The studio door is open because it’s a little past 3 pm on January 25th, 2020. Being outdoors in a Nairobian January is what you’d imagine the inside of a slow-grilling oven to be, and that means the door at Storm Records has to be left open. With thousands of new inhabitants every week, Nairobi is already a city of five million people. That’s ten million ears that need to listen to music, and that’s what Storm delivers; bespoke, relevant, consistent music.

Storm Records, (named after the UK Grime artiste Stormzy) operates from a sparsely furnished room, on the third floor of a building where the landlord either can’t afford, or doesn’t care to renovate the aging staircases and toilets. There’s two young men looking over the production, sitted on a red couch that has more ash than you’ll see at a pyre. In the only recording booth in the room, a sweaty, dreadlocked youngster is rapping his heart out in Swahili. He rides the bass-heavy, fast beats like a pro surfer would a massive wave. Nairobi drill music is growing, and ‘Type C’, named after the new-age USB port because he’s rare but ‘charged up’ is drill music’s newest disciple.

COVID restrictions have killed the performance aspect of musician’s lives globally, but online consumption has grown two fold in some markets. Data from streaming and upload sites has shown spikes of up to 50% in online viewership, and that’s what ‘Type C’ is looking to plug. “I have to be ready for when lockdown is over”, he says in between sips of a freezing bottle of diet Coke, “when they have an idea of who I am from YouTube, my fans will force promoters to book me”. Artistes in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, make the bulk of their earnings from shows, merchandise and music sales count for a negligible percentage due to weak piracy laws.

The two young men on the couch, smoking so much marijuana the room looks like a foggy morning in a mountain, are his crew members Elche and Santiago. I make a joke about their Spanish-sounding names and the book ‘The Alchemist’, but Santiago is either too high, or too young to understand the reference. Storm Studios is Type C’s full focus right now, he used to sell second-hand clothes in Nairobi’s downtown, until he saved up to buy sound equipment and hire space for a studio.

Storm is located in a seedy part of Nairobi, an area the tourism agency would never visit but is frequented by council staff seeking taxes and upcoming and established politicians seeking street credibility. A boom in the number of vernacular TV and radio stations has seen demand for jingles and voice over advertisements rise, and because he taught himself Adobe Audition and can sell water to a well, Type C can afford to pay his rent, buy fake jewellery and have enough left over for marijuana and to entertain hordes of young women.

The drill scene in Kenya is fledgling, and even the major players THC, Poppa G, GTA Crew and Natty, would do well to be recognized by the average Nairobian. Unlike Gengetone, the lewd, raw and wildly popular genre that took the city by Storm , drill rap is still in it’s infant stages. Type C believes it can be bigger than gengetone. “We sing about normal things that people go through” he says as he slips on a ski mask, a totem in the drill community and logs into Instagram to connect with his fanbase and answer questions.

Later we will sit in Sanford’s, a popular chips and fast food joint. Type C is on his phone, poking at it furiously, only pausing to answer a call and grunt into it, the red warning on his phone asking for a charge. Ironically, the rapper named after a charger doesn’t carry one, and neither does his sleepy-eyed entourage who are devouring their fried potatoes like we’re lions and it was a long-overdue hunt.

Drill music is here, and it’s not going anywhere any time soon, Type C will make sure of that !

Categories: Profiles


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