By Martin Siele (@S_iele)
At the height of Gengetone‘s popularity in 2019, Hitman Kaht was undoubtedly the genre’s most important producer. The now famous ‘Hitman Ting Hitman Ting, Badman Ting Badman Ting’ tag could be heard on almost all the biggest hits – everything from Gwash’s Wabebe to 34 GVNG’s Olunga and Wanati’s Nare Nare. Since then, a lot has changed.
He is still one of the most prominent artists/producers in the country and is behind hits across different genres, such as Mbogi Genje and Exray’s hardcore Kuja Mbaya. He has recently been riding high with his own single, Kenya Sihami featuring Scar Mkadinali and Mastar VK.
Gengetone, however, is no longer the undisputed top genre in the country and the group he was once a part of alongside Vuva, Guantai, B-Razor and Shagwah – 34 GVNG – split up after various disagreements. Hitman, also the CEO of Bridge Records, terminated his label’s contract with the group.
In an exclusive interview with Loud.co.ke on Saturday, April 3, Hitman Kaht added his voice to the much-talked about ‘Gengetone is Dead’ debate, acknowledging the rise of other genres even as he highlighted the crucial role Gengetone played in the renaissance currently being witnessed in Kenyan music.
“Gengetone isn’t dead but it’s not what it was two years ago. Back then, you just needed to drop a good song and a video and fans would be all over it. Now fans are looking out for quality even in the visuals, concepts and the music itself.
“The game has changed but people should stop hating, Gengetone is what brought back attention to the Kenyan music market,” he asserted, explaining that fans were hungry for content when the chart-topping genre first emerged in 2018.
Indeed, the success of Gengetone drove fans to appreciate talented Kenyan artists across all genres including RnB, Shrap, Afro-Pop and Drill – as evidenced by the rise of new artists such as Buruklyn Boyz and the new-found mainstream appreciation for Kenyan artists who had been killing it for years such as Wakadinali and Boutross.
Now, Gengetone’s most important producer is cooking up a whole new sound he promises will shake the industry. And while most fans regard him as a producer, he is keen to build his brand as a solo artist while shaping a larger vision for his label Bridge Records Entertainment.
“I think (people see me as a producer) because in Kenya the culture is such that there are hits people love but don’t even know the artists behind them. Like right now, Shamra Shamra (by Joefes, Mbuzi Gang & Mejja) is a big song but many people don’t know who the artist is.
“There was also a time when Gengetone was all Hitman Kaht beats before other people caught on and started riding the wave. Right now I’m cooking up a new wave that they won’t be able to ride that easily,” he revealed.
He is planning a series of major single releases in 2020, as he looks to rebuild his brand as a solo artist and establish himself at the top of the game. He has shelved the release of his EP – dubbed Afro-Urban- that is supposed to introduce fans to the new sound.
“Most people refer to Hitman as a Gengetone producer but I produce across different genres. I was producing before Gengetone and I already had a vision for my music, career and my label. Even if I produce an Ohangla song tomorrow, best believe it will be the best Ohangla ever.
“I was planning to release the EP called Afro-Urban to unveil new sounds but I put it on hold to build my brand as an artist and to release a number of singles and videos first,” he stated.
Before breaking up earlier this year, 34 GVNG had experimented with various unique concepts in 2020 -such as Legend and Mangwariti featuring Mbogi Genje, shifting away from the club bangers they first hit the scene with.
Noting that it proved his versatility both as a producer and artist, Hitman stated that he planned on taking over the streets with club bangers once again in 2021.
“This year Bridge Records wants to make music that will be everywhere – in the club, in the streets. Music that can be listened to by everyone including youth, parents, older people and even children.
“I’m releasing a new single very soon, I’m sure the fans will love it, just as I’m sure they’ll love the sounds I’ve been cooking up for Afro-Urban,” he noted.
Since the exit of 34 GVNG, Hitman has been the only artist officially under Bridge Records Entertainment. He stated that while he was keen on eventually signing talented artists to the label, he was currently focused on building his solo career.
“Life after 34 GVNG has been good, I can’t complain. Now we want to take Bridge Records to the top,” he stated.
Hitman noted that internal disagreements over artists’ alleged indiscipline combined with other factors in the industry meant that 34 GVNG could no longer exist.
Dashing fans’ hopes of a re-union, he asserted that a comeback of the group was not anywhere on his radar.
On the resurgence in Kenyan music, Hitman noted that he was impressed by several artists who have captured fans’ imagination.
“I really like where the industry is at and what artists are doing. For example I really like Trio Mio and what’s he’s trying to do, I also like Buruklyn Boyz and I’m glad artists like Wakadinali are finally getting their accolades,” he noted.
Collabos, however, also aren’t on his radar in the near-term as he looks to drop a number of solo singles.
Looking towards the future, Hitman told fans to get ready for a Bridge Records take-over of the charts in 2021 just as he was at the heart of the rise of the Gengetone with several chart-toppers.