Simon Kimani, more popularly known as Bamboo, is an emcee who represents Kenya and currently lives in New York City. He was raised in Inglewood, California by parents of East African descent, and at the age of 17, his parents sent him to Nairobi, Kenya to eschew the potentially dangerous life they feared he might have if he stayed in Inglewood. Bamboo transferred the success he was beginning to have in California to Nairobi, acquiring a record deal and producing his first album, Nairoberry, with his group K-South in 2001.He formed the record label Project 254 in Nairobi with Kenyan emcees Tim Waindi and Attitude. Bamboo is also a member of the record label The Grass Company, and he states that he intends to re-record a previously released album "exactly the way [they] did it in Kenya but now with state-of-the-art equipment" in Atlanta, Georgia.
Bamboo was featured in the film Hip Hop Colony as one of the premiere rappers from Kenya, and in a clip featuring himself and emcees Big Mike and Attitude rapping over live guitar chords, Bamboo's style combines American and Kenyan content while being delivered in a markedly American accent and flow. When asked about the majority of his songs being in English, Bamboo stated, "Rapping in English is the only way to infiltrate the US rap game and get respect because without that respect no one will even bother with you. I was super excited to speak with Bamboo again. Enjoy the interview and remember to support our artists.
How and why did you choose that name Bamboo?
The name Bamboo came from some events in my childhood...The name was actually African Bamboo Sticks from some kids that used to make fun of me as a kid in school. I just dropped the "sticks" and kept the rest...lol
What led you into the world of hip hop?
When I 1st heard it I knew it was a movement that represented me... I could identify with it and it represented my generation so when I would hear the LL's and the Biggie's and Tupac's,Jay-Z's and Snoop Dogg's and such would rap along and I found
that I could do it too...I kept practicing and I finally started writing my own rhymes and recording my own songs. I just had to find my own niche and represent something that was unique and authentic. That took time,trial and error until I found what was naturally me and things began working out after that.
I know we spoke a couple of years ago about hip hop at that time and places that you think might need improvement - has there any improvement since then?
The hiphop genre is in a steady decline. It needs some fresh air. It needs some more diversity,one group of people cannot dominate the entire scene,its almost like there is an agenda to push a certain images and lifestyle that is self centered and materialistic. We need more Lupe Fiasco's and content that is thought provoking and uplifting as opposed to music that only objectifies women and worships money. Its getting kinda old I think. Surely hiphop has more to offer than just this? I'm bored with what it has become. Its like how Lauryn Hill sang in one of her songs. "Music is supposed to inspire,how come we aint gettin no higher"? Lol, I feel her completely...We need Lauryn back!!!
What are the areas of today’s Hip Hop (African Diasporan in particular) do you feel the world needs to know more about?
I think the world needs to know more about authentic and uplifting positive hiphop that come from the diaspora which inspires the listener to keep pushing despite whatever they may be going thru. I really feel that people are going through hardships and real life issues and the music we are subjected to has failed to represent that. The airwaves do not have their finger on the pulse of the people’s heartbeat but are instead pushing a fabricated agenda that represents a party lifestyle that is just not what our reality is. I ain’t knocking people who party, I did enough of that but I think there is more to life and the music than "drop that booty low" music,the whole "make it rain while I shake my booty" music scene is getting kinda redundant and we need something that can inspire a generation going through some serious social/economic/political hardships. This generation is worse than the last one and the one before that was worse than that. You can see the trend. Every rapper wants to do what’s popular and cash in quick. Money has quickly diluted this music industry into a watered down urban version of rock and roll,except hip hop pushes sex,drugs and money while rock&roll was sex,drugs and rock&roll. There is an agenda and a trend right now in the industry and it is getting worse. Its unfortunate but it is what it is and I'm just one of the guys who's not afraid to say it.
Now, a lot of people, some in the entertainment industry have stated that with hip hop not being originally an African export, that it will be close to impossible for people of African descent to make it in this industry - what are your thoughts on that?
I think that all we need are hot records that represent a movement of music that inspires people and it can happen.
Now let’s bring this to you - what has been going on with you musically?
I’ve been doing a lot of writing for other artists and shows here and there. I have an album coming out called "therealbamboo". We're doing the finishing touches on the album now.
What are some of the challenges that you’ve faced so far particularly after Nairobism?
The challenges are mostly in finding unique talent,and a team that is dedicated to the movement you represent. Once you find that,everything else flows naturally.
Where can we get your most recent music?
What next for you? Are you involved in other projects that we should know about?
I am writing some songs for Akon's new album "Stadium". Whether they will actually make the album I'm not sure. Thats upto his A&R's but if they don't take the songs then I know other artists will... I'm also on Kalina's new mixtape (Kalina from Diddy DirtyMoney) that she's working on and should be out soon...
Where will you be performing next?
I'll be in Columbus Ohio on the 17th of March
What are some of the awards that you’ve gotten so far?
Man there's quite a few...CHAT award in Africa (for young people) Best single, multiple awards from the documentary "Hiphop Colony" check out www.hiphopcolony.com
....I won a Kisima award as well as a few others...
What do you do for fun?
Read (my favorite book in the world is my Bible, work out in the gym, watch movies, I don't smoke or drink, I love to write and being creative.
Are you really single and ready to mingle?
Yes I am,for now... I was in a relationship for 4yrs with someone I grew to love over time. She says she is confused right now and I'm focused right now on my career so who knows? Guess I'm kinda in the middle...Lol
Be sure to check out my next single "Soldier" coming soon!!!
Interview By Pamela Stitch for www.pamelastitch.com.