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Benezeri, a rap genius set to explode




Rapper Benezeri has been around for a while, and his hit song Zuukuka and Girls from Kampala got people talking. Photo by Racheal Ajwang


Uganda’s Kanye? Young and sizzling with talent, Benezeri Wanjala Chibita’s story seems to just get started. At 22, the fresh UCU Mass Communication graduate has been in the rap game for three years. But now that school is behind him, the towering rapper insists it is time to explode.  Mathias Wandera caught up with the rapper and they talked music, Kanye West instincts and how he plans to climb to Uganda’s Hip hop throne.

Uganda’s Kanye? Young and sizzling with talent, Benezeri Wanjala Chibita’s story seems to just get started. At 22, the fresh UCU Mass Communication graduate has been in the rap game for three years. But now that school is behind him, the towering rapper insists it is time to explode. Mathias Wandera caught up with the rapper and they talked music, Kanye West instincts and how he plans to climb to Uganda’s Hip hop throne.
Do you feel underrated?
Yes, I think I am underrated by some people. But right now, I feel that even those ones are starting to realise how truly talented I am. Otherwise, I am blessed to have attained a fair share of success at an early stage.

We know Benezeri, but let’s face it, your song titles are not exactly household names. What is missing?
I think it is a matter of time. Everything good takes time. School has been holding me back and at some point I was forced to put my music on hold. Now I am done with that, and I feel the foundation has been laid. Initially, my music was mainly listened to by the young and urban, but now my songs are crossing over. The explosion is about to happen.

How and when did you start rapping?
From a young age I was a lover of words. I used to write a lot of poems. Then, when I got into secondary school at Agha Khan, I gave my poems a voice by turning them into music and I was great. My first time on stage, however, was a mess. I was in Senior Four at St Mary’s Kitende. I went on stage and forgot my lyrics. It was a bad experience that killed my esteem.

Did you feel like dropping the mic forever?
Yes, I thought about giving up my rapping dream but somehow, just hang in there. One fall does not define a man. So I got another chance to go on stage and perform, still at St. Mary’s Kitende and this time I wowed the crowd. My rap prowess was further proven when I beat more than 100 rappers to carry the crown at the Sprite National Rap Championships. A year later, in 2012, I released my first single Girls From Kampala and I picked on from there. I went on to record songs such as Blest, Zuukuka, Zuukuka Part 2, Abeyo and many more. I also started working with several great artistes.

Zuukuka was a big hit and it had an advocacy aspect. Is your music still following that same line?
Not exactly. I do not limit myself. One of my biggest challenges has been the fact that people always want to ‘put me in a box’. When I released Girls from Kampala, they labelled me a comic rapper, on Blest, they said I am a gospel artiste, on Zuukukam I am an advocacy rapper. This is wrong. I believe musicians should be allowed to talk about everything, not limited to one line.

How many albums do you have?
Two. My first album ‘I’m Benezeri’ was released in 2013 and had songs such as Girls From Kampala and Blest. In 2014 I released my second album, Champion, with songs such as Zuukuka Part 2 and Mama. At the moment I am working on my third album, Made In Ug and I have four singles out already, including Abeyo, Togwamu Suubi, Ndiwabulijjo and the latest Give Me Love, featuring Kemisha.

How different will this third album be from your first two?
I think I have evolved as an artiste. I have found a way of incorporating my lyrics into the Ugandan culture. So unlike my first two albums, Made in Ug will be able to portray a new side of me. I will be fusing hip hop with other popular genres in Uganda such as dancehall, afrobeat and zouk. I hope it will relate better with our Ugandan audience.

Do you write all your songs?
I write all my music. I don’t think a rapper should have his verses written for him. It takes away the originality. I never let anyone write my songs and rhymes.

What inspires you?
I am inspired by experiences. For instance, I wrote Ndiwabulijjo for my parents when they were celebrating 25 years of marriage. The lyrics form a walk down memory lane where I envision the words my dad used to lure my mum, telling her Ndiwabulijjo (I am an ordinary guy) but love me anyway.

With some big names having faded, can we say Uganda’s rap industry is on the dive?
Not exactly. Actually, I think rap in Uganda is growing. It is just that other genres are also growing at a faster rate. If you go back to 2010, you realise rap was undisputed. Now it has been over-taken by other genres, but growing nonetheless.

Many rappers have come, hit big and disappeared as fast as they rose. Why so?
Well, people have different dreams and ambitions in every field, same thing goes for music. Some want to sing or rap forever, others want to use it as a stepping stone while others just want to inspire, nurture talent and leave it at that. As long as you attained your goal, it is okay to disappear.

Are you scared of disappearing before you do whatever it is you want to do with your music?
No, Benezeri is fearless. Personally my goal is to rap for a very long time. I still see myself in the industry 10 years from now. All it takes to stay musically relevant is consistency. One should not take breaks because if you rest you rust. And if you stay quiet for long you leave your position vacant for someone else to take it. So you have to keep releasing new music, and good music. That is how you keep yourself in the game and it is what I plan to do.

Is there money in rapping?
Yes, of course. hip hop, just like any other business, can pay the bills if handled well. Look at a guy like Gravity Omutujju, he has taken charge of his music and is doing well.

Which rapper inspires you?
Kanye West. I think I am a mini version of him. Forget today’s Kanye West who is somewhat bitter and controversial, the original Kanye West was humble. And like he is today, he is ambitious, creative and diverse. That is who Benezeri is.

You recently formed a music group called Clansmen. What is that about?
Some time back, I co-founded a group called The Clan, a media and Arts Company with so many sections, including events organising, video-making and many more. This year we decided to form a music group under The Clan. The group is called Clansmen and it is made up of four guys, including Chief Kagyezi aka Chief, Joel Kisalu (KSL), Najib Kigundu (Jibo) and myself.

Does Benezeri, the brand, now dissolve into being just a part of Clansmen?
Not at all. The members of Clansmen all have solo careers. We are just good friends that came to work together because the vibe among us is so good. We thought we could inspire ourselves creatively. Our solo careers shall not be affected. Benezeri is just a quarter of Clansmen. In fact Clansmen recently released a single, Ojangaazaki and Benezeri released Give Me Love in the same week.

In the past we have seen great music groups collapse even when at their peak.
The reason most groups collapse is due to lack of communication and transparency. Somehow this builds into tension. Also, individuals within the group have a tendency of feeling like they are bigger than the group. They feel they are contributing more. Such attitude kills the group.

Where does the Benezeri story go from here?
Benezeri’s story just gets better. I hope to evolve even more, and inspire people with my good music. In 10 years, I hope to be one of Africa’s most recognisable rappers.

At a glance

Besides rap… I am a fun-loving Christian who reads a lot. I am also very ambitious.
Status… I have a special lady in my life. She is beautiful, funny and loving. I have been seeing her for a few months now.
Any concerts? My upcoming Made in Ug album is just like Kanye West’s Graduation album; every song is a hit. I am planning a big show mid this year.
Dream collabos… I think a collaboration with Nutty Neithan will be nice. I like his music and I see myself blending well with him on a track. I would also like to work with Cindy, Lilian Mbabazi, The Mith and Naava. They are all very versatile artistes.


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