witnessed a number – albeit little – of acts plying their trade in the vernacular Dholuo language.

That number, over the years, has continued to reduce, even drastically so, because of the presumably difficult nature of the craft.

Among the pioneers of the Luo Rap genre include the late Poxi Presha who – with his signature dreadlocks – wowed the Kenyan audience for years with hits like ‘Jaber’ and ‘Otonglo time.’

The Mombasa-born but Nairobi-based star’s rise was however cut short in 2005 when he succumbed to tuberculosis.

Then came others like legendary duo GidiGidi-MajiMaji who came with countless hits among them Atoti, Nyako aheri, Nyorembo, Ting’ badi malo and Unbwogable which became the country’s unofficial national anthem for years after its release.

After the duo left the scene, there was a drought for a while before Kisumu’s Vicmass Luodollar burst into the scene with Bank Otuch Remix in which he featured established act.

Luodollar’s reign at the top of the Luo Rap game was however short lived and, for a while, it seemed like there would be no successor.

That was however not to be as it seems a new king has arisen from the ashes like the proverbial phoenix.

A new rapper by the name Philip Patroba Okoyo, stage name Japesa, has in the recent weeks garnered much public traction after his freestyle videos went viral.

The rapper, who says he is from Bondo in the tracks, has wowed Kenyan music lovers – both Luo and non-Luo alike – with his crisp delivery and hard flow.

Japesa, in his flashy designer chains and watch, in one of the videos drops bars while standing on a bridge and in another he is in what seems like a studio complete with a mic on.

He begins yet another freestyle video by proudly declaring: “Nee bwana saa osechopo, Luo Rap onego go international bwana, onge gima ung’isa bwana.” [“Look, it is time for Luo Rap to go international, there is nothing you can tell me.”]

Japesa, who is currently flying high with his ‘Too Much Ice’ single released in May, has since become a sensation with even established celebrities like Suzzana Owiyo and Adelle Onyango reposting the videos which he had submitted for consideration for emPawa Africa program run by Nigerian superstar Mr Eazi.

Below is one of his most viral videos and reactions from social media users:

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