L’Animal – Coming Soon To a Speaker Near You!
Khalid Kumbuka, known to many as KK, is preparing to release his highly anticipated EP L’Animal next month. What with all the hype and eager anticipation surrounding this project after the release of the first single Defiant in early November, we at TGL thought it would be a perfect opportunity to fill you in on the artist himself and give you an introduction to the project that is bound to make waves across the Hip-Hip scene here in Tanzania.
I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to hang out with KK for a few hours and even managed to convince him to play me a few samples from the EP, and because I love my TGL fam so much I’m sharing all I found out with you right here!
KK first entered the world of Hip-Hop when he joined the Kwanza Unit collective as a kid. Being a part of this family of rappers gave him the foundation on which he still bases much of the work he does today. This is where he learned to MC and found a keen talent for word play and gift for battling. He continued to develop his talent over the years, however never actually recorded anything until many years later.
In 1999 KK moved to London taking his love of MC’ing along with him and successfully infiltrated the UK underground scene making a name for him-self spitting at open mic nights in and around London, and in this time managed to refine his talent into a distinguished skill. His focus and talents however extended further than his lyrical prowess and in 2010 KK graduated from London’s SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies) with a Masters in African Studies. It was at this point that he decided it was time to make the journey home and move back to Tanzania.
Since returning to Tanzania KK has managed to make the transition from underground MC to recording artist, and found success as part of the Hip-Hop duo Illtown Kings with fellow Illala rapper Chidi Beenz. The duo had a great deal of street success with such tracks as Illtown Kings, Let’s Go and Komesha Mwaka.
It was this project that acted as a kind of spring board for KK to emerge as a solo recording artist and allowed him to develop a more formalized approach to his work resulting in him embarking on his first studio project L’Animal.
L’Animal has been in the making since February this year when KK recorded the first track on the EP. He had no plans of doing a project at that time, and had actually gone over to a friend’s studio to just hang out. That night he wrote and recorded what would later be the first track on his first EP and incidentally one of his favorite tracks from the whole project. But we’ll get back to that a bit later.
L’Animal is actually the surname of an alter ego created by KK on a drunken night out with his friends. He began as a French guy called Jacques, Jacques L’Animal, who says crazy, funny and outrageous stuff and doesn’t care what anyone thinks. Jacques would make regular appearances on nights out with his boys and after a while the name stuck and became a sort of nick name.
Overtime however, this developed into something more than just a silly joke with his friends and gradually became a representation of another side of KK, a more stern and serious side, one who says what he feels and doesn’t care what anyone thinks. Jacques was dropped, and L’Animal was born.
“If I’m in my own world, if someone has annoyed me, my friends will recognize I’m on my L’Animal vibe and leave me alone.”
When talking about the project he says,
“Rather than just give the project that name I wanted it to have the feel. Most of the songs are not particularly happy go lucky songs. They’re not depressing songs but at the same time they are quite moody and in your face.”
He goes on to explain that it is important for him to get this off his chest, “L’Animal will always be present in my future projects but there are also other parts of me still to share – it’s always about evolving musically and as an individual.”
While talking to KK about the EP it is obvious that he has put a lot of hard work into it, and even more obvious that he has put a lot of himself. He is clearly proud, and I’m interested to know what excites him most about this project.
“What excites me the most is actually my friends hearing the whole project for the first time. Times when I said, ‘screw it, I’m not gonna rap anymore’. These are the people that were signing me up to open mics nights, putting me in the spot light out in the street like, ‘Yo, my boy can rhyme’! I’m really excited for them because they’ve been waiting for so long for me to do a project.”
Since releasing Defiant he has had a wave of positive feedback, and the anticipation for the EP release continues to increase.
“Right now I’m just hitting them with a jab you know, I was just testing the waters. And if the reactions were that good from a jab, I can’t wait until I hit them with the upper cuts and hooks.” He tells me with a glint in his eye.
I then ask him what his favorite song from the EP is and he has to think about this for a minute. He seems to struggle with this question, so I let him off the hook and we settle for two.
The first track he chooses is the first one he recorded, called The Man – “This is the track that got the whole thing started” he says. He goes on to explain that he took the recording lightly as always but the feedback he got gave him the inspiration and drive to keep going, so this particular track holds a lot of importance for him.
His next choice is a song named for his mother Margaret. He actually wrote the first two verses around six years ago with the intention of one day rapping it to his mum. Unfortunately his mother passed away in 2009 and he never got the chance. He has since added a third, verse, recorded it for the third time, and is now proud to say that he has done the track justice, and it is definitely one of his favorites on the EP.
When I ask KK who produced the tracks on the EP, he laughs a little and tells me how he met the producer. A friend recommended that he listen to some beats by this ‘kid’ in Nairobi to which he replied, “Dude, why would I wanna work with some kid??” However, after listening to the tracks his tune quickly changed to, “Dude, you need to put me in touch with this kid!” And the rest as they say is history.
“He actually changed the direction of the project sound wise. I don’t think I would have covered as much subject matter otherwise. His spectrum of sound gave me the range to write about my mum, or about being the dopest mc, or ex-girlfriends…”
The ‘kid’ Odie ended up producing all the tracks on the EP, and although they are yet to meet in person they are in constant communication online and via social media and are already planning to venture into a collaborative project together once this one is complete.
When I got the chance to actually listen to some of the tracks the first things that struck me were his tone, very low and calm, and his flow which is almost conversational and very easy to listen to. These are characteristics I don’t commonly associate with rappers, so I was interested to know which artists have influenced him over the years.
Without hesitation the first artist he names is Tupac. Smiling, he reminisces out loud about listening to All Eyes On Me – a double cassette tape. First listening to side A, then side B, then taking the cassette out of the tape deck to do the same thing with cassette 2. (Hands up if you remember having to do this..!)
He goes on to list a few more Hip Hop influences naming, Mos Def & BlackStar, Mobb Deep and lastly NAS as his all-time favorite rapper.
“As an MC I think I’ve taken from both sides, so to a degree when people see that I have tattoos or the way I carry myself, people might view it as a thug rapper type situation. But if you listen to what I’m saying and how I’m saying it, it’s actually very lyrical.”
“Lyrics will always be at the forefront for me.”
When I ask KK what kind of artist he sees himself as he tells me that he actually considers himself to be more an MC than an artist. He explains,
“I would describe myself as an MC because first and foremost I’m about the lyrics that I’m spitting; the structure, the content of what I’m saying and how. I was never really going to the studio, I was more about grabbing the mic on stage, or spitting over someone who was beat-boxing in the street, you know it’s always been organic in that way.”
Having spent so long honing his talents outside of the studio, KK seems to be somewhat of a reluctant artist, preferring to focus mainly on his lyrics.
Lastly I shamelessly ask KK how much his EP is going to set me back, and he tells me that he’s giving it away for free.
“This one has to be free, because so many people that have known that I’ve been rapping since I was a kid, they’ve always told me I need to record. So I feel like I owe it to certain people to do this and to do it right… I’ve never really done the music for money anyway, that’s why I work.” He says with a cheeky grin.
KK has truly put together one mammoth of a project for your listening pleasure, and having listened to a few tracks I too am eagerly awaiting the release. The L’Animal EP is scheduled for release in December, so not long now folks!
By Jade Keane
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