Just recently, Nigerian rapper Blaqbonez and his contemporary Khaligraph Jones hushed out their issues as the two cliqued up for a hilarious studio session at the latter’s hub of creativity – Blue Ink Corp Studios based in Kilimani, Nairobi.
The two had a misunderstanding that got out of hand stemming from early last year when Blaq disputed Khaligraph’s Best Rapper Africa MVP Award at the Soundcity Awards held in Lagos in January 2020. During the award ceremony, the former and the latter were jointly nominated for the award, but Khali took home all the bacon causing Blaq to cause a fit. This would spawn two vivacious diss tracks from both parties leaving the internet buzzing as to who was the better rapper.
Khali’s animated ‘Best Rapper in Nigeria’ versus Blaq’s ‘Green Black Green’ single-handedly revitalised the aspiring Hip Hop scene in Africa as Afrobeats and other sounds took over the masses subtly leaving hip hop watching disparagingly on the sidelines.
As much as the two recently met up for the first time recently in what could have morphed into actual beef, yes actual violent beef such as Tupac and Biggie, lines such as - “Nigeria, you had to send a lesbian to slay your beats?’ ‘I spotted you in Lagos, you was seen braggin, in an Uber cab I was in the G-Wagon, I couldn’t help but pity you I would leave it in the past, but it’s unfortunate your own people treating you like trash’ are forever arched in the Internet’s history despite Khali’s hybrid of xenophobic and exaggerated homophobic slurs. These bars were reminiscent of the East-West Coast days where Tupac took the piss on his legendary song ‘Hit Em Up’.
However, their recent showing spelled out a portrayal of a big brother embracing his little one, tough-loving him, at least from the outside looking in. Even so, that level of altercation where entertainers are leveraging confrontation to be relevant can go far sometimes, luckily not in this instance. Blaq and Khali put their differences aside, kissed, and made up in a fashion many would have loved to see Pac and Biggie do it perhaps.
A classic case of rappers’ beef escalating to date is Cassper Nyovest and AKA where the latter flashed a nine millimeter pistol at his peer – all in the name of competition and macho. Their battle is more than music and sales, it’s one of the longest beefs (started in 2014) and remains relevant to date, at least to real hip hop heads that follow the culture with a keen eye. The two almost took their drama to the boxing ring last year in a huge pay day pay-per-view event and have admitted “it’s not a staged affair, and to some extent, it may be toxic but the beef keeps people talking and this means more bank for each of them.”
Why is this important again? Khali and Blaq had an organic misunderstanding and maturely upon meeting physically for the first time courtesy of arbitrator Bien of Sauti Sol, but there are multiple cases where these kinds of events are simulated, fake, and are manipulative for entertainment purposes. Hence it’s important that we can derive such kinds of events and diagnose if these performative acts are actual cases of genius entertainment (creative marketing rather), or a bland retort of attention-seeking?
Local clout vs marketing debate
“It’s too many false rumours that occur today. How someone can just wake up in the morning and decide to spread lies, fabricate stories about someone they personally don’t know, all for attention is sickening” wrote a livid Tanasha upon being accused of being a gold-digger on the Internet. She has been one of the most talked about public figures from Kenya in recent years.
Today, the term clout has become one of the most used terms of this day and social media age. Previously, it carried the notion of ‘power, influence, and fame’, however today it’s a loose term thrown around with a different meaning. A clout chaser is - “someone that craves attention, especially on social media”, which begs the query of “How many public figures or personalities do we know that live for this?” and “why do they chase clout?”.
Showbiz guru and event promoter Kitawi Mwakitele believes “Clout chasing is the new marketing” he says openly. Recently, the promoter was under fire after a song he is currently pushing by Nelly The Goon dubbed ‘Durag Ya E-Sir’ rubbed fans the wrong way.
“I know Nameless might be disappointed, but this is the new marketing” Tele tweeted to the public.
