Willie Oeba is a man on a mission to single-handedly shift the spoken word and poetry landscape in Kenya.
In 2020, his name has been on the lips of numerous people thanks to viral, hard-hitting releases including
The two singles are part of his 14-track sophomore album, Dear God, dropping
Dear God comes exactly a year and fifteen days since Oeba put out his acclaimed debut album, ISM.
In an interview with Loud.co.ke, Oeba disclosed how the release of his first album put him on a path to changing the spoken-word game in Kenya and East Africa.
Oeba cut his teeth performing at spoken word and slam poetry competitions and various events including Loud.co.ke’s Freestyle Tuesdays series in 2018.
He quickly built up a large fanbase thanks to his charisma, ability to connect with audiences and, not least of all, witty rhymes and social justice messages.
The release of Ism, however, thrust him into the limelight and forced many to take notice of the young, dreadlocked wordsmith from Nakuru.
Among them was Kaka Empire boss King Kaka, who liked one of the tracks so much, Truth is, that he picked it up for his Wajinga Nyinyi series, his headline-grabbing releases tearing into the political establishment.
“It was re-released with a music video as Wajinga Nyinyi Part 4,” Oeba explained.
He maintained that the December 2019 launch event for ISM was the largest event yet organized and headlined by a spoken word artist in Kenya.
“The event was totally sold out, we even had people outside the venue (Agora Milimani). No spoken word artiste had done that,” Oeba noted.
Indeed, he hopes that it will be one of many firsts for a spoken word artist in the country.
That he easily sold close to 1,000 tickets in his hometown for his debut album launch, as an independent artiste, comes as no surprise to those who know Oeba.
For years, he has committed himself to connecting with fans, including by selling and delivering his merchandise and tickets to fans directly on the streets.
While many artists in 2020 confine their promo to the digital world, Oeba has different ideas.
He still boasts a huge social media following, but has remained relevant by being accessible to awe-struck fans who, in turn, continue to support his talent and ambitions.
“You know, you can have a big following online but on the ground you don’t have much of an impact,” he observed.
He has also stayed true to his roots inspiring a new generation of Nakuru artists with the #ProudNaxvegan campaign.
Oeba is keen on building an audience that stretches beyond the close-knit poetry community in the country.
His ambition is clear from the evolution of his sound from his first to his second album.
Even then, he is already cooking up game-changing projects eyed for release in 2021.
“In the new album there’s a lot of new sounds including some Afro-Pop, urban spoken word and Afro-Beats,” he revealed.
The album is conceptualized as a series of letters. The title track, Dear God, was dropped along with a music video on December 30.
Unlike last year when he did a massive launch party, Oeba plans on doing only a few small listening parties and, later, a virtual show. It is a pointer to the ramifications of the Covid-19 pandemic on music and entertainment.
Already, he is working on several big-name collaborations which he plans on releasing in 2021.
“The plan is to release a full length collaborative album next year and if the Covid situation improves, to do two festivals,” he stated.
Among those lined up to appear on the album are Rhumba Japani star Max Okello and Bensoul of Sol Generation among numerous others.
Noting that his first album focused heavily on lyricism, his second project leans heavily into musicality and production.
It was produced primarily by Jack Deus of Vantage Media, Anto of Tamasha and Denzel.