New Year’s resolutions. Every December, New Year anticipation spreads across the country.
Back in 2010, on December 28, my mother sent me to the supermarket to do chapati shopping – it was that time of the year, after all, when every household in our neighbourhood had that hotel aroma.
Television stations that week were doing a recap of the year and giving predictions on the coming year. The anchors would then end the segment with: “What is your New Year’s resolution?”
One of the businessmen that inspires me is Gary Vay, and his tagline is, ‘Do something about it’. So many people had told me I had a rap skill and a business skill, so I told myself that my New Year resolution would be to do something about it.
On the chapati shopping list, I included a notebook and pen, and got started on my resolutions. I told myself that by the end of the year, I’d have an album and a couple of videos under my belt.
I knew it would cost money, yet, my ATM was lost somewhere in the house. I didn’t bother looking for it – I had no money in my bank account anyway.
This was happening around the time I had declined an offer to join Moi University in Eldoret, and instead took an accounting course in Nairobi so that I could be closer to the music action and close to the opportunities.
My aunt used to call me the Defiant One, so when Dr Dre and Jimmy Iovine put out a documentary called The Defiant Ones – I smiled at that futuristic coincidence.
In the documentary, there is a scene with the words: “Work hard to get it, and work twice as hard to maintain it.”
Anyway, I got started on my resolutions on January 1, and as I worked on building my career I’d keep referring to my list.
That saying that your network is your net worth is absolutely true. I called J Blessing, who is now an international video director.
We had been friends for a while and he owed me – I used to buy him lunch during our days at Nairobi’s River Road; I joked all the time that he could pay me back with a music video given that his video directing craft was growing. It came to pass.
I had a song called Staki Kukuona, and on February 11, 2011, its video was released. Our budget was Sh2,000, and that went to food and transport. Everything else was the network J Blessing and I had.
I was always leaving the house and coming back late – and the reason for this wasn’t school. So there were moments when I would come home late and my mom would encourage me to work hard in school – I wished she’d say studio.
I had to prove that music would pay off, and since it was my number one love, I worked tirelessly.
When you push boundaries on what you do, you move into frontiers and realms that have never been tested before.
I worked with the producer Dice and put out a mixtape that I dubbed The King (keep in mind I had small fan base but bragged about being the King; later on, it was another thing that came to pass).
Every item on my list had a purpose. The mixtape solidified my name on the streets, and I had a song and a quality video on mainstream media.
I then dropped the video for Kiwewe, which featured Bwenyenye, and my hard work started getting recognised.
But I also wanted to make money for gigs, which were not coming my way.
The attention I was getting was growing and I saw myself in a full-page newspaper article; that was a sign that hard work (pays) – that’s in brackets because I wasn’t getting hard cash.
I started looking for alternative marketing avenues that would give me money.
I launched my clothing line that same year and the T-shirts had lyrics from my songs. They were selling like crazy, and the money finally started flowing in. I was not a music guru, but every chance I had, I read about Russel Simmons and how he shaped the music business. I wanted to be like him.
Once again, I went back to my resolutions and crossed off ‘Kaka Klothing’ from the list.
I started working on my second album, with most tracks assembled by Kevin Provoke, a producer.
I was also deep into alternative marketing, selling my clothing line and my mixtape on the streets as I waited for ‘gig money’. My mother once told me not to put all my eggs in one basket – I think one of my teachers, Mrs Wakaba, mentioned it, too. I listened.
The bottom line is that I ventured into so many avenues that would end up generating money later for the King Kaka brand – from a water company and graphic design firm to a management stable, clothing line and consultation firm.
What I learnt early on is that fame does not equal money. What matters is how you translate that fame into money.