Philip Ptaroba Okoyo, who is better known by his stage name Japesa, is a fast-rising Luo rap artiste from Kisumu but based in Nairobi.
He spoke to Buzz about his musical journey and why he thinks he is the male version of Akothee.
Congratulations on your newest video, “AUU”. It is doing quite well on YouTube. For those who may not understand it, what is “AUU” about?
I always rap about what I feel at the moment. This latest video was just a message to my haters and those who think that I am not good enough. I am still the best Luo rapper alive.
How and why did you pick the name ‘Japesa’?
I became financially stable at a young age. By the age of 21, I owned several businesses including money lender/shylock business. I started by selling clothes and jewellery because people said they liked my style. Why shouldn’t I call myself the money man, at 26 with money?
How long have you been in the music industry?
I have been in the industry for five years. It sounds like a bluff, but yes, I have. Pushing music from Kisumu was not working for me so I decided to move to Nairobi. Eight months down the line, everything came to place.
Are you mostly based in Nairobi or Kisumu?
I am currently based in Nairobi.
Have you always wanted to be a rapper?
Not really. Surprisingly, I started rapping immediately after finishing high school. I guess I am just a genius. After being introduced to the fame and money, I had to stick to the game.
Why did you choose Luo rap?
I was rapping in English during the early years of my career. Nobody was giving my art any attention; so I switched to Luo rap. The law of supply and demand worked. Nobody was doing Luo rap so I knew that Kenyans were going to give me attention.
Your fans love your freestlye music and your Sondeka challenge gained a lot of appreciation. Do you hope to be in the next Sondeka remix?
If Naiboi was to do a Sondeka remix, I would not mind hopping in.
Apart from YouTube, where else can your fans catch your music?
My music is in all the major streaming platforms.
Your music reflects a very flashy lifestyle. Is that the case?
You know, I am young, rich and handsome and that is something I don’t fear bragging about. I came from a humble background, nikipata pesa lazima mtajua niko nayo, so ni hivyo tu (if I get money, you need to know I have it, and so that’s what it is).
Do people sometimes consider you arrogant because of your lifestyle?
People bash me on a daily basis. They say I am arrogant but I really don’t care. You can say that I am the male version of Akothee.
Maskini akipata matako hulia mbwata, so wacha nikule pesa yangu polepole .
How did your collaboration with King Kaka come about?
You know it’s all about hard work. I tagged him on all of my pieces. I did not expect he would reach out to me. Then one day I received a call from his manager that he wanted to work with the boy, na mimi ni nani nikatae? (Who am I to refuse?)
What is your opinion about his recent song, “Wajinga Nyinyi”?
I am not really into politics, but King Kaka has got balls! He spoke his mind, though. I gave him support as a brother. I think that song is going to change his life forever; more clout, more money.
What in your opinion is the future of Luo rap?
Many up-and-coming artistes are inspired by me. I think I just changed the game. People thought rapping in the native language wasn’t that marketable, but I changed everything. Long live the Luo rap king!
What/who has been your greatest support in your music career?
I have two friends, Japicha and Dennis Goods. They sort of manage me. They push my music and we help each other.
What are some of the challenges you have faced in the rap industry?
The music industry is like gambling. You spend a lot of money on your music but you are not sure of getting your money back.
Any new music projects for 2020?
Guess what? 2020 is my year. I have like 10 videos I will be dropping, all singles, excluding all the songs in which I am featured.
All the best in that. On a light note, how do you unwind when you are not making music?
I am a fan of movies, science-fiction to be specific. When I am not making music, you will find me watching a movie.