According to writer Karen Mbuya Muriuki, entertainer’s response to the ‘competitive’ showbiz industry is practicing ‘clout-based antics’ to capture attention and keep customers hooked.
“Personally, I feel like they do it to stay relevant in the ‘competitive’ entertainment industry in Kenya” she states.
Notably, the showbiz scene has had to accommodate digital entertainment. Today, we have Instagram models, socialites, influencers, YouTubers and the likes, and the fact that the online space is crowded and attention is the currency, everyone is willing to go to extremes to maintain their audience. This innovation and evolution besides the fact that we are on our screens for a large chunk of our time, entertainers are doing all they can to attract eye-balls to their pages.
“Content is king today.” David Munyua, a brand strategist tells Pulse. He reveals the growth of interest in digital money is influencing many to turn to online content creation opportunities, and this is bringing forth interesting marketing campaigns.
Picture Jimal Rohosafi, a man that works for a government institution, he embodies this idea profusely. A working class adult letting us into his private confines providing us with exclusive adult content of himself and his spouses and their bedroom, yet you might meet him in the office serving you the next day.
Or the countless publicity stunts gospel singer Ringtone Apoko will go through just to have his name circulate the blogs and media.
Apoko blatantly admitted to “loving fame” and “craving attention” after being battered by popular blogger Robert Alai in real life. Capitalising on the situation, he would do a feature with a local news outlet to discuss his “obsession” with the limelight, and continued to perpetuate the same with appearances on the media to stir up his visibility. He was a hot topic on both traditional and online media grounds. This is what advertisers crave from their clients - “The watch time” which alludes to how long can you keep the audience engaged, and the other “Content Per Mile” - which means how many numbers and how much reachability value does your brand or content strike.
There is no denying entertainers essentially depend on publicity for their career. Clout or marketing, it does not matter as publicity is the currency in which they trade, hence ethics are non-existent in this game.
“Entertainment is all about showbiz, and it’s one of the ways to grab people’s attention” intimated a household name who sought anonymity. “Clout chasing is all about publicity and rule number one of the game is that there’s no bad publicity.”
He goes to add even religious or cultural differences cannot limit the lengths one is willing to go to morally, “It’s only entertainment”.
“When Bahati wanted to launch his recent album (Love Like This), he went all out to create a buzz, from the controversial album cover to the diss tracks he got from his friends the likes of DK Kwenye Beat.”
He, however, acknowledges that how entertainers chase clout varies. “It all depends on the team around you. Diamond has actually been able to commercialize the publicity and has milked it to the maximum. In Kenya, dancehall star Wyre has played the opposite of Diamond and yet has managed to stay relevant.”
Are there limits?
There are innocuous attempts at promoting a song with obvious publicity stunts such as Nadia Mukami’s showing of an Indian boyfriend, KRG Don faking his account has been hacked, Eric Omondi’s Wife Material antics, Vera & Brown Mauzo’s fake break-up, or Willy Paul staging a conflict with Size 8 – these the fans can see right through the cracks of the charades, but still take to support their faves due to brand loyalty in most cases.
However, there are the known celebrities who reside to theatrics such as Shakilla the now infamous remote control, Magix Enga faking he attempted suicide among others, DJ Mo and Size 8 cheating rumors to boost viewership on their reality show. Karen thinks Kenyans have grown to a point of noticing clout gimmicks, but it’s all about ‘choice’ when it comes to supporting entertainers that opt to cleanly market, or shadily promote.
“This has been changing over time. Kenyans no longer support these traits and are these days quick to call out and cancel such celebrities. That said, a number still find these gimmicks really entertaining, especially from celebrities they really look up to or are heavily invested in.” she says.
“Using clout to stay relevant is actually one of my biggest pet peeves. I’m always quick to cancel such celebrities” She explains “Having a fan base that admires you for being honest and authentic is always more fulfilling than when having one because of being someone you’re not.”