Congo-born Belgian-bred virtuosic rapper Baloji (or “sorcerer”) is hard at work promoting his LP Kinshasa Succursale, an African-language version of his French debut, Hotel Impala.
Baloji is our highly deserving Artist of the Week, thanks to the voting power of his proud, diverse fanbase. He’s busy in New York spitting his patented blend of visceral poetry and pan-African instrumentation, but he still took the time to chat with us about language, recording Kinshasa in the police-controlled Congo, and his mom (he wrote Hotel Impala for her!).
Is there a big hip hop scene in Belgium?
Not really, but there are some really strong artists like Gandhi. Unfortunately, there’s just no window for exposure or huge support for locally grown hip-hop in the media
Where is your following based?
Belgium, France, Congo, Brazil…and hoping to build more in the USA this year!
Do some words sound better in Swahili and Tshiluba than they do in French?
Tshiluba is the most melodic language ever, but French has so much more of a range of words to choose from to detail an exact feeling or idea. As far as in the music, we use Swahili and Tshiluba more in bridges and for melodic parts of the songs.
And your album – which are you more proud of, the Hotel Impala or the African version of it, Kinshasa Succursale?
Kinshasa has some Hotel Impala songs because the musicians wanted to play them and bring a special twist to it! But Hotel Impala is still my first child!
What compelled you to make the album twice?
Soulwax did an album called Nightlite Versions which was an electronic album based on their original rock project. I really liked that idea and the result – I like the idea of combining musicians and the MPC — analog with the digital.
How did your mother react when she heard Hotel Impala?
She just asked for her share!
Were you bothered at all by secret police when you were making Kinshasa Succursale, and has there been any backlash since?
Lots of backlash but that’s a sign that people care…we did this album in 6 days without any pressure. Some people were scared of singing some of the lyrics because the media in Congo is still controlled. There are no independent labels in Congo – only beer & telecom companies who sign on with musicians, so they have to be careful of their subjects matter, or the company will lose their audience. Basically, we printed out 100 copies of the CD and gave them out for free on the streets. People bootlegged it and it got out there – As long as people here hear the music, that’s all I care about!
What are the lyrics in “Karibu Ya Bintou” about?
It means “Welcome to the Limbo.” This song talks about our own strength, about being/thinking “out of the box” and differently. The song also talks about the fact we all wear masks as sorcerers.
Describe your live shows in three words!
Giving our best!
What’s next for Baloji?
Next is pre-production for the next album for early 2012, and finding a great booking agent in each territory so we can do lots of touring around the world playing music! We want to release Kinshasa Succursale to a wider audience in Europe and the United States this year — so we’re working on that.
Check out Baloji’s unique fusion hip hop in “Les Jours D’ aprés/Siku Ya Baadaye (Independence Cha-Cha)” off Kinshasa Succursale
Photo Credit:Jerome Bonnet