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Popular US based SLMTV award winning Sierra Leone hip-hop rapper, Kao Denero clears the air on the issue between him and other Salone rappers, how he escaped the fire incident in a hotel in Kono, Eastern Sierra Leone, during his last provincial tour; and the ˜Freetown Most Wanted” star says he’s not controversial and he’s no troublemaker.
Salone Jamboree (SJ): Thanks for accepting this interview.
Kao Denero (KD): You’re welcome.
What is your New Year 2010 resolution, if any?
I would first of all like to wish everyone a Happy New Year; my fans, friends and foes alike. 2009 was a very good year for me; to God be thy glory. The first Black Leo album came out and I am looking forward to my “Victory” album, which is already completed but I had to hold it back not to outshine my Black Leo artists. I am looking at the possibility of collaborating with some other artists. I don’t want to elaborate on that for now.
What’s your most memorable moment for 2009?
Hmm¦I think wining the SLMTV Music Award in Maryland, USA, was perhaps the best moment for me in 2009. Even though I don’t measure my success through awards, but I think winning that award says a lot. Bob Marley never won an award neither 2Pac Shakur but their songs continue to create impact in people’s lives. I appreciate the award and I am now looking forward to the KORA, SOURCE, BET and the MTV awards.
That reminds me; a fellow rapper, Nova Soprano, beat you and few others to win the best Sierra Leonean rapper award at the SLMTV 2008. You were quick to put up a statement in your myspace.com bulletin discrediting the organizers and Soprano. A year on you were named the winner. Any comment on that?
I don’t want to pull the Kanye West situation here¦ Kanye is the dude who has always been mad after award shows. It is not Nova Soprano’s fault; SLMTV was taking the wrong direction at that time. Imagine, they did not do their research well, they don’t know who was “hot” in Sierra Leone music or in short they were lost. Nova should have refused that award. I am not suggesting that I should win every award but my story speaks for itself. I did hip hop in Sierra Leone when it was not comfortable and safe to do it.
What do you mean it was not “safe”?
When you do hip hop music then, you were not guaranteed air play in neither radio stations nor night clubs, it was a risk doing it. You have to go against all odds to do it. Traditional music was the anthem then. Traditional, mixed with reggae, calypso and a little bit of hip-hop that’s what Sierra Leone music was by then. Some people termed their music hip-hop simply because they rap. There is more to hip-hop than rap. There was no money in hip-hop then. I did it probably because I was in the US and was more interested in the “game” than the money.Â Fast forward it to present day Sierra Leone, hip-hop has taken over. You’re not hot in Sierra Leone if you don’t do hip-hop music by courtesy of Kao Denero. Tell them I say so¦
Every December Sierra Leone has been a favorite place for you. Why are you here this time, business or pleasure?
I am here for business. I came here for “The Untouchable”, the Black Leo compilation which I did with various other artists who are affiliates of my crew. I don’t sign artists, I leave it open for those who want to stay in ¦ remember it goes with benefits also if you are affiliated with us but if you want to leave the choice is all yours. I don’t tie artists with contracts because I believe I have grounds to cover myself but I am willing to help people as much as I am willing to help myself. The game was going down here and I had to come and save it. I did the best show at the National Stadium in 2009. I came when everyone was afraid to do shows at the stadium but I bet myself if Kao can’t save it for hip-hop then who else can.
Each time you came down here trouble brewed between you and other artists. Are you the troublemaker?
I am a peaceful person, I don’t go out looking for trouble; people who know me can testify to that. This whole thing boils down to jealousy. I hate to say this but Sierra Leoneans in general are jealous. I am a Sierra Leonean myself but we hate to see people doing well. The public should ask themselves these questions: Why I don’t have problems with other artists doing R&B but rappers? I don’t have problem with musicians doing traditional music. Manzu avec C-bolt are my people, DX-3? We’re cool, X-project are my guys; is just that these rappers see me as the one holding this position they desperately want so they thought the only way they can get here is to get me out. I am not a weak person either and if I feel like you speak to me musically, I am gonna speak back because that’s what hip-hop is all about. Hip-hop is not reggae music, nor soul music where we can all get along.
