Kibera rapper defies critics
- Phinoshey Elber Meso, the 22-year-old rapper and producer from Kibera in Nairobi whose music is influenced by classic hip hop, soul, funk and jazz, has released a new six-track EP titled “Ikigai”.
- For the past two years, Phinoshey has spent hours in archives listening to vinyl records and is particularly inspired by discovering records from iconic Kenyan artists.
- His first album “Son of Kiberawas released in 2020 and caught the attention of many fans who were struck by his new take on hip hop with influences from sounds from different eras.
This week sees the release of a new EP from a young artist who has emerged to chart his musical career inspired by his life experiences, a deep conviction for his music and his hunger for success.
Phinoshey Elber Meso, the 22-year-old rapper and producer from Kibera in Nairobi whose music is influenced by classic hip hop, soul, funk and jazz, has released a new six-track EP titled “Ikigai”.
Over the past two years, Phinoshey has spent hours in the archives listening to vinyl records and was particularly inspired by discovering records from iconic Kenyan artists like Sal Davis, John Nzenze and Kelly Brown.
His first album “Son of Kiberawas released in 2020 and caught the attention of many fans who were struck by his new take on hip hop with influences from sounds from different eras.
The title “Ikigaicomes from the Japanese word meaning “purposewhich, he explains, is a challenge to focus on the purpose of life, beyond vanity.
He divides it into six themes represented by each of the EP’s songs; inspiration, ambition and learning from mistakes; to love and be loved in return; creativity and faith in prayer; have fun and share lessons learned in life.
The first track”I amhails the bravery and sacrifice of freedom fighter Dedan Kimathi as a reminder of the lasting legacy of the liberation hero who was executed by British colonialists.
While studying for her degree in International Relations, Phinoshey developed an interest in studying the history of Kenya from pre-colonial times and this sparked an awakening in her consciousness.
The artist along with rapper, singer and drummer Tom Payne whom he first met in the church choir in 2015, uses Kimathi’s story in the context of current events in Kenya, particularly their experiences personal.
“In modern Kenya there is no leadership, most people in positions of responsibility pursue their agenda and that is why many young people are reluctant to vote in elections,” says Phinoshey.
“Graveis a simple rap song expressing Phinoshey’s determination to succeed in his personal life and career through thick and thin. with a scathing rebuke to enemies who “just want to see you fall”.
He says his dreams don’t sit well with his critics who try to dissuade him from pursuing his ambition, but the negative comments are what keep him going.
“I let the haters know that I’ve upped my game and they too should find their purpose,” says Phinoshey. “I’m not afraid to chase my dreams. If I fall, I take that as a lesson.”
Phinoshey shows her softer, romantic side in “Love storyas he serenades a girl he’s fallen in love with and asks her for a chance to prove he can be a “better man.”
“I’m saying I want to be able to love and be loved back, which is a feeling most people can relate to,” Phinoshey says.
The song has an R&B arrangement flavored by a saxophone riff played by Edwin Mbogo, who also plays the same instrument on “Pistols and Roses.”
The song “gun and rosespaints a picture of how Phinoshey gives back by sharing knowledge and lessons learned with everyone he meets through his music.
He shares African history, political realities, current affairs and family relationships and offers his perspective on happiness and success in life.
Phinoshey wrote the hook for the song and asked Selina Aketch Angar, known as sage An! Les to sing guest voices that she delivers with aplomb.
Phinoshey lays out his muse to the funky beat of “Mojoas he explains how integral God is to his life, blessing him with talent, resources, connections and tools for music.
“God gave me musical talent and if it wasn’t for music, I wouldn’t have finished college. Music saved me,” he says.
“From digging up cases of records, to sampling vinyl, and the whole process of getting to a finished product and impacting someone’s life, it was all inspired by the Almighty.”
The catchy sound of “Good feelings” is a reminder that you can still enjoy the good times in life with your family and friends, just like previous generations, even with all the pressures of modern life.
Both “Mojo” and “Good feelingswere inspired by listening to the records of 1970s and 80s funk icons like Slim Ali and Kelly Brown.
Phinoshey will give his fans the first chance to see him perform songs from his new EP during a live show at The Alchemist, Nairobi on June 2, 2022.