I am suffering rejection, isolation after rehab, laments Jimwat

By Esther Dianah and Stevens Muendo | 2 months ago
Kenyan singer Jimwat.

Five years after leaving a Nairobi rehab following years of drug abuse and addiction, singer James Wathigo, better known as Jimwat, says he is suffering discrimination.

Glad that he has risen from the shackles of “death” and gotten his life back, the star - who became popular as a teen sensation back in the day with singles like Under 18 (featuring Meg C) - says he feels isolated and rejected.

“Sometimes you question yourself and your decision to be rehabilitated, like what is the point of rehabilitation if people are still judging you,” he poses.

Jimwat wonders what difference it makes if people still judge him the same way they did when he was into drugs. “It affects your career as well; sometimes you go to the studio and people judge your sanity and ability. When you release songs, no matter how big, people won’t look at them the same way. I am suffering rejection after rehab,” laments the Calif Records star whose debut single Sema Nami Sweetie and follow-up songs like Mpaka Chee, with Pilipili, and the hit track Under 18 made him one of the biggest Kenyan urban names of the 2000s.

Jimwat says whenever he goes to a social place like a restaurant or club, people look at him in a manner to suggest that he should not be there. “I am strong and all this cannot get me back to drugs. But I am just human. It can be depressing when you feel like the society does not need you, even people who used to be close friends,” he says, adding that going into rehab by itself was a big step towards self-acceptance.

Now recording with various producers, the musician admits that life as a celebrity can be deceiving. He says many musicians are going through depression as they cannot afford to fund the life they portray to their followers.

Music stars, he says, should accept the truth about their status and work towards success with a good entrepreneurship plan in place. 

Jimwat says his experience in rehab was like that of a student on the first day of high school. He says he learned a lot on self-discipline, moral responsibility and other life management skills, attributes he says are helping him in his everyday life.

“I learned that I needed to cut ties from my peers in order to stay clean. This was mostly because any time we would organise for a meet up, they preferred the club and that is where I was trying to avoid. I have been clean for a while now, five years to be precise. I must confess that there are temptations to get back there but it is up to me to be clean. To get my mind off such reflections, I seek other hobbies outside the zone that got me in the bad place,” he says.

Jimwat says he has a girlfriend and his goal is to settle down even as he co-parents with his former lover.

On this day Jimwat has on a white T-shirt and a matching grey bomber jacket. Just like 15 years ago, he still has his trademark cap on, facing backwards, the cool Hip Hop look of the time.

His new project includes a new song, Hii Story, that was released last month. The song is a reflection of how far God has brought him.

“My songs always have a moral lesson and so is this one. The only difference is that I am more mature now and so are the lyrics.” The 36-year-old nostalgically recalls his days of fame and fortune, how doors used to open for him everywhere he went and how his talent paved way for him to become a top influencer both in Kenya and across East Africa at a time when Calif Records popularised Sheng’.

He recalls how the Calif Records stable primed its artistes to offset a surging Ogopa Deejays, Blue Zebra and Homeboyz Records in popularity. It was a revolution of sorts that had big names like Nameless, Wyre the Love Child, Nazizi, Jua Cali and Longombas fighting for the showbiz pie. “Our Kenyan sound was far much better than it is now,” he says.

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