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Online trolls: To reply or not to reply

 A collage of Njugush, Diana Marua and Khaligraph Jones.

Was Njugush and Wakavinye’s TTNT show in Australia a failure or a success? The answer depends on who you speak to or follow online. 

The successful tour, which was sold out, would have gone unnoticed, until one Gustavo posted a 12-second clip of the comedian, on stage.

It is cut from a two-hour show, but he had the caption, “My pal Njugush is struggling hadi ameanza kuita Kina Butita comedy hall imetulia kaa lecture hall,” alongside the clip.

Then hell broke loose. The conversation moved from the shores of Australia to KOT, an appraisal of Njugush as a creative. 

Netizens took sides as the conversation morphed into an industry-wide review, keyboard experts making their voices heard on the subject of comedy and what it takes to make it as a stand-up comedian.

It almost clouded the fact that the TTNT, which, interestingly, stands for ‘Through Thick ‘N’ Thin’, was on a global tour after a successful run in Kenya.

Then Jua Cali made it worse, with a post taking a dig at the comedian. He wrote, “Njugush ni boy wangu but hakuna comedian hapo, not funny at all,” adding, “Stand up ni art form you need to study it fully before ujirushe ndani ni art form moja very clever very witty si ya kila mtu,”

It opened another front, especially since it was a celebrity giving savage feedback on another celebrity.

Jua Cali later calmed things down with another post that partly read, “Fans wa Njugush na Njugush poleni sana kama hio tweet ilicome out harsh hio haikua intention napenda skits za Njugush ni vile tu standup ni ballgame ingine noma but polepole with practice Njugush will become one of the greats…”

While clarifying that Jua Cali was not a friend, Njugush captured it all, saying, “Art is very subjective and relative. Tulikuwa apa tukianza Real Housewives wakasema hakuna mahali tunaenda. Everyone has their own opinion but that does not stop me.” 

But where do we draw the line? When is feedback subjective and at the same time subjective? Who decides that? 

According to Kenzo, of the Matata fame, you can do away with feedback, or what can sometimes be termed as hateful comments. His solution? Pretend he did not read it.

“I just ignore or engage in a manner that I turn the ‘hater’ to be on my side,” said Kenzo, who has been in the industry long enough to be able to manoeuvre.

Veryl Mkali Wao says going toe to toe with online trolls can drain you and shift your focus to negativity.

“I could reply positively because arguing with people who hate you can reduce your standards. Like this one time, I posted a pic nikiwa gig ya deejaying and one guy called me a slut deejay and I replied thank you so much,” the rising femcee said.

For Cannibal Chosen One, who once trended for performing for less than 10 people in a highly publicised gig in Dubai, not ‘seeing’ what is said can be a good way to stay sane. 

“I just assume it nikama sijaona because that is a person’s opinion which you are entitled to,” said the rapper, part of a hip-hop renaissance in the mid-2000s.

“So, speaking your mind does not mean you are right or it is the truth. It is only I who knows what is the truth and what is right.” 

While celebrities can choose to be blind to replies or trolls, corporate brands are finding it hard to be tone-deaf, especially with an online crowd that easily dents or kills a good perception.

When revellers complained about the time allocation and haphazard organisation of the Sol Fest 2022 edition, the organisers apologised.

“We intended to put on a spectacular event, ensuring each artiste and group received enough time to deliver their very best performances to all fans,” reads the statement.

“We also put more focus on the local talent who were performing, and our international guests.”

Adding that, “We acknowledge that this may have led to some unfortunate delays in keeping the show running in a timely fashion and would like to reassure all our fans and supporters that we will plan better for this in the future.”

The same thing happened when organisers fumbled the Stanbic Yetu Festival in June, with the organisers apologising for the bad sound, rained-on revellers, crazy section arrangement, and TVs that did not work.

“We would like to address the concerns and frustrations expressed especially regarding the sound quality in the General Arena at our recent concert and the other concerns raised,” a statement read days after.

It requires a thick skin to exist on social media. Feedback is savage, hate is real, and ‘the fans’, mostly using their anonymity, can be very cruel.  

Kenzo says he is used to the stinging comments. “It used to hurt, but not anymore, I developed a thick skin.”

Cannibal agrees, saying, “Of course, it hurts, but you choose to be the bigger person.”

Veryl, who jumped on the Kenya versus Bongo rap battle to release Watoto Wa Mama Samia, channels the comments to her content. 

“I take the hate positively and there are songs that I have written based on feedback. So, to me, it helps with the content of what to rap about,” she says. 

Others, like Jua Cali, go head-to-head with trolls. Part of the old guard that shaped the industry, he is very street with replies on his social media, always giving back what he gets. 

He is abusive, funny, retrospective, and at the same time active to make sure no one rains on his parade. His replies on X are +18.

The same approach is extensively used by Khaligraph Jones, who can easily camp on his comment section to clap back on anyone who is disrespecting the OG.

Bien is also in this camp and has maintained it throughout, especially when his group or the industry has been attacked. When Njugush was under attack, Bien tweeted, “Njugush ako tu sawa. I have nothing but respect for this man and his wife. Legacy over everything.”

 Bien [Instagram]

Before her recent accusations that she was herself a serial bully, American rapper and singer Lizzo, once quit X because of “too many trolls.”

She later returned with her first post reading, “Hey y’all.. heard I was trending so I decided to come back on here.. what I miss?” 

She is a part of a list of celebrities who have at one time or another deleted their social accounts, either to keep away from the negativity or to check their mental state. The list includes Chris Evans, Pete Davidson, Cardi B, Blake Lively and Kanye West.

In early 2022, Nyashinski deleted all his Instagram posts and unfollowed everyone except his wife, Zia Bett. At the moment, he follows only two accounts, the other being his live event.

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