Baloji rhymes in a intensely personal way about his life between the two poles of Belgium and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He was born in the Congo but grew up and went to school in Belgium. That complex identity has lead him to make some very rich music.
He sings and raps in French, but also Swahili and other African languages. (Baloji means “sorcerer” in Swahili and Chiluba.) So, don’t worry if you don’t speak French. It would take a pretty multi-lingual ear to follow every word on his second album Kinshasa Succursale. Just listen to the spark and locomotion that moves his lyrics. He’s not just spitting, his words themselves seem to travel across continents as he tells his story. A sorcerer, indeed.
Language aside, the 2010 album is a riot of pan-African and African diaspora sounds and styles barely contained by the basic idea of an acoustic/electric hip hop album. It includes collaborations with a whole music festival’s worth of other Congolese artists who contributed their voices and instruments to the project, which expands on 2008′s Hôtel Impala.
Konono No. 1 lent their electro likembe talents on “Karibu Ya Bintou.” It is the jam. Another memorable track, “Nazongi Ndako,” samples a Marvin Gaye song that took on personal meaning for Baloji as he was preparing to visit the mother he had never before met in the Congo. Gaye sings, “I’m going home to be with my mother” and his sentiments becomes Baloji’s, which become universal in the process.
Though he has a Belgian ID, he has said in interviews that he will never be Belgian, but that he will never be Congolese either. He has described himself as Afropean, but these are all details. What Baloji is, is a powerful emcee and boundary crumbling artist.
For further evidence, check the serious ’60s style in the video for “Les Jours D’ aprés/Siku Ya Baadaye (Independence Cha-Cha)”:
Photo Courtesy of Baloji