In Nairobi, Kenya’s capital city, the streets are raging with fans hungry for a new sound. Each playlist, radio, tv, party has been infiltrated by the imminent, dark and heavy 808s taking Africa by storm – drill – and Kenya is no exception. From the video “Nairobi”, you can already guess it won’t take long for Buruklyn Boyz to own the genre. This breakout song, without any promotion, turned passive music listeners into mega-fans obsessed with the gimmicks and definitely with Buruklyn Boyz. The prolific and avant-garde drillers, throwing gang signs and moving in a mob with covered faces, have a simple message — they are the hardest drillers in Kenya. In what seems like an overpopulated genre, Buruklyn Boyz is craving their own identity and shattering records.
If this is your first time coming across the group you might think they derived their name from Brooklyn. It is quite the opposite. In the middle of Nairobi lies Buruburu estate, an uptown living area known as a hot harbour for producing exceptional talents since the early aughts. Known for having some of the best “manyangas” (pimped public service vehicles) their route from Buruburu to the town area is 58. They pay homage to their hood by referencing it in the song as “Tano Nane”. Coined from the estate’s name “Buruburu”, Buruklyn Boyz is a music group with rappers Ajay and Mr Right as the face while other upcoming rappers are behind the scenes preparing their debut. Talking to Ali, their manager, he contends that Buruklyn Boyz is more than just a music group. “Apart from just doing music, we are also involved in entrepreneurial activities. We own our own clothing line selling B-Boy pants, shirts and durags.” Born and raised in Buruburu, they have been in each other’s lives since pre-school. “We never knew we would rap in the future, we were just buddies”.
After their hit record “Nairobi” which has gained over a million views in the past nine months, they explain it wasn’t that easy. According to Ajay, drilling is an art that needs to be mastered. “You can’t wake up one day and decide to be a driller, you have to be one with the beat, understand it, and love it,” he continues. In a country that is ready to crucify you if your music is not on par, they started out as shrappers (rappers from the genre shrap which is Sheng Rap And Popular Music) organically evolving to rappers and drillers.
Buruklyn Boyz was formed in 2019 just after the release of “Durag na Slice”. They sought the thumping drill production via their sonic in-house producer Corban Dencho who still produces their songs such as “Billie Jean”. Ajay has always been a huge fan of drill, he influenced Mr Right into the scene as most of his affiliates were into Grime. This was three years ago before Ajay dropped his first drill number “Psycho”. “I wanted to know what people would say. The public was elated and it pushed me to my second drill song ‘Trappin’, a fan favourite,” Ajay continues. As much as they remain a group, their stalwart independence adds an exciting element that leverages their strongholds. Mr Right is always good with the hooks. He has a catch flow that rings in your head even after the song is over. His critically acclaimed song “Piga Lean” showed both champions have proficiency in this genre. Their hard work, resilience, and vision have made them, for the moment, Kenya’s best drillers.
Not only is their music alluring, but they have also popularised their tag line “Kwani Ni Kesho” (Is it Tomorrow?). “They simply mean nothing can stop them,” Pesh Wanjiru, host of Adoveli Podcast, tells me. All youths in Kenya at the moment finish off a statement with the tagline. That is how huge their influence is. As they glide through the aggressive beats on a slow tempo one element makes these two rappers stand out: lyrical capability and intentional delivery. While talking about social issues and life in the streets, the execution is done in a flamboyant way with head-turning metaphors — something rarely done in drill. Perhaps this is because the boys have a catalog of hip hop tracks that place them on a pedestal in their craft. Mixing English, Sheng and Kiswahili they are breaking norms and refuse to be boxed in as pure drillers. Like artists from Ghana or South Africa, Nigeria, and others, the past few years have seen many new artists adopting drill sensibilities into their music, while rooting their lyrics in their distinct cultural differences.
When “Nairobi” was released, the sound in Kenya had become repetitive and monotonous. The halftime melodies, sparse patterns and gliding 808s as the song kicks off immediately aroused the interest of everyone in the country. If you weren’t chanting “Kwani Ni Kesho” you were obsessing over the clean visuals by Omoke. Buruklyn Boyz brought a spanking new sound, style and identity — making a huge dent in the music community. Their growth can not be compared to any artist in Kenya since Gengetone emerged. Their shows are fully packed with fans chanting “Tano Nane”, “Kwani Ni Kesho” each time they see them. The admiration from the fans was an element lacking in the Kenya entertainment scene, but with the rise of these new hitmakers, the perception of local music is clearly changing.
Their consistency and numerous energy-riddled anthems gave these hardened rappers an opportunity to keep the musically deprived fans on their toes. While Ajay spends more time in the studio, thus his vast catalog, Mr.Right is always chasing the bag. The money they earn enables them to pay production costs. Especially at a time when music videos are as important as the audio tracks. From their individual hits to the group bangers, Buruklyn Boyz ensure that what they feel is depicted in their art. Their most recent video “Dream Ya Kutoka Kwa Block” (dreams of leaving the hood) enabled the rappers to reveal their emotional side, stating their hopes, ambitions, and desires.
Though stating they do not want to be boxed-in as drill rappers, they also make it clear they want to set the standards for the international drill scene. They want Africa to know them as heavy drillers ready to break out of the Kenyan borders. “Drill won’t be a genre to mess around with.”
Listen to Buruklyn Boyz in our Pan African Rap playlist.