Rabbit: King of Kenyan Hip Hop?
Posted Sunday, February 17 2013 at 02:00
- Kennedy ‘Tariq’ Ombima spoke with BONIFACE MWALII about his journey to conquering the Kenyan hip hop scene from selling weed to signing a ‘lucrative’ contract in Tanzania
Why do you call yourself Rabbit?
When I was a kid I used to rear rabbits in our home in Nairobi’s Maringo estate. My friends in the hood would really make fun of me and I would get so pissed when they called me ‘Sunguch’ (slang for ‘Rabbit) but when I got to high school I decided to own the name to water down the teasing.
How was it like for you growing up?
I was always chasing paper. Still doing; although it’s on another level now. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial zeal. Whether it’s selling second hand clothes from Gikomba or music CDs to matatu operators, I was always trying to get it.
I even had a stint as a weed pusher in high school when I dated a rich girl whose dad was some big shot drug dealer. She didn’t even know what it was he dealt in so when I discovered it was weed, I convinced her to supply me some. She believed it was medicinal.
Her dad was eventually busted on national TV though and that marked the end of my stint in the drug business. Surprisingly though, I’ve never smoked anything in my life. I also do not drink alcohol.
Explain the transition from a ‘farmer’ to an MC.
There was a lot of hip hop going round in our school at Eastleigh Secondary so I would organise rap battles and charge my schoolmates to come watch. I was a prefect so I managed to keep it all undercover. At home, my older brother used to rap and would participate in jam sessions at F2 under the stage name Nutcase in a group called Wicked MCs. It was this combination that lured me into eventually becoming a rapper.
When did you make your first step towards becoming a fulltime artiste?
After watching my bro and his pal’s for a while, I figured I could also try my hand at this so I nicked one of his rhyme books and started jotting down some lines whenever I got the chance. I actually wrote all the songs in my first album in that book. I was very secretive though. No one even knew I was writing songs or even aspiring to be a rapper.
So what brought you ‘out of the closet’ so to speak?
I had promised myself that if I was going to do this, I was going to do it professionally, so all through high school I was trying to find the right group to join or a studio to record but I didn’t have much success.
Eventually I convinced my brother to hook me up with one of the guys in his crew by the name Wonder, who had just set up Duplex studio. That didn’t work out because he kept ducking me so I had to find an alternative. I decided to design T-shirts which I would sell to make money to pay for studio time.
Did you experience any challenges starting out?
Definitely. Money was a challenge of course so I had to do side businesses like graphic design to fund my music ambitions. My family was also not supportive of my music at first because I was considered somewhat smart so my mum had always hoped I would go to the university and get a “real” job. However I managed to turn all this around and use it to my advantage.
Well, to start with it was my design skills which led me to meet with Dj Loop of Sneed Entertainment who introduced me to the likes of Chiwawa and Abbas and eventually jump started my career. I actually worked at Dj Loop’s studio for a year as a designer and no one knew I was a rapper. I would record myself when there was no one at the studio then I presented my fully recorded album to Dj Loop to master. He was naturally shocked but I guess he also took me seriously after that.
It was from those recordings that my first single, ‘Niko kwa Jam Nakam’ resulted. As for school, I was admitted to study some agricultural course in Moi University but I turned it down and convinced my mum to enroll me for an accounting course in a private institution. That was my fall back plan and my mum was okay with it.