Telos: Kenyan Hip Hop Act Trabolee Talks Latest Project

Kenyan Hip Hop artist Trabolee recently put out ‘Telos: Preaching To The Converted’ a record that has been met with positive reviews across Hip Hop fans in Kenya. Trabolee describes the composition of his latest piece of art as just ‘Project’. Telos has been crafted not to appeal to the obvious of wonder; in hindsight as he states, Telos is not out to convince anyone, the project is about; self-awareness and looking within one’s self. I had a conversation with the artist on his recent project, how it was born….

“When you become a pro at something. You don’t have to “con”-form you can make the world chase you!”

Mabinda: Hey Trabolee, What’s good?

Trabolee: All is well. We give thanks.

Mabinda: What have you been up to?

Trabolee: A lot of non-music stuff for the most part like diving into literature and also trying to foster new skills that may come in handy in the future.

Mabinda: You just released your project Telos, how has the reception been like so far?

Trabolee: It’s been good, I love how organic the process is, especially in a time where artists have to be aware of people’s attention spans. I feel that was our intent when going into it, that the music should be able to reach the right people. My highest hopes are that new audiences will gravitate towards it so that I can mould my identity further.

Mabinda: Many Hip Hop heads in Kenya have hailed it as great piece others even calling it a classic, how do you feel about that?

Trabolee: You know what? All I can feel is gratitude because on this one I did not go in to prove anything but at the same time I wanted to curve a niche that would separate me from the rest. If it dwells beyond these times that will be the highest reward and I feel there’s a lot to unpack in the music which is self-aware enough that you can enjoy the melodies by themselves if that’s your cup of tea. I call that “acknowledging the paradox.”

Mabinda: Describe Telos in one word…

Trabolee: Cycles!

Afroway: Can you talk us through the Telos creative process how you took the songs from an idea to the finished product?

Trabolee: Every song had its own gestation period. Some were instant manifestations, as soon as the beats came through the speakers, they blended with ideas in my head. Some took a lot of push and pull for me to evoke certain emotions and convince myself that less is more, that spaces are powerful if used effectively. Some emerged out of fun and finding a common ground between Blaq and me, where we just wanted to express. You combine all these phases, some sleepless nights especially on the mastering, reducing the tracklist to a bare maximum and lots of conversations and vibing…. then Telos is born.

Mabinda: Why the title Telos: Preaching to The Converted?

Trabolee: The title evolved over time. “Preaching To The Converted” is in line with what I said before, “acknowledging the paradox” or rather, embracing the tension of opposing world views. If one is converted why keep preaching to them? Where it’s like you are making progress but at the same time you are held back by an identity that most think you still embody. You don’t want to be ‘pedestalized’ for the messages encoded in the music but at the same time you require the right platform to showcase your true abilities. The converted are both the new and the old, those who’ve known the music from the get go and those who are just there to ride the wave. I want my true self to be comfortable with that, I don’t have to convince anyone. So the music is rooted in that affirmation.

Mabinda: What common themes do the songs on this project share?

Trabolee: Self-Awareness, The Power of Doubt, Wholesomeness, Reflection, Choice and I guess there’s a dash of spirituality sprinkled throughout…by spirituality I just mean looking within.

Mabinda: This is your fourth solo album now. Looking back, how do you think your sound has evolved?

Trabolee: It’s actually my second. ‘THC’ was a mixtape and ‘Occult Lore’ was a collaborative album with Juke Myster (he now goes by Verbal Vayne). ‘All Roads Lead Home’ is my first solo album. I feel I’m finally coming into my own as a human being and no longer drowning in my influences. I can transmit the emotive quality that I intend to share or make music for myself or experiment on anything and imprint my personality upon it

Mabinda: Taking it that you would want to be in this game for long, what is your secret to longevity in the industry?

Trabolee: Haha If I tell it, will it still be a secret? Timelessness will tell.

Mabinda: What would you say is the biggest thing you’ve learned as an artist?

Trabolee: Listening. Listening to those who have grasped the practicality of things, listening to your musical peers, listening to the spirit of the times and listening to your gut, coz that’s your inner GPS.

Mabinda: On Telos you’ve worked with Romi Swahili, Akili Blaq and Buff Beats, How do you approach working with different artists across their varying musical styles?

Trabolee: There has to be some level of camaraderie first, once that is established a wavelength exists where ideas bounce of fluidly without one feeling like their voices are not being heard. Also I try to meet people as deeply as they’ve met themselves and that reflects in the collabos. If it’s bars, teaching, fun etc…The chemistry will be obvious.

Mabinda: What are your aspirations for the Telos release?

Trabolee: Working on creating different formats for the physical releases and also gearing up for dope performances. Word is bond!

Mabinda: As an artist on your own musical path, making great projects if we would say, we’ve got to ask…Do you at times feel pressured by the current climate to conform… and how do you deal with it?

Trabolee: Right now I’m comfortable in executing in all areas. I have made peace with sound and even the fact that most people on planet earth are here to be entertained. So when a situation calls for me to step out of my comfort zone again and again I’ll deliver but I’ll make sure I cash in the vibe handsomely! My 10 000 hours are clocking in and sometimes sentimentality goes out the window when you become a pro at something. You don’t have to “con”-form you can make the world chase you!

Mabinda: haha ‘con’ form… let’s divert….Do you believe in the law of attraction and speaking things into existence?

Trabolee: Yes, but the law of attraction is just one of the many laws of the universe, there are other laws that all work in harmony and in tandem with who we are as co-creators. Just know, the laws of nature over-ride the laws of nations. We speak things into existence every day what differs is the scale and magnitude at which this happens depending on our B.S. (Belief Systems). I’ll leave it at that, it’s all BS haha

Mabinda: Now to that clichéd question…What’s next after this project? Trabolee: Tra is Art. I’ll let the art speak for itself.

|Afroway | @amosmabinda


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