Khaligraph Jones is one of the most consequential artists from the past decade. Born Brian Omollo Ouko, he represents how influence works on rap. His touch in Hip Hop has made entire substyles of the art form popular. Khaligraph’s approach to songwriting, rapping, and music videos have had an omnipresent influence. It is hard to mention Kenyan 21st century culture and miss his name. Khaligraph Jones is at the moment, the top two in any conversation about the biggest Hip Hop artists from Kenya, and not often the runner up. A hybrid trendsetter, he is always on the lookout for new wares. Above all, Hip Hop has never been the same since Omollo came in 2007.
Strong as bibilical heroes
Since Odinare Challenge started, I have been thinking of Christianity and how Samson was said to be the strongest man to ever live. I associate strength with Khaligraph Jones’ confidence, charisma and voice. That icy Kayole attitude gives his persona the dangerous cool of a hustler tough as concrete and strong as steel. Khaligraph Jones embodies invincibility. Samsonian rappers sound like they are in heat of battle. Think Mau Mau’s ‘DC na Sisi’, Abbas Kubaff in ‘Chapaa’, Kleptomaniac’s ‘Twendele’, Scar’s ‘Kovu’, HR The Messenger’s ‘Gwantana’ or Buruklyn Boyz’ ‘Nairobi’. It’s the largeness that they exude that makes them appear as strong as biblical heroes. Khaligraph Jones has that largeness. ‘Mazishi’, ‘Omollo’, ‘Me Siogopi’, ‘Yego’ all exemplify the power he projects.
Rappers, under different circumstances, have their own tribulations that they must overcome to become icons. Releasing albums, shooting videos, performing shows and negotiating deals aren’t the same as slaying lions with bare hands, but neither is for the weak. No matter how easy Khaligraph Jones makes it look, only rappers who step into the lion’s den and come out the peoples champion. It is one of the ways that he has become legendary. He has given hit after hit, all different, all effective.
Khaligraph Jones, Champion of the people
However, unlike heroes of the biblical stories, harmonic culture building is how Khaligraph Jones is gaining people’s lasting admiration. All the stories of ego, fakeness pale in comparison to the recognition earned with the work he has put in. His moves shape and direct the Hip Hop culture across the continent and beyond. Regardless, whether they know it or not, countless artists have Khaligraph Jones in their artistic DNA. Consequently, his guest spots have the power to break new or not well-known artists. The OG has emerged to be among the best at legitimizing the next generation. Khali Cartel, his cypher series, which have been getting longer with each release, is one of the mediums he shares his light.
As his music solidifies his legendary status, similarly, his work to push the culture forward is to be diarized. A man who puts his money where his mouth is, The OG put up Ksh 500,000 of his own money to push the culture forward. This culminated with a partnership with a betting company, Odi Bets, resulting in millions of shillings, direct investment to rappers. Additionally, winners got a 1 song recording deal package deal with top-notch audio and video treatment that Khaligraph applies.
The increasing spirit of collaboration among Kenyan artists has been a huge win. The creation of a spirited community allows ideas, rationale, and mutual artistic motivation to be shared. Joining his peers like Muthoni Drummer Queen, Sauti Sol, King Kaka, Mejja et al, Khaligraph is now among the builders. Builders of decades of work that have created the environment that enabled him.
With his latest community initiative (remember his role in #PlayKE?), Khaligraph is opening spaces of possibility that rarely exist.