Nah Eeto raps to rep her roots across the globe. Flying multiple flags in a musical melting-pot, the Blah Records signee bridges the gap between Kenya’s shrap scene and UK rap. Her 2019 EP 53 sees Kenyan artists Dope-I-Mean and Boutross spit alongside the likes of Stinkin Slumrok and Milkavelli, creating a multi-lingual masterpiece that embodies the energy of her identity.
“I’m just representing how Kenyans are.”
Sparking a spliff with the strike of a match, Nah Eeto spoke to us about the importance of mixing. Not DJing, but the blending of sounds and styles from different cultural influences. We also learnt about Lee Scott‘s rap lessons and the spontaneity of releasing singles, as well as Nah’s ‘mongrel’ accents and personal mantras. Check out the full conversation below and make sure you tune in to her tunes.
Your recent single ‘Hunijui‘ translates to ‘You don’t know me’. What do most people not know about you?
“Well the whole song is about how you might know me now, we might know each other really well today or for the next five years, but once you part ways and come back, you’re not the same person anymore. The lyrics basically translate to ‘You don’t know me, not like yesterday.’ So I’m not the same person as I was yesterday. That’s what it’s about, it’s about growth, it’s about moving forward.”
As someone who’s only been rapping for three years, what made you pick up the mic?
“I think it was a joke, I was with Lee [Scott] at the time and we were at home, I think we’d been drinking and I’d just gotten back from Kenya. I pestered him to teach me how to rap because I wanted to fuck around and rap in Swahili I guess. So he taught me how to rap and I think it was actually ‘Wanawake’ (which has been released recently) that was the first one we made, or at least second. It sounded hard so we just took it from there, it wasn’t supposed to be anything super serious at the time. I was working as a videographer for Blah more than anything.”
Coming from a photography background, you edit and direct a lot of your videos. Is it important for you to have complete creative control?
“Yeah, very much so, because I did start with photography and filming, filming has always been my thing. Films had always been my escape when I was younger living in Tanzania and Kenya, so I always thought I was gunna be a film director or make movies. That aspect for me is very important because when I hear a beat I’m seeing the visuals, I’m seeing what would go with it, which also helps with my rap and how I represent myself, and how I end up rapping on the beat. They’re all merged and I can’t sit back and let someone take full control over my music videos, I just can’t. It’s very much an integral part of me.”
Everyone talks about your multingual lyrics, how do you feel about that being people’s main angle?
“I think it should be spoken about because in Kenya there’s a thing called Sheng, and it’s literally a mix of new made-up random words with different tribal words and English, and then it ends up becoming a language in itself. It’s ever-evolving, ever-present, so it’s not like I’m doing something new, I’m just representing how Kenyans are, how they speak to each other normally, which is, we tend to go in and out of Swahili and English.”
Where should people go to find out more about the shrap scene?
“Shrap, dude, go into YouTube and type in ‘shrap’ or even ‘Sheng’. What it’s about, Sheng is fascinating because unless you’re in it, you’ll completely lose track, you won’t even be able to follow it anymore. It becomes a different language and changes every month and year. You can tell a lot about someone by their Sheng according to what year they’re from, what hood, neighbourhood, how old they are… so yeah, it’s fascinating.”
What producers are you looking to work with? Any Kenyans?
“Yeah, actually I’ve just laced my vocals with [redacted], so we’re gunna see where that goes – it’s sounding really hard and it’s kinda like a new angle for me as well. Also, obviously that’s pretty fuckin’ cool [laughs]. And obviously I’ve got a couple Lee Scott beats, so yeah, with producers there’s one special one, but I’m not really at liberty to say right now, but it will be announced in September and I’m really, really excited for that.”
Do you have any personal mantras you try to follow?
“Yeah, it is definitely always trust your gut. I think society has made us rationalise what we feel and we’re made to believe that what we’re feeling isn’t real or justified, but your gut will always, always show you the right way. That’s my mantra, I just follow my gut.”
Do you have a full album on the way with Blah Records?
“I don’t have a full album yet, my life has been pretty fucking hectic this year to be honest. I think I would like to do an album but for the moment I think I’m having so much fun doing singles and collabs, finding my voice and growing as a person. Then maybe at some point I’ll be ready to sit down and fully focus on an album that’s cohesive, that flows nicely together, cos if I’m gunna do it I wanna get it done right.”
The way the world is now you don’t necessarily have to have an album, streaming services rely on singles anyway so you could just go off singles for the rest of your career really.
“Yeah, definitely. And I think singles for me at the moment they’re a lot more fun, because also with a single it’s impromptu. One day you may be in one country and you meet up with a randomer and then you make this fire track and then you can release it really quickly with a video and boom it’s there. Whereas with an album, there’s a process, there’s making it all fit together, so I like the spontaneity of singles.”
What’s next for Nah Eeto?
“What’s next what’s next… I’ve got some exciting projects coming up, stuff with legendary people for me, and for a lot of people. Yeah, I think I wanna put Swahili and Kenyan rappers on the map because there’s a lot serious fucking talent out here man.”
I think you’re doing a really good job of bridging that gap. Some people might say that what you do could build barriers of language but I think you’re doing the opposite, building bridges not barriers.
“Thank you, thank you. Exactly, there’s also a bit of an argument between Tanzanians and Kenyans about what my accent actually is. My Swahili is very much like my English, it’s mixed, it’s a mongrel accent as they say. It’s the same with my Swahili because I lived in Tanzania for a while, so it ends up being this mix where both countries can hear themselves in it, so yeah that’s also quite important for me to represent the fact that I am mixed race and that I’ve lived in lots of different places. Instead of trying to put on an accent or trying to be one more than the other, I’m trying to really just rep that whole mixing, because it’s about time.”
Interviewed by: James Wijesinghe