H_art the Band drops hot, new album, #MadeInTheStreets.
By Katelyn Skye Bennett
In 2012, three young men met at Kenya National Theatre in Nairobi. The young men called themselves H_art the Band, and together they began their climb to fame by making music on the streets.
The group’s hit song “Uliza Kiatu” originally gained them acclaim in 2014, and the men became known for their spoken word, dreadlocks, and eclectic fashion sense. The artists continued to build their music until they broke into the pop scene, where the band is now solidly entrenched.
H_art the Band’s debut album, Made in the Streets, initially released exclusively on the African music app Boomplay on July 26, captures both the group’s spoken word roots and addictive pop flavor. The band shared it here two weeks later as well. It was produced by Gituamba.
Using its atypical style of writing on Facebook, the band said, “MaDe In tHe StreeTs album was inspired by the HUSTLE and work put in through our life & musical journey.” The group explains its story leading up to larger success here.
Here’s the Breakdown on the Tracks
The album kicks off with poetry in a love song called “Mystical,” ensuring listeners that while they are contemporary pop artists, they have not lost their uniqueness. The song is a beautiful, slow beginning to a largely upbeat album that’s sure to be hitting the clubs.
Next up comes “Linda Moyo,” which features the alto vocals of Nyota Ndogo. It’s good filler track with the chorus sung by the female guest about protecting her dignity and saying not to hurt her heart. Fans were first introduced to the song in a lyric video at the end of March.
Track three was released on Valentine’s Day with the caption, “Most Afrikan Men are shy about showing their Lovers Affection in Public though deep down they want the whole world to know she is yours and nothing or no one can change that.” “PDA” is a solid club banger that features Kaskazini’s suave vocals. Like the track that follows it, it’s a catchy hit, perhaps the star of the album.
“Usiseme No,” the song of a frustrated lover, is another pre-released single co-written by the band’s good friend and fellow pop artist, Bensoul. The young men previously collaborated together on “Masheesha.” The chorus of this new song, a repetition of the title, is catchy. Like most pop, the song is simple, though the verses contain more details on the subject’s heart’s woes.
“For one, she’s poetry,” track five begins. “Number Wan,” featuring Seyi Shay, is a beautiful love song about a lady the man saw dancing and now wants to be exclusive with. “Give me your number, call me your lover,” the pair sings to each other over a clappable beat. “Let me be your number ‘wan’,” they declare. While set at a club or dance, it’s consensual and sweet.
H_art the Band follows this up with “Lover Lover,” an aptly titled song the group recorded with Bensoul again. Their new song contains a Latin feel, which is unique since most Kenyan music is influenced by Jamaican reggae and riddims along with American hits. “Lover Lover” highlights the work of Kenyan pop stars that are fire when they work together.
“Ukimuona” serves as another filler at track seven, but it will have your head bobbing as you go about your business. The group truly knows how to produce good pop music. The album is stellar, and the band’s endless energy transports fans to the dance floor both in concert and now through this album. As of August 7, this track ranked third on Boomplay’s weekly “Top 100 Kenya” playlist.
“Bad Manners,” featuring Victoria Kimani, was the last of the singles the group pumped out leading up to the album, just two weeks before the full release. Starting with some brief strings and adding low, husky vocals, the song somehow carries a sense of smokiness atop the driving rhythm. The music video, released along with the direct audio, affirms this description.
“You’re bad, bad, bad, oh you’re bad but I like it,” the lovers sing back and forth. It’s explicitly sexual and perfect for a steamy night. It’s also another major hit from Made in the Streets.
To switch things up, H_art the Band follows it with “Papaya Family,” the most unique track on the album. It’s a story about a dysfunctional family as illustrated by papaya fruits and told court-style. The deep-throated choir of “La la la la’s” and two-octaves-higher woodwind are over the top, adding to the exaggerated humor. If you take a step back, it’s also heartbreakingly real. Mr. Papaya cheats, lies, and is lazy, and Mrs. Papaya acts the same. The people in court attest that the family is in ruin, but the band’s creativity is not.
Bringing the listener back into a truly lighthearted place, the band has done a remix of its hit “For You.” This new version features Cindy Sanyu’s vocals. It’s as if the band can do nothing wrong. What was a perfectly good, rather humorous tune is now remade with its key elements set to a faster beat that’s now fit the dance floor in Muse Club.
“Golden Chances,” featuring Randy Valentine, seems to tell the story of the band. The slow chorus proclaims, “I will not lose my soul digging for golden chances.” It’s a noble promise for a band that has recently exploded upon the Kenyan pop scene, yet so far it has been true. The song is as nostalgic as this album gets and would serve as an excellent song to conclude it.
However, the debut album finishes with an obligatory Gospel track, since in Kenya, both sex and Jesus sell about equally. The song, which features Cedo, quickly received positive comments from listeners in the 85% Christian country. What’s interesting, however, is that the track is called “El Shaddai,” a Hebrew name meaning “God is enough.”
The band has embraced the Rastafarian lifestyle in many ways, with its use of Jah, fondness for weed, and dreadlocked hair, though all of these could also be seen as appropriation rather than religion. The group is religiously ambiguous. Thus, the twelfth track is a clever money move, both in its inclusion on the pop album and in its content. The song is vague enough that both mainstream Christians and Rastas could vibe to it.
It wraps up with the overused Serenity prayer for the bridge, and though not as musically creative as the other tracks, it has already seen success in the short time it’s been out. “El Shaddai” ranked second on Boomplay’s weekly “Top 100 Kenya” playlist, updated August 7.
While H_art the Band’s pre-released singles and previous hits can be found on platforms including Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, Deezer, iHeartRadio, and YouTube, the rest of Made in the Streets is available to stream or purchase on Boomplay and Mookh.