It seems like you had gone off the radar, musically.
Not really, I had Over and Over with Vivian last year and there’s my latest release with Calvo Mistari called Tuzidi. Those saying I had gone under don’t support me; plus I have never got support from the mainstream media ever since I got into the industry.
Is that so?
My songs are well received in the streets, in the matatus, but I have never heard someone like Caroline Mutoko (when she was on radio) saying: “This is a fresh hit from Bobby Mapesa...”
Many will dispute that. Some of your songs have enjoyed airplay even on television.
Just one or two songs. My songs haven’t got airplay like, say, those by Nameless, which I know he deserves, or Jua Cali. But because my songs are good, I still find that I’m relevant. I think it’s by the grace of God.
Why do you think your music is not played in mainstream media?
The media might have something against me. I’ve been in the industry for some time now, about 13 or 14 years. I released my first hit song, Naskia Utam, while still in high school and I can still release a song that’s worthy of respect. It’s just God who’s been with me, otherwise no one would ever know someone like me still exists.
How do you come up with the titles of your songs, like ‘Gwara Winch’ and ‘Wezere’?
Most of my song titles come from the ordinary Sheng we speak in Huruma Estate, Nairobi. I just make them popular.
Who is your target audience?
Probably the common mwananchi who speaks the same language as I and understands my struggle; and anybody who is interested in understanding Sheng — because that is the future. My target is the future. I’m futuristic.
Your new song has ruffled a few feathers; was that intentional?
I was just speaking facts, and that line: ‘Nilifyeka Mgenge kwa Mtoto Mzuri akazaa, ile Unit saa hii ime beat,’ was perfect for that beat. And it’s not a secret.
Do you have something against Nonini?
Nonini should give me my royalties for Mtoto Mzuri. I was the executive producer of the song and I paid for studio time. I don’t know why he wouldn’t pay for it. Maybe he was just being shady about it. It almost cost me my relationship with the studio I was in. I had to pay from my pocket, but we shared the cost of making the video.
He’s a Prisk (Performers Rights Society of Kenya ) official, which means he is a leader and should know how much artistes deserve to be paid. If he is responsible and has good intentions with the authority that’s bestowed upon him, he should already have called me and said: ‘Bobby, here’s your money for Mtoto Mzuri.
Anyway, I don’t think artistes should be holding any position in those offices; they may have hidden agendas. I feel bad saying this, but our industry is selfish. Everybody is looking out for their own interests and artistes are not getting along. Still, I just need my royalties and my respect because I got Nonini back to relevance at the time. Which song has he released that has surpassed Mtoto Mzuri? Let’s be real, he should come and look for me; his other songs are just average. This time I will be a lot smarter.
Do you think he will want to work with you after saying that?
I don’t think so, because I seriously outdid him in that song and people thought it was mine.
If you are that good, why does he say you can’t afford to pay rent?
If you have an issue with somebody, you don’t beef on Twitter. Have you seen me beefing on Twitter? I go for interviews and speak my truth; that’s how men should resolve their issues. I was just minding my own business and, all of a sudden, I see on Twitter: “Bobby Mapesa is broke”. That’s hitting below the belt and that’s getting into my personal stuff. How do you start investigating how I pay my rent? He should instead be talking about my song, is it good or bad? I was shocked. The last time I saw him was when we did Mtoto Mzuri. He should just leave me alone or this might get worse than it is.
So, about P-Unit not being relevant any more?
They had a platform that I didn’t have, they were on high rotation on television and radio, and had Nonini their godfather to support them. I didn’t have any of that. I do everything by myself and I didn’t get into the industry to get women to help me shoot my videos. They are lucky they have women who support them, but I have no problem with them. I don’t want to emphasise on them; I only have an issue with Nonini because of my royalties. It’s all about the money.
Not much is really known about your private life
My life away from music is private. It’s not anyone’s concern. People should be concerned only about my music. If it’s bad, leave it alone. If it’s good, support me. But my life is personal. I don’t feel comfortable putting my private life out there, so it amazes me why some people are interested in whether I’m able to pay rent. He should ask his girlfriend whether I can afford to pay rent. She knows how I live. My mum taught me to respect my elders, but it’s hard to respect these elders if they don’t give you a reason to do so. He’s almost 42 years old and he is still singing songs about groping each other. How do you respect someone like that?
Speaking of privacy, do you have a wife or a girlfriend?
I have girlfriends. I don’t feel like it’s time to settle down with one person yet.
The lyrics to some of your songs are naughty; do your parents listen to your music?
They somehow end up listening. My parents know me and they know this is just business, they know the music is meant to be fun. But there’s nothing I sing that is unheard of. I speak my mind and sometimes it offends people, I don’t follow scripts.
What’s your opinion of the new crop of rappers?
They are trying, there must be progress in the industry. When I came into the industry, I found the likes of Abbas, Bamboo, Juacali and Nonini... and they accepted me as a new artiste, took a risk and collaborated with me. I outdid them and that’s how it’s supposed to be. Artistes should stop imitating the West too much and learn that originality is unique. Nowadays, artistes release like eight videos in a month and, within two months, you won’t remember any of them. It’s not a bad thing but try and do songs that will have longer shelf lives.
How many songs should an artiste release in a year?
A single and one album, then choose like two songs to push and, if fans like them, they will dig in to find the rest of the songs. How many songs has Nameless released in the past five years? But on stage he will sing about 10 hit songs.
Who are some of the artistes you feel are leading the local industry in the right path to global scales?
We are all blind; Nigerians and Diamond are ruling. Apart from the gospel genre, the industry is lost, we are a bit confused now. The media has played a part in letting other countries dominate our airwaves.
Do you have any upcoming projects?
I have a new song, Chong’ing’i that I will release on April 25th, on my birthday.