A Chat With Trabolee on Toxic Masculinity, Hip-Hop & Writing.

When the stars align I'll say your scars are mine

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Ink Overflow: When did you decide to become an entertainer?

Trabolee: It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment in time because I believe at a certain level, the core essence of life is that we are here to entertain and be entertained regardless of how serious we think this whole experience ought to be. In that regard it’s always been a part of me, be it in always trying to make people laugh at home or breakdancing in my teen years and currently making music… I may want to unearth all these tools at some point to incorporate them in my craft and even learn some more.

Ink Overflow: How did you find music?

TRA: Growing up I was surrounded by Michael Jackson, Bob Marley, Lucky Dube and a lot of Central African music, thanks to my parents, which I all enjoyed but I always found myself gravitating towards MJ most of the time – might have been due to the creativity in his visuals and style… that was until one of my relatives came to visit with VCR tapes full of 90s Hip Hop and R’n’B and from there I was hooked. I think the first Hip Hop song I ever heard was “Bow Down” by Westside Connection. Then poetry and literature became an obsession of mine and the closest hip-hop artist at the time who was expressing himself in ways I could relate was Kanye West, the rest, as they say, is history.

IO: What’s the story behind your name?

TRA: Trabolee *Truth Reigns Above but Only Love Exists Eternally* is an ode to KRS-One, who when I really got into hip-hop had a huge impact on my impressionable mind with how he approached the craft with vast knowledge and broadness of perspective. It made me want to add an element of depth to my art and let it reflect through what I created.

IO: How do you structure your rehearsal days?

TRA: In some form or fashion I’m always in rehearsal mode in my mind but when planning for something specific I try to create a flow to the pieces or make it more thematic.

IO: What is your writing process?

TRA: Sometimes it’s playful and unorthodox but there’s a method to the madness depending on content, context and mood. For some songs, I just harmonise off the top but when I’m trying to be more deliberate with the message, it may hit me in one sitting or in chunks of inspiration. A conversation or a life experience may change the course of a verse or a song.

IO: How would you describe your sound?

TRA: Unbounded and fluid.

IO: What would you have done differently if you knew then what you know now?

TRA: This question reminds me of a Logic hook LoL.

I would forge more meaningful friendships and follow my gut feeling as often as I could.

IO: What’s the best advice you ever received?

TRA: An artist who’s relatively more successful once told me that whatever it is you are doing, do it again and again until it’s obvious and undeniable to all. The journey is not linear you’ll always come back to what you thought you had understood or grasped with greater awareness and it will be more impactful and clearer the next time.

IO: What is still your biggest challenge?

TRA: The challenges that I face, I only see them as stumbling blocks that will eventually turn into stepping stones. It’s all a matter of me shifting my perspective sometimes.

IO: Is music full time for you?

TRA: At the moment it is.

IO: How has the Kenyan music industry treated you so far?

TRA: Honestly It hasn’t treated me in any way because I’m not an integral part of it…yet!

IO: What inspired the last song you released?

TRA: The last song would be “Know Now” and prior to that was “Feedback” they are both parts of my next project that’s coming soon, whose basic idea is trying to find the ultimate purpose of all things from music and to abstract ideas of life and so the songs are charged with sentimentality from angst to confrontation and eventually hope and knowing.

IO: How do you deal with creative blocks?

TRA: I distract myself with other activities, might watch something funny or one time I discovered the best way is to hang around my young nephew and niece who are like little gurus especially in the areas of detachment.

IO: How have you defined masculinity and femininity in your life?

TRA: I’ve always been fascinated by the duality of life – be it joy and pain death and life etc – and how understanding and integrating both can lead to that wholeness we all yearn. To me, masculinity and femininity exist in each individual and sometimes transpire into our systems of government, cultures and institutions masked as ideologies and isms, and some might suppress one in favour of another but balance is essential for humans to thrive. If the dominant ideology on the planet encourages and rewards elements of toxic masculinity then the progress of many things will be stifled, for example, competition may be regarded as more beneficial and thus limiting creativity and imagination.

IO: What advice do you have for other musicians and entertainers?

TRA: Create a body of work and evolve with your craft.

IO: What principle most guides your career and life?

TRA: Authenticity.


Come see Trabolee perform on the 18th of June at the Michael Joseph Centre. Get your tickets here!


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