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Why Big Yasa’s shift to ‘WAPOA SZN’ is dividing Kenyans

Kenyan dynamic drill rapper Big Yasa, born Yassin Issa recently released his new studio album, ‘WAPOA SZN’, and Kenyans seem to split hairs on the trajectory of the young artiste.

Known for his hard-hitting tracks that have dominated the internet waves, Yasa’s sophomore studio LP marks a significant departure from his previous gritty persona.

While Yasa rose to fame with his aggressive Drill anthems, his new album reflects a shift towards a more vulnerable and intimate portrayal. With tracks delving into themes of love, relationships, and personal struggles, some fans are questioning whether this evolution is an authentic expression of artistic growth or a calculated move to cater to a broader audience.

Critics argue that Yasa’s transition to a softer sound risks diluting the authenticity of Kenya’s Drill music scene, which has been characterized by its raw energy and unapologetic lyrics. They question whether his exploration of melody and emotion is genuine or simply a ploy to attract mainstream success.

However, supporters of Yasa applaud his willingness to explore new musical territories, praising ‘WAPOA SZN’ for its depth and emotional resonance. They argue that artistes should have the freedom to evolve and experiment with different styles without being confined to the expectations of their audience.

As Yasa himself puts it, “WAPOA SZN’ is me exploring another side of my sound and personality. There will be more melody and emotion, and it’s only right that we share this labor of love during the season of love, because I’m dedicating this piece of art to the ladies.”

Whether this exploration will elevate Yasa to new heights of success or alienate his core fanbase remains to be seen. But one thing is certain: his evolution as an artiste is sparking a heated debate within Kenya’s hip-hop community.

In 2022, Yasa released his debut studio LP dubbed ‘BIGGS’ that was a fusion of rattling Drill offerings, Old school Boom Bap beats, and more – as he etched out his intention of not being boxed into a Drill sound singularly.

His significant features in the same year included “Bae” assisted by femcee Silverstone Barz and AJAY from Buruklyn Boyz. Others were “Last Air Bender”, a popular cut that appeared on Buruklyn Boyz larger-than-life debut album ‘East Mpaka London’. This era for Yasa was symbolic of the dominance of Drill in Kenyan Hip Hop’s soundscape, and Yasa emerged as one of the main characters that catapulted the sound to mass popularity.

In the same year, he also co-headlined Boiler Room x Ballantine’s True Music Studios: Nairobi – that reflected his grit, ethic, and doggedness to be among the rap elite.

Fast forward to 2024, his second studio LP ‘WAPOA SZN’, a project that sees his ominous and baleful stance get dimmed for a more vulnerable and intimate Yasa. The EP caresses parts of Yasa’s relationships with women, family, music, upbringing, and more effectively. Singles including the croony rhumba-leaning “After Hours” tapping Mangaa Fella, the Jersey-sound bopping “Use Me” with emoter Silas Piper, the dire “Over 18”, and the latest radio-friendly, breeze-ready “Don’t Leave Me Alone” that takes on a more nimble and unguarded Yasa persona.

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