Lugaflow master: Many have compared his style to Ziza Bafana and Gravity Omutujju but Da Agent says people have no idea what they are talking about. The rapper says he has practiced his art since high school and if he was to rap his maximum, we would all get lost. Isaac Ssejjombwe caught up with the artiste and he shares the story of his beginnings and future.
Who is Da Agent?
My real name is Ivan Wabwire, but I use Da Agent as my stage name because my goal was to be a representative of Lugaflow. I am the second born of five children born to Ms Annette Nambi and Mr Godfrey Wamalwa.
What was your parents’ reaction when you joined music?
Surprisingly, I come from a family where everyone is free to do whatever they want. My parents have always been supportive of my music dreams, the same way they supported my brothers; a footballer and an engineer.
Who influenced you to do music?
While most of my colleagues were into other Hip hop stuff such as V-boying and graffiti, I spent my time doing free style and rap battles with the likes of Babaluku and other talented guys. Babaluku is one of my biggest influences because he would take the floor, look at you, then look at the surrounding and start doing his thing. We would sometimes join in and make our cypher, which was so interesting.
What was the first song you did?
It was titled Molly, and it was inspired by Chameleonaire’s track, Ride n Dirty. I, however, did it to test whether I could do professional music and this was after my colleagues at school encouraged me to do an original composition for our leavers’ party in 2014 because they were tired of me miming other people’s songs. I never promoted it. Everyone who listened to it said I was destined for bigger things.
So what happened after you left school?
In my vacation, I started editing videos at Vybz Studio and in 2015, I got a Kadodi beat and made a song (Akadodi) out of it, produced by Lex Levy. It became a hit of sorts even if it was not played on radio and TV stations. It was only used during campaigns, drives and other functions. I then thought about doing a track that could hit in the clubs and that is when I came up with Nturika in a reggaeton beat. It is because of that track that I got signed to Savaam Music Label.
We have heard that upcoming artistes are taken advantage of by record labels because they are desperate.
I wasn’t the one who went to Savaam – they approached me with an offer I couldn’t refuse. They promised to push my career and to prove their seriousness, they financed my first video shoot for Akadodi with Kim XP, and also shot another video Nturika.
What followed after Nturika?
After Nturika, I took a break to promote the songs up town and in places they had not reached. I performed here and there, so that my presence could be felt and after a year, Eddie D called me to do a track for free and that is how Nkarabuka came up at the end of 2016.
You have such a fast flow. Did you learn that from somewhere?
The free-style that I used to do back in the day, and also listening to artistes such as Twista, Eminem and Busta Rhymes helped me a lot. I wanted to be like them. I wanted to create my own legacy; a legacy that other people can look at without comparing me to other artistes but rather comparing other artistes to me.
Where do you get your lyrics from?
I studied History, Economics and Luganda (HEL) in HSC and I focused on Luganda knowing at the back of my mind that it would help me in my music career. I always refer to the poems, proverbs, riddles and idioms I studied in school. But I am also well versed with lots of words.
How far did you go with your studies?
I stopped in Senior Six but I have the vision of continuing at some point.
What do you wish to study in case you join campus?
I would still do a course related to music and that would be Music Dance and Drama.
So why Luganda and not Lusamia, which you mentioned is your mother tongue?
Sadly, I do not know a single word in Lusamia. Having grown up in Kawempe, which is a Luganda-speaking community, I am more conversant with it. And besides, Luganda is the dominating language in Uganda, which makes it a guarantee that most people will embrace me.
Any plans of learning Lusamia someday?
It is too late now. I enjoy Luganda so much and it would take me time to learn a new language now. I don’t have the time. Let’s just say I am comfortable with Luganda. I also speak some Rwandese because we lived with our stepmother in Rwanda until I got to P.5.
Which is your biggest fan base?
I sing for everyone but my biggest fanbase is the local people in the villages. I am just on a journey to impress uptown people. My latest track Mayi Mayi was also inspired from riddles we grew up singing. It is a song I believe unites everyone. It has culture beats and it is full of humour.
How would you term your style?
I call it Lugaflow Lufula (abattoir). Why? Because in an abattoir is where you find different animals and I wanted to mix my Lugaflow on different beats with one style. Even my styles change. I do reggaeton, Kadodi and culture.
Lugaflow artistes are always seen as spoilt. Is that how you are also perceived?
At some point when I had just started out, I had dreadlocks because I thought they would give me identity but when I got management, they advised me to lose them. Growing up in the ghetto, chances are high that I would have gotten spoilt.
Every day, more than 10 people join the music industry. What are your expectations?
Unlike many, I haven’t hustled. There are musicians whose stories can make you cry. I have been lucky that barely a year of doing professional music, I am at least somewhere. What I focus on most is legacy. Fine, most people join the industry to get a quick buck but for me, legacy was what I wanted to achieve so that even after 20 years and another musician comes up with my style, they will say Da Agent is the original master of that style.
What strategy do you have to remain relevant in the industry?
I wanted to brand myself as Da Agent, that is why you have not seen me collaborating with other artistes apart from Bruno K, with whom we did a Christmas track and Fynol, who I featured on Mayi Mayi. I want to stabilise myself so that no one can say they contributed to my success. That aside, I am going to still do songs that will make everyone always remember the name Da Agent.
What challenges have you faced in the industry so far?
There is a lot of hypocrisy. I am still new but I have already started experiencing it. Most of the artistes who came before us don’t want competition. In fact, my next track is going to be titled Enkwe (hypocrisy). Besides that, It is hard getting used to being a celebrity. I have to watch what I wear, what I say, which people I associate with and so on.
Most people think Baxs ragga is the ultimate Ugandan identity. Should we expect Baxx ragga track from you soon?
I believe such arrangements are being made by my management and it is going to be a joint track, with some artistes signed under Savaam, including Danra Da leader and another musician called Wuule.
You speak highly of the label you are signed to. Do they do anything different from others?
Savaam music believed in me. They came to me at a time when I wasn’t even convinced that I could do music professionally. They feed me, shelter me, finance my career, (transport, video and audio) and also pay me at the end of the month with a stipulation of an increment if things go right.
Which musicians do you admire in Uganda?
My list keeps changing because of the massive talent we have. Every day, artistes come up with new stuff but since the year began, I like Winnie Nwagi and Ziza Bafana.
Speaking of Ziza Bafana, we have heard people relating your style to his and Gravity Omutujju.
I have also heard that a lot, but what people don’t understand is that how I rhyme is not my maximum. If I was to give it my all, no one could even listen to a word in the song. Whenever I am on stage and in studio, I feel like telling the DJ or producer to increase the pitch because I feel I am faster than the track. But for the two artistes, they only increase the speed in a line or two yet I am consistent with mine.
Do you feel that you have achieved anything yet?
I have received recognition. These days when I go out, emcees give me mentions and a few fans recognise me.
What would you say are your five best songs this year?
Let me widen it to last year; Dangerous by Ceasorous, Bikwase Kyagulanyi by Bobi Wine, Mwana Gwe by King Saha, Magic by Winnie Nwagi and Emotoka by Lil Pazo.
Besides music, what else do you do?
I own a movie library in Nabweru.
Yes. My girlfriend and I have been together for three years.
Closest celebrity friend
Phyno. The one I collaborated with on MayiMayi.
Arsenal because my mom has supported it for a long time.
The day I heard my song play on radio in 2016.
The furthest I have travelled is Rwanda, so I wish to travel to the UK and US.