In his production, writing, rap flow, and deliveries, the messenger in the Nu Age of “do better” is true to himself. Any way you look at it, High Renaissance fits in the Kenyan Hip Hop scene. Whether you’ve been a day-one fan or you’re hearing of his music right now, the art sounds and feels familiar.
Soulful and mellow, High Renaissance packs a mean punch on his songs with his hardcore storytelling and lyricism. A music producer, rapper and sound engineer, he is one of the most promising acts of 2019. In his music, High Renaissance proves he is a character who can be equally deep as well as playful corny.
The people and the journey
A few years ago, the now confident rapper shyly recorded his first official single which was paid for by his mum – but he never released it. Crippling self-doubt and need for validation saw him give up on the project. He knew that nobody would listen to “just another Hip Hop song”. To begin with, he was not a rapper, at least not at the time. Peter Njuguna‘s place was at the piano where he played the every Sunday during youth service.
It is rare to come across a new generation artist who is evolving beyond the preconcieved notions of what a rapper/MC is supposed to be. Rested in his truth but at the same time you can feel the visionary elements in the work he churns out – Trabolee
When he joined Muhuri Muchiri High School, he met another aspiring rapper who introduced him to music production. Before he could sharpen his skills, his family moved to Ongata Rongai and he changed schools. By sheer luck, his new neighbour had DJ decks. High Renaissance started listening to a lot of classic Hip Hop albums courtesy of his new friend. He started writing his own raps during this time.
The standard software on most male uni student laptops is Need For Speed, Fifa, Virtual DJ followed by Fruity loops. It is either of the above and sometimes its all! The case wasn’t different for High Renaissance while he was in JKUAT Karen for his diploma. However, he abandoned music production shortly opting to rap as FL Studio 11 was too complicated for him. He started performing at open mics at school and also managed to perform at CUEA. This exposure to different crowds boosted his confidence in the studio. Previously, he used to write exclusively in Sheng because English was too bourgeois for him.
With the help of DJ Fita and King Kiid, he slowly got back to production while booking more rap shows. He recorded a sleeper hit, ‘Vibrations’ with Malawian rapper – and also his classmate – SpyKen in February 2018. This became his first big break.
It was huge because the song got a radio spin and he was soon booked for an interview. “When we first played Vibration’s, fans on my timeline wanted to know who that was – with the old school feel in a scene that leans on trap” recalls Ruby V, host of Hip Hop Culture on Homeboyz Radio. “The reception was great and fans loved it. I’m a bit of an old soul myself and to hear hard-hitting boompab beats by a new generation artist is really dope! We brought him to the show and he has become a fan favourite.”
Late 2018, he joined DJ Fita on the Break It All Tour. He started writing material for what would become Reign LP on the road. The tape was set to release on 10 February 2019 but was delayed for another 6 days. He held an intimate listening party for friends and family and this marked the beginning of Reign Season.
High Renaissance live at Nairobi Hip Hop Rapsody
The LP has earned High Renaissance critical acclaim from critics, fans as well as other musicians.
“It is rare to come across a new generation artist who is evolving beyond the preconceived notions of what a rapper/MC is supposed to be. Rested in his truth but at the same time, you can feel the visionary elements in the work he churns out” comments rising star Trabolee.
X-Ray King, a close friend and fellow Philosophy Records rapper sees High Renaissance as a compliment to his craft. “Popping at the same time with High Renaissance was always a goal. We knew that teamwork beats talent and that’s why we joined hands since we’re both working towards the same goal. Seeing things falling into place is a win.”
For now, High Renaissance is preparing for his first major headlining gig, Nairobi Hip Hop Rapsody at Club Muze, Westlands. Meanwhile, the streets are waking up and nodding at the apex predator. Nairobi’s leading rap-battle organizer, Ondu StreetLawyer says that “in a time when penmanship is being overlooked in rap, HR is the future. High Renaissance is an old soul as far as lyricism is concerned. It’s a solid project which proves that lyricism is alive in 2019. ”
A year after this cover story, High Renaissance won 3 awards at the UNKUT HIP HOP AWARDS 2019: Best Male Artist of the Year, Breakthrough Artist of the Year, and Mixtape/LP of the Year.
Connect with High Renaissance Online:
This article was first published on 15 May 2019 under the title “High Renaissance in the Reign season”