Compared to the previous decade, the 2010s have not been the best musically speaking. While the quantity increased, and the quality of videos improved tremendously, the music itself is at best forgettable. You can sample each night club’s playlist and you will notice that this decade gets the shortest shrift of time.
Part of the reason, is that the tune of the music changed from the hard beats of Kapuka and Genge, often to a mushier fusion of R&B and Kapuka. Elani are a good example. Others include Elani, Le Band and Kiu. Whereas Kenyan DJs (in Nairobi, outside Nairobi, Kenya music gets played by the way) show the least love to Kenyan music, it doesn’t mean that Kenyans don’t listen. Some of the best songs have averaged 1 million views on YouTube and the comments have been largely positive, even when barring those paid to say nice things.
This decade, Sauti Sol, Khaligraph Jones, King Kaka, Fena Gitu, Wangechi, Octopizzo, Elani, and lately Naiboi, Bensoul, Magix Enga have been phenomenal.
These are the greatest songs of the 2010s.
25. Bablas (Hangover)-The Kansoul
Nobody knows why the song is good, but it seems to make people so happy when it is played in every club around 2.37 a.m. every weekend night.
24. Kama Kawaida-Kagwe Mungai, feat. Mayonde, Fena Gitu &Muthoni Drummer Queen
Kagwe Mungai has been a good addition to the local music scene and here, he teamed up with the leading female vocalists to give us this feel-good party song.
23. Masheesha-H_art the Band feat. Bensoul
H_art the Band came in with force, as an alternative to Sauti Sol who were already chocking us with good tune after good tune. Their oeuvre was extremely versatile. And in Masheesha, they captured what was increasingly becoming a Nairobian nuisance: hookah smoking. In a hilarious narration, the song captures a typical night in the mid-2010s in Nairobi, and years from now, it will be one of the songs that will induce nostalgia in when those in their 20s will be in their 40s.
22. Doing her thing tho-Fena Gitu
This power anthem to the Kenyan women who rock was one of the greatest songs of 2017. In the song, Gitu bigs up some of the more phenomenon women of Kenya, telling them to do their thing…The jumpy bumpy rhythm makes the song all the more exciting, and Fena’s sassy voice with the whose permanently cheeky smile renders some warmth to the song.
Nameless always tries to be innovative, by being a minimalist, releasing one good song every four years. He went ahead to learn Luganda, in order to seduce his Ugandan crush. The song has the kapuka feel that Nameless discovered and the lyrical flow of Kiganda.
20. Bebi Bebi-Atemi Ayungu
Atemi had been around, but only those familiar with the Kenyan music scene could have known her, outside the Tusker Project Fame. But now, with this 2015 release, she gave Kenya one of the best love and wedding song of the decade. Singing with all her soul, and her expressive voice got us all singing along, and feeling soapy. Kinda.
19. Baadaye-Amos and Josh ft. Rabbit King
Rarely do we sing dirges and sometimes we don’t know what to play when we lose a loved one. It was a great gap that Amos and Josh teamed up with King Kaka to fill when they gave us this weepy ballad. It was our answer to Whiz Khalifa’s See you again along with Charlie Puth, dedicated to Fast and Furious’s Paul Walker who died in a car crash. Or Backstreet Boys’s Show me the meaning of being lonely.
18. Tuzidi-Calvo Mistari & Bobby Mapesa
Bobby Mapesa had disappeared completely from the music scene after churning some silly and amusing songs in the 2000s, before delivering one of the greatest rap verse in Kenya, in Nonini’s Mtoto Mzuri. They fell out with Nonini over royalties and he did take a swipe at Nonini and his P-Unit in this song, and they did respond, calling Bobby Mapesa a chokora. Calvo Mistari is not one of the most talented rappers, but he has amazing staying power from those days of Lyrical Assassins. But in the song, they created the sickest beat and their rapping is on point, even though nonsensical.
For that rude bass.
15. Lethal-Smallz Lethal feat. Sage
Some great beats have been created in Kenya. And whoever who did the beat of the song, scored a big deal, giving it that hip-hop and R&B edge, and Sage was perfect on the chorus. Smallz Lethal’s rapping has been questioned, but it is a smash hit, nonetheless.
