Luo rap singer Japesa: I only wear Versace, Dior, Dolce and Gabana, Burberry London and Louis Vuitton
Philip Patroba Okoyo alias Japesa is a Kenyan multi-lingual rap artiste, who sings his Luo, English and Kiswahili. He tells The Nairobian why he adopted the brand name and the cost of his undergarments
You sing in English, Kiswahili and Dholuo. How does this make you unique?
Being multi-lingual is a unique talent that everyone needs to exploit. I bring what is often used in the streets to the music world. This is exactly how people speak in the streets and I am able to turn it into a song. My singing style is called Luo Rap because it is a blend of trap, afro pop and hip-hop, mostly done in my native language. My sound is fresh in the music scene.
What does the name Japesa mean in the Luo language?
Japesa is Luo for “one who has money.” I did not brand myself rather my campus mates coined it because of my spending culture. I was a big spender and the name stuck. After my studies, I adopted it for my music career.
Why do artistes borrow their styles and trends from abroad and ignore original Kenyan style?
Kenyan artistes have a dearth of originality. Nobody today sits down and composes their work without influence from outside though this is not wrong. Every media house is playing either Bongo, Afro Pop or all these other foreign sounds. They just pick it up because it is what is hot in the market and what their listeners have been made to believe is best. But I think you cannot judge where inspiration comes from. Music inspiration comes from anything, other sounds, styles, it is everywhere. All one needs to do is look and reflect and you will have your way.
When did you discover your talent and how has the journey been like?
Back in 2015, when I was still making beats, I met a friend with whom we made beats together. He told me I could rap because he had heard me rap while working together. I was hesitant, but he nudged me on and I went on to give it a try. It was my first attempt and from it, I came up with my first song, OPUK. It turned out to be a hit back then, when I was still in campus. Since then, I have been making music daily, perfecting my craft and that is why I am here today.
Young girls are falling for good looking music artistes, have you encountered these type of ladies?
When you can afford luxury, you see every kind of woman. There is nothing I haven’t seen. From weirdos waiting for me at my gate to those that are hitting on me silently. They are all crazy; they even follow me from my shows.
How do you deal with such pressure, which is part of the trade?
It all comes down to who you really are as a person. To me, it is important I remain committed to my course. I just stay true to myself. My other duty is to protect my brand. I endeavour to choose right because anything I do is forever stuck on my brand. But frankly speaking, it is difficult dealing with these ladies. Whenever they follow or ambush me, I pay their Uber fare because who knows, maybe they did not have fare.
Take us through your creative process?
It all starts from finding a rhythm, a beat or a sound. I create my own groove first, that means my beat must be something I can jam on. From the groove, I am able to create the lyrics before I hit studio to record, firstly on freestyle basis. I then pass over the recordings to my friends, who are my first line of critics for their approval. I have my mic on my bedside so I record anytime. I rarely write lyrics, so from the moment I get my lyrics, it is a free flow of thoughts for me. When you record a lot, it becomes a norm.
What runs through your mind when writing your lyrics?
To make the beat strong. I cannot think of anything else. When I am listening to the beat, I only remember something people around me went through or did then I put it in the song. At times, it is my real life experience or just my imagination at play, other times it is just my current mood on the song or just deep feelings that only come out when you pair them together with the rhythm.
How do you rate government’s effort to secure the art and culture and the creative industry as a whole?
It has been a rough ride for us, though we acknowledge the efforts made by the Government. Today, you can easily pick a license to film using drones. It is one thing but a big step for the industry and we will get there eventually. But it calls for everyone’s participation to make it work. I wish they could involve artists in making these policy decisions. We could steer some of these bills to ensure they benefit the end user who is the artist.
Do you have a special someone?
If you are asking about me being in a romantic relationship, no, I don’t have any. But also yes! I have Jesus Christ. I don’t know what I would do without him.
The stereotype about Luos being spendthrifts and their love for good life, how does it impact on you?
Of course, luxury and Luos are inseparable. My boxer trunks are of Versace brand, my belt is Dolce Gabana, the price might be a bit of an insult to other people’s income so I will not disclose. The jeans I pull on are Burberry London. The socks are Dior. I carry this Louis Vuitton bag just because my phone is too big for my pockets. Let’s just say I am a walking lick. I have had people try to snatch my chains from me and it ended so badly for them. By the way, I don’t involve the police. I also have my cup with me always. That’s a Sh20,000 sip am taking. I don’t wear caps. I’m simple on the shoes though, I like my clean plain white Air Forces. Those make me fly, literally.
Given two minutes to sing, which songs would you perform?
Nyakalaga, in which I featured Khaligraph Jones. Big Shout out to the OG. The song is gospel but I had to come different for the young people to listen to God. I just threw in a couple of trap bars in there and it was done. Khaligraph heard it and liked the verses too, it was such a success.
How was schooling for you?
I studied at Ndere Boys, then went to St Mary’s Yala for my high school education. I joined campus to pursue a course in logistics and chain management but dropped out in third year to pursue my music career. I think it is the best decision I ever made. I am making more money than what I would have had in my stock management. I loved music more.
Women suffer sexism in the music industry, how is this different for men?
First, we need to call out the double standards we have as men. We need to start appreciating women in the industry. It is not easy for them as compared to men. The industry is in a way structured to favour men and is male dominated. That’s not how it should be. We need to encourage our women.
For a last born, do your parents support your craft?
I am the last born from a family of three. My parents are business people and my mom is also a teacher and contrary to popular belief, she has supported and taught me a lot since my journey began. However, she keeps pushing me to go back and finish school, which I will someday.
It is just a great atmosphere when all your family is behind you. The other day, my father came about posters of me in the streets. He did not know his son was that big, he called me right away. He was super proud.