Whenever you hear someone talk about social consciousness, you immediately think of someone looking for funding from NGOs or one talking about how downtrodden the youth is. Not so for gospel rapper Juliani. He can send the message about hard life but in a way that compels you to take note. Juliani wants to do more than just spread the word by offering inspiration as well.
“People want to be inspired in life and not to always hear about bad things which is how I do my songs,” says the 35-year-old. “I want to do positive music, I am an artist, born again but I don’t want to limit myself in religious music. I want to offer hope and inspiration to humanity.” He says his lyrics are deliberate and structured to have the exact same effect they do whenever they are played. From the wit to the spacing, Juliani wants his listeners to take in every word he utters. “I really love it when I meet people who say they love my music and go on to recite of my lines. I feel I have done something positive. You know, I don’t just write a song, I write lines as they come to my head and a song depends on how I weave those lines to make sense and appeal to people,” he adds.
Juliani, whose real names are Julius Owino grew up in Dandora where gangsters and “superstars” live side by side.” He always dreamt of making it big and he knew music would facilitate that. “I was a good boy and I never mixed with bad company like many of my peers did and ended up in crime. I think my parents instilled some serious discipline,” he says. Juliani started music in High school where he was deskmates with another brilliant upcoming rapper Roba of the group Wenyeji. He would later join Ukoo Flani Mau Mau, a group that consisted of rappers from Dandora and Mombasa and has produced rappers like Wenyeji, Cannibal and Sharama, G-Rongi among others.
His first single was Si ndio which he says he used to rap at F2 (Florida 2000) club. His breakthrough was when he contributed in Ukoo Flani’s album, Kilio Cha Haki, where, despite being little known, his song, Fanya Tena was an instant hit. He would later bring his talent to the group’s second album, Dandora Burnin’ where he proved that he wasn’t a one-hit wonder. His song Jesusnosis was a stand out track that blew everything else away. “I got saved in 2005 and I released a DVD as some of my solo projects in a compilation which, thanks to DJ Moze of K-Krew gave to Emmanuel Jal who was so impressed he signed me up immediately to his label, Gatwitch Records,” recalls Juliani.
The future can only be brighter for this lyrical genius whose dream is to have him become an international household name. “People are looking for Christ and I want to lead them to Him while at the same time inspiring them and I hope my dream comes true,” says Juliani. That dream came through when he was able to live up to expectations during his scheduled tour to the US and UK later back in 2009. “Mtaa Mentality” is an “SI” unit for any rapper who wants his music to be more than just a compilation of words that rhyme but to have life and entertain.
This article was originally written by Philip Mwanki for Daily Nation.
Check out his interview with Cate Rira below.