What you need to know:
- “I am also committed to demystifying the myth that rappers and Hip Hop artists are all drug abusers and delinquents.
- "That is what my family thought when I began my journey in music. They considered me lost and never offered any support.
- "They couldn’t understand why I was staying late in the studios. Thankfully, they are now proud of my achievements and always share my songs," says Beatrice Kimaro aka Mama Lao.
Beatrice Jeremiah Kimaro, famously known as Mama Lao, is a popular Hip Hop artist from Taita Taveta where she was born and bred. She has been spitting beautiful bars and rocking airwaves for the past seven years.
The name “Mama Lao” was given to her while in primary school by people in her neighborhood who just could not get enough of her charming chants. Her extroverted nature and habit of humming popular songs in a mellifluous tone made her a favorite on the sandy white streets.
That is where her music journey began, and she joined the music club in high school where she entertained crowds during cultural performances. After her riveting performances, she remembers getting loud claps that still ring in her ears to this day. In high school, she was attracted to poetry, which sounded magical to her ears. Eventually she discovered spoken word, a form of evocative word artistry.
“I really enjoyed reciting Swahili stanzas in rap style. I desired to be like Nazizi or STL who were the dominant female voices around that time,” she says.
Mama Lao’s blazing talent soon caught the attention of Producer Amz, who nurtured her talent and gave her a platform to showcase her ability.
“My producer really encouraged me to stick to music, even when it seemed like my efforts were not paying off,” she says.
Beatrice’s first song was released in 2014. It was titled Mdodo, and was in Taita language. The single dazzled her fans who immediately took notice of her talent. Shortly afterwards, she began getting calls for media interviews, and invitations to perform at events. The success of the song gave her courage to forge ahead and produce a video.
A few months after releasing Mdodo, Mama Lao won her first award when she was named Best Upcoming Artist in the coastal awards. Two years later, in 2016, she finished as runner up in the Best Female Rapper category in Pwani Awards.
“I have been in the music scene for seven years, and over that time I have grown and reinvented myself to ensure my music is trendy and relatable.
It has also been a privilege to be featured alongside some of the greatest music voices from Mombasa such as Chikuzee, Kaa La Moto and Sharamaa from Ukoo Fulani,” She remarks.
As her stage name suggests, Mama Lao is keen on using her talent to better the society by highlighting the problem of prostitution, and warning the youth against crime.
“I am also committed to demystifying the myth that rappers and Hip Hop artists are all drug abusers and delinquents. That is what my family thought when I began my journey in music. They considered me lost and never offered any support. They couldn’t understand why I was staying late in the studios. Thankfully, they are now proud of my achievements and always share my songs.
“I am glad I changed people’s perspectives on rap artists, especially female ones. A significant number of women, including some dressed in hijabs, now attend Hip Hop concerts.”
Beatrice is worried about the state of Hip Hop in Kenya.
“Only established rappers have an active fan base. Most people don’t support or pay attention to local music, which is quite sad,” she says.
Her dream is to collaborate with Hip Hop star Khaligraph Jones on a music project. A feature with the Yes Bana hit maker, she says, would cement her musical career.
“Last year, on New Year’s eve, I shared the stage with the legendary Nyanshiki in Mombasa. The experience was surreal. It made me believe that collaborating with Khaligraph will one day happen,” she says.
Music is her full time job, although she engages in small businesses to earn a living. She describes her song writing process as sporadic.
“When the mood is right and the producer gets the beat right, I can write the lyrics and record a song within a day. Lack of finances, however, is a major challenge for me. Fans want quality music videos but they don’t know how tough it is pull together the resources.
“Also, I don’t have a management or support system. I would appreciate if I would get sponsorship or sign a deal with a record label. That would give me even greater confidence,” she adds.
The obstacles notwithstanding, Mama Lao has a number of projects underway with the likes of B-classic and sensational boy group Wakadinali.
To upcoming female rappers, she says, “The Hip Hop space is currently hugely male dominated. This could be a new frontier for you,” she said.