Benson Amakabila Makokha, known by his fans as Junior Rebel “Jay R”, is an ever-evolving artist with numerous ways of expressing his creativity. The ability to watch and learn from others around him has made him something of a Jack-of-all-trades.
Having written poetry, and music mainly but not limited to dancehall, working on movie sets, training young artists on how to use music and art for activism and also being featured in a Kenyan TV series, Jay R has always had the urge to express himself through all channels available.
After quite a hiatus, Jay R is now back in the studio and onto the music scene with two music videos already out, Bingo, which talks about the ghetto life and the streets life which is a representation of where he is from. He is currently working on a studio EP.
The Mumias-born-and-bred artist did his first stint in Nairobi when he was still in high school.
“I was a new student, at Shilce High School in Dagoretti. I was excited to start my new life in a new school, but little did I know that I was about to be thrown into the middle of a shocking criminal underworld,” he says.
His suspicion arose when he saw how some kids lived lavishly and had the trendiest items back then. Apparently, these kids always acted ‘suspiciously’. “One day, I saw one of the students exchange something in return for money but I couldn’t exactly tell what it was. But it looked fishy.”
As he narrates, this continued for a while and one day, students got punished for not tucking in their shirts. To him, this was a normal occurrence since he had gotten used to some serious thrashing back in Western.
“To me, this was a normal occurrence, but to the other kids, this was a humiliation. What shocked me, was the fact that the following day, the same teacher who had whooped them had been accosted, robbed and beaten. I could notice my colleagues laughing and I knew they had done it,” he says.
Fast forward to when he was in form 2, two of his friends were gunned down.
Although up to date he has lost a couple of friends through killings. “This was the first time someone I knew was shot and killed. It was a nerve-wracking experience and this gave me a new perspective on life. I took an oath to myself to make Kawangware a better place for young people with me being the role model.”