The foundation of hip-hop is “I can rap better than you” and the next person says ˜I can rap better than you”. So if you can’t defend I can rap better than you, don’t do hip-hop. I hear people say: ignore them. The day I ignore a rapper is the day I retire but Sierra Leone fails to understand that. It’s cool to get along but if someone who’s not at your level tries to talk or smack you lyrically, you smack him up too. This is a different country and people think differently. I understand when people see me as the bad guy. They’re just trying to get fame out of me. I just had a meeting with the Vice President yesterday and we were kicking it like little boys. He is a big man and I respect him so much. He appreciates my good work. I am not focusing on these little rappers who are trying to diss you just to get some attention.
What’s the issue between you and fellow rapper LAJ ?
Oh, Supa Laj?
No. I mean LAJ of “Money nar bank” fame?
<Laugh>¦ oh, that’s imitation. Somebody already got the name Supa Laj and another rapper calling himself LAJ. Look for another name.
What’s the issue between you and LAJ?
No comment, it’s not important and I don’t want to talk about it.
So what’s the present relationship between you, Dallas B, Pupa Baja& Bow Wow Society and YOK 7?
I am cool with Dallas B and for the rest I don’t want to talk about them. The thing is Murtala, I respect your job; I have done five albums to my credit. I have sacrificed a lot of my money, my time and my energy. I have a family in US and I always leave them to entertain people. The thing I don’t like is when someone with just one song just up trying to fit yai (molest) you that’s how we say it in Krio and people who are suppose to talk don’t talk. Somebody with just one lucky, lucky song. I am talking about ˜E Morna˜Ar taya, ˜Gentriâ, ˜In D Club, ˜Lef Bad heart,˜Let it Show, ˜The Day, ˜Salone Bobor, ˜Mr. President, Baby¦ all these classic hip-hop songs. These guys don’t have these songs and so we are not on the same level. Can we talk? No we don’t have to talk. Until they make songs like that we can’t talk. I am mad and sad at the same time. I don’t have to talk ¦ people like you have to, the radio DJs, they don’t have to save face. I understand that niggaz waana save face because when they see that person they want to grab money from him. Let us say the truth so that little rappers coming up will not look at Jimmy B and spit in his face.
You stated in an earlier interview that your next album, which is tentatively titled ˜Victory”, will be the final album for Sierra Leone after which you are done with Sierra Leone music. Please tell us more?
I love the game, I love music and I love doing music for my people but I hate the ˜behind” politics that comes along with it. I am talking about some radio stations that sabotage people’s shows if you don’t deal with them. I am talking about all these fake promoters that feel that they control Sierra Leone music and the DJs too. I hate all this jealousy and envy stuff. Imagine the hotel where we put up in Kono during our provincial tour burnt down. Imagine if that was during the night while I was asleep.
Let me hold you there. What was responsible for the fire?
Nobody knows what happened. We went for a rally and we heard that the hotel was on fire. Even the guy that owns the hotel sustained fire injuries. I know he knows nothing about that fire incident but I don’t know what this game is coming into. It is out of desperation ¦ I know artists will do anything to get that fame. I know of incidents like that in Guinea. I’ve heard stories of artists losing their voice on stage.
In other words what you are trying to explain is that they are using black magic in the industry now to get to where they want?
COMING SOON: In Part II of this interview Kao Denero contemplates on going back to school, talks football, separates music from family life and much more. Courtesy of salonejamboree.com
Definitely, definitely. Imagine that fire started right under the bed I was sleeping. I am not going to leave here by mistake, I will die when God Almighty wants me to die. It’s gonna be my story. God wants me to stay and do music, he wants me to sit here and do this interview with you. I can’t help it if am shining, getting too much love. Look at Africell sponsoring me. I didn’t ask Africell to sponsor me. They did their research well. They came up with the fact that Kao Denero is the hottest Sierra Leonean artist. They came to me and we collaborated and they are the number one GSM network now. It’s not my fault musicians; it’s not my fault that I can make music that people can relate to. I’ve gained popularity since my primary school days. I don’t remember not being a school Prefect in my class. Go to Lungi and ask about Amara Denise Turay, St. Augustine Secondary School. Nobody has the b**ls to stand in front of the assembly and give a speech. I got all this before music. You see, I was born to do this. I don’t even try too hard. I didn’t do anything for fans to be putting their shirts for me to step on them. Please leave me alone and allow me to do music so that you can be proud of being a Sierra Leonean. I helped niggaz, I jumped on their songs and do the remix. I connect artists in the US with DJs here.
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