East African Creatives You Should Know

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East Africa is a burgeoning hotbed of auteurs shaping global culture. Through verticals such as music, content, new media, fashion, visual, and performative arts, here lies an array of different arts and virtuosic exploits that creatives are indulged in, and excelling at that.

“Kenya is one of the places that is growing rapidly. The same way I felt about South African Hip Hop in 2006, is the same way I feel about Kenya and East Africa entirely. I want to be a part of the scene unfolding here” Content Agency executive Raphael Benza of Vth Season explains. Benza who is a culture connoisseur and one of the prominent figures behind some of South Africa’s most laudable talents including the late AKA, crooner Ami Faku, and more - mentions he feels the same tingle of buzz about Kenya and East Africa’s current cultural ecosystem. 

With that said, DEEDS explores some of the most forward thinking creatives that hail from East Africa at the moment, defining the region with their artistic expressions and offerings. 

Alpha Odh (Kenya)

Afro-expressionist Alphonce Odhiambo is not new to purist Kenyan m and diaspora art aficionados. However, to novices and newbies, he sprung on to the limelight late last year when Nigerian music impresario and chart-topping hit-maker, Mr. Eazi commissioned him to draw the artwork for the first single off his fourth studio album ‘The Evil Genius’ dubbed “Advice”. Alpha has since been going from strength to strength with his Afro surrealist, colorful and faceless artworks that convey powerful messaging on society and its ills. Alpha has been painting since he was seven years old and commissions pieces for £500 and upwards. His thought-provoking works using oil and acrylics have been exhibited in the United States, Spain, Lithuania and more.

“I am influenced by Warhol and Van Gogh, but my real hero is Jean-Michel Basquiat” he mentions. 

Joshua Baraka (Uganda)

Currently on the verge of hitting the road on his maiden tour for the ‘Alusa, Why Are You Topless’ tour featuring Kenyan mavericks Bien (of Sauti Sol) and Xenia Manasseh, RAKA is East Africa’s most promising breakout star from last year. Still churning out hit records such as “Dalilah” that scored 1 million Spotify streams within eight weeks of its release, crooner Joshua Baraka is holding the regions’ hopes on his back. His breakthrough single “Nana” continues to cross over into new territories and prove its longevity, meanwhile RAKA keeps racking up new anthemic ballads that are timeless and reflective of his fans' romantic lives. The talented Ugandan can sing, play keys, and has a magnetic charm about him.

Raymond Kahuma (Uganda)

An acerbic and astute content creator Rayis as quirky and charismatic as they come. Intersecting comedy, events, social commentary, skits, there is no fine line between verticals Raymond applies himself in. Raymond can go from speed dating, to trying out local street delicacies, to random stranger videos. The Ugandan has found a knack of redefining content creation in East Africa, and his audacity has yielded him a cult following in East African countries. If you’re looking for interesting material outside of your usual binges, check him out.

Mic Cheque Podcast (Kenya)

Arguably one of the most forwarding podcasts helming from East Africa, the trio of Chaxy - a comical dread head, Mariah - a broadcast baddie, and Mwass - a dry joke kingpin has formulated stimulating conversations surrounding trending topics. Popularized for their vast breakdowns of vast topics from a young millennial inner-city Nairobi, the podcasts’ complexion has been stamped into notoriety and thought leadership in Kenya and East Africa new media landscape. Developments around the podcast include artists and tastemakers from around the world visiting the podcast for their media promo runs whenever they land in Nairobi, solidifying them as the conduit to a certain demographic they have dubbed “The Chequemates” - a loyal community base of supporters that tune in to the show religiously.

Unknown T (Uganda)

Born of Ugandan and Congolese descent, British chart-topping rapper Daniel Richie Lena is one of the posterchilds for contemporary UK drill. Fresh off his third studio opus ‘Blood Diamond’, T has continuously pushed the envelope of mainstream UK rap with his baleful and convicting voice. Cuts such as “Bon Appétit” display his lyrical virtuoso and his earworm-esque capacity to select beats that captivate listeners effortlessly. Much of a future-legend deposition in the UK rap scene, T is forging a catalog that will be directory to UK’s inner-city struggles for black youth in the diaspora for years to come.

Eva Apio (Uganda)

Philanthropist, model, internet personality, public figure - there are numerous spaces Evs is taking up space in. The model whose mother previously held the Miss Uganda title, has been a breath of fresh air in the beauty industry with her stunning looks and verve that she introduces in the discipline. Having worked with legacy brands such as Burberry and Louis Vuitton, and street lux apparel lines such as Ciesay’s Places + Faces, and Daily Paper - Eva has fulfilled the recall and recognition function with her stickiness and allure in front of the camera. A staunch philanthropist, through her Apio Foundation - Eva is building facilities and upskilling disenfranchised youth in homeland Uganda to have better opportunities at following their own path. Eva is also an aspiring DJ that will soon be shaping the dancefloor scene.

Xenia Manasseh (Kenya-Uganda)

Heralded as Kenya’s crown jewel in the R&B sphere, Los Angeles-based emoter Xenia Manasseh has been carving her own lane inspiring many along the way. Her maiden studio project ‘Love-Hate Part 1’ released last year was one of the most riveting offerings earning her a COLORS performance, Spotify RADAR editorial and much more. Having worked with R&B powerhouses such as Brandy and Teyana Taylor, Xenia’s dichotomy to also support her African counterparts Burna Boy and Sauti Sol equally is what defines her expansive range as an artist. Whether it’s through production, singing, performance, or songwriting, Xe is the glaring reference of what a modern day creative is - a multi talented and cultured luminary that can do it all, and at a high level.  

Tg.blk (Kenya)

Kenyan indie artist tg.blk is stirring waves both domestically and globally with their grungy lofi cuts. Reminiscent of muses such as EARL SWEATSHIRT and MAVI, the Maryland-based artists’ breakthrough single “Love being used” is a snapshot of her experimental and avant-garde records. Evoking different emotions through their singing, tg is part of the alternative Kenyan contingent that is coloring out of the lines with their artistic works. Allegedly co-signed by Long Beach rap star Vince Staples, tg is primed to be the next global Kenyan act following their hypnotic singles receiving notable traction.

Big Yasa (Kenya)

An urban lighthouse, Big Yasa is a drill rapper based in Nairobi, Kenya. His latest body of work ‘Wapoa SZN’ sees him transverse the complexities of relationships, whilst portraying him embrace his more vulnerable edge. Outside of music, Yasa has worked with brands such Daily Paper and Track Mafia, reflecting his global aesthetic and fashion sensibilities that align with the diasporic community in UK culture. Yasa has also built a symbiotic community under his entrepreneurial moniker Mad Clan that champions values such as work ethic, wellness, and uplifting one another. This has spearheaded his manifesto and his stratospheric stats without signing to a major.  

Fredrick Mulla (Tanzania)

One third of the UMOJA Sounds faction hailing from Tanzania. Mulla is a lyrical juggernaut from the Eastern Africa country that wields unparalleled consistency and graft. His music can span storytelling that mirrors society in its most hedonist or most vulnerable state. Notwithstanding his latest cuts “Nairobi Fly” and “Vibrate”, the latter being a collaborative vignette between spitters Elisha Elai and Mbithi, both of whom are highly touted next gen leaders for Kenyan rap - Mulla is an amazing orator and this makes him stand out as a pontificator in the pop cultural realm. His production skills both visually and sonically, much like his creative direction - such as choice of shots, angles, and there more have also made him an adroit and premium architect of the East African cultural and arts spaces.