14. Ndizi flow-Raj feat. Smallz Lethal
Raj came through, raising the profile of the Abagusii. In the song, the two sons of Omogusii, fuse sheng, English and Ekegusii to deliver this feel-good song about the Abagusii community.
12. Something for you-Octopizzo
Sampling Slim Ali’s 1976 You can do it, Octo did what American rappers have done all their lives: sampling known and less known hits of the 1970s and 80s. His flow in the song was tops, with a hook that confirmed that Octo was onto something.
11. Chaguo la Moyo
At 17.7 million views on YouTube, need add any proof? It is a perfect duet, easy, R&Bish with a catchy message of love.
10. Nairobi-Mayonde feat. Stonee Jiwe
Great songs about Nairobi have been done before, but in this decade, Mayonde, one of the best vocally gifted singers in Kenya teamed up with Stonee Jiwe to paint us a picture of Nairobi in verse and chorus. The beat is elevating, and you are likely to bump your head and if you like Nairobi, this is a great sing-along.
9. Micasa Sucasa-Khaligraphy Jones feat. Cashy
Using Mobb Deep’s Hell on Earth beat, Khaligraphy dialogues with Cashy, dropping some catchy lines, and Cashy was the right partner for the song. Sad that their story didn’t have a good ending.
8. Bamba-Abbas Kubaff
Abbas did great jams in the 2000s. But it wasn’t until 2015, when he released Bamba, creating a bit, sampling Dennis Edwards & Siedah Garret’s Don’t look any further, (and we must say one of the best samples, we daresay, better than Tupac’s Hit’em), combining with his superb lyrical delivery and and nonsensical rhymes, the song though criminally underrated was a banger. And if he never makes it back, this was a good exit.
7. Dundaing-King Kaka feat. Kristoff &Magix Enga
The party song of the year 2018. One of the few songs that got Kenyans off to their feet in the club. The song did receive some good vibes internationally.
6. Digi digi-Arrow Bwoy
Arrow Bwoy is Kenyan but lives Uganda. Definitely a top ten club banger of the decade.
5. I do-Will Paul feat Alaine
Outside his controversies, Will Paul has given us some great tunes, and this cross-continental collabo was a smash, with its danceable beat, reggae feel, sing-along tune, and their perfect duet, definitely lands the song in the top 10 category.
4. Take it slow-Zikki feat. Jaguar
From the beat, to Zikki’s limpid tenor, to the catchy lyrics about dating across the class line, was awesome. The dialogue approach was also innovative. It is funny that, Jaguar, one of the most disparaged musicians, added some magic to the song…
3. Now you know-Nyashnski
Nyash was one of the greatest rappers of the 2000s with Kleptomaniax. He disappeared for nearly a decade before coming back with so much force and as he raps in the song, “sijarap kitu kaa kutoka 2006 hivi, trust me, siwezi rust me, ata niache muzuki miaka hamsini hivi, nikirudi bado, nawacrush nyinyi,” he lived to the hype. Some will say that Mungu pekee was a better hit than Now You Know, it could be, but this was the best come back, as Nyash raps from his hearts to quell the rumours and remind us that he is still the king.
Ever since XYZee released Juu Yako in the aughts and Didge’s Saa Zingine, there was hardly a Kenyan love song of note. And when Elani released Kookoo, they got us singing like we were in love again. Both the young and old, found the song to be so addictive and cemented Elani’s signature tune in our minds. The video shot on Wabera and Kaunda Street, is a simple reminder that love is as simple as sharing an ice cream cone with your loved one…And love makes all of us to go kookoo.
- Sura Yako-Sauti Sol
This is the song that turned Sauti Sol from stars to superstars. The song blew up Sauti Sol to continental fame, spawning collaborations Yemi Alade and Tiwa Savages, arguably the greatest female musicians in the continent this decade.
The song that drew inspiration from the Coastal chakacha beat, with a decadent lead guitar and a dancing style that never quite caught on, but the song was a banger, from every corner. The nearly 8.8 million viewers making one of the most watched music video in Kenya.
An honourable mention goes to Le Band and Suzziah’s Number 1…
Any annoying omission or surprising inclusion?