Kibera rapper defies critics

This week sees the release of a new EP from a young artist who has emerged to chart his career in music inspired by his experiences in life, a deep conviction for his music, and hunger for success.

Phinoshey Elber Meso, the 22-year-old rapper, and producer from Nairobi’s Kibera whose music is influenced by classic hip hop, soul, funk and jazz, has released a new six-track EP titled “Ikigai”.

For the last two years, Phinoshey has spent hours in the archives listening to vinyl records and has particularly been inspired by the discovery of records of iconic Kenyan artists like Sal Davis, John Nzenze, and Kelly Brown.

His debut album “Son from Kibera” was released in 2020 and brought him to the attention of many fans who were struck by his fresh approach to hip hop with influences of sounds from different eras.

The title “Ikigai” is taken from the Japanese word meaning “reason of being” which he explains is a challenge to focus on the purpose of life, beyond vanity.

He breaks it into six themes represented by each of the songs on the EP; inspiration, ambition, and learning from mistakes; to love and be loved back; creativity and belief in prayer; enjoying oneself and sharing the lessons learnt in life.

The first track “I am” salutes the bravery, and sacrifice of freedom fighter Dedan Kimathi as a reminder of the enduring legacy of the liberation hero who was executed by the British colonialists.

While studying for his Diploma in International Relations, Phinoshey developed an interest in studying Kenyan history from the pre-colonial times and this is what sparked an awakening in his consciousness.

The artist along with rapper, singer and drummer Tom Payne whom he first met in the church choir in 2015, uses Kimathi’s story in the context of current events in Kenya, specifically their personal experiences.

“In modern Kenya, there is no leadership, most people in positions of responsibility pursue their agenda and that is why many young people are reluctant to vote during elections,” says Phinoshey.

Fall” is a straightforward rap song expressing Phinoshey’s determination to succeed in his personal life and career against the odds. with a stinging rebuke to haters who ‘just want to see you fall”.

He says his dreams do not sit well with his critics who try to dissuade him from pursuing his ambition, but the negative feedback is what spurs him to keep going.

“I am letting the haters know that I got my game up and they too should find their purpose,” says Phinoshey. “I am not scared of chasing my dreams. If I fall then I take that as a lesson.”

Phinoshey shows his softer, romantic side in “Love Story” as he serenades a girl whom he has fallen in love with and asks her for a chance to prove that he can be a ‘better man’.

“I am saying that I want to be able to love and be loved back, which is a feeling that most people can relate with,” says Phinoshey.

The song has an R&B arrangement flavoured by a saxophone riff played by Edwin Mbogo, who also plays the same instrument on “Guns & Roses.”

The song “Gun and Roses” paints a picture of how Phinoshey gives back by sharing knowledge and lessons learned with all those he crosses paths with through his music.

He shares African history, political realities, current affairs, and familial relationships and offers his views on attaining happiness and success in life.

Phinoshey wrote the hook for the song and got Selina Aketch Angar, known by the sage name An!Les to sing guest vocals which she delivers with aplomb.

Phinoshey lays out his muse over the funky beat of “Mojo” as he explains how integral God is to his life by blessing him with the talent, resources, connections, and tools for music.

“God has given me the music talent and if it was not for the music then I would not have completed my college studies. Music has saved me,” he says.

“From digging crates of records, sampling vinyl, and the entire process of getting a finished product and impacting someone’s life, it has all been inspired by the Almighty.”

The lively sound of “Good Feels” is a reminder that you can still enjoy the good times in life with family, and friends, just as previous generations did, even with all the pressures of modern living.

Both “Mojo” and “Good Feels” were inspired by listening to the records of funk icons of the 1970s and 80s like Slim Ali and Kelly Brown.

Phinoshey will give his fans the first chance to see him perform songs from his new EP during a live show at the Alchemist, Nairobi on June 2, 2022.

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