Video shot and edited by Mario Bergmann
Born Yallah Gaudencia Mbidde in Kenya and raised in Uganda, MC Yallah has been involved in East Africa’s rap scene since 1999. Alternating rhymes in Luganda, Luo, Kiswahili and English, her conscious, poetic and experimental style was slow to creep into Uganda’s mainstream. Following a brief but necessary hiatus, she returned to the stage in 2018 with a new lease of life accepting her role as a central component of the Nyege Nyege/Hakuna Kulala family.
“Yallah Beibe” is the fiery follow-up to Yallah and Berlin-based producer Debmaster’s acclaimed 2019 debut “Kubali”. After her tour plans were cut short as COVID-19 broke out in 2020, Yallah returned to Kampala and started work on her sophomore album at Nyege Nyege’s villa. The process was more complicated this time around, developing pointedly from an initial back-and-forth with Debmaster and flourishing as beats appeared from Japanese producer Scotch Rolex and Congolese club maestro Chrisman. The finished album is an international patchwork of futuristic cyber-rap experiments fastened together by Yallah’s unforgettable personality and elastic flow.
More charged than its predecessor, “Yallah Beibe” is an apt soundtrack to a challenging era. Yallah is an experienced and versatile MC and channels her layered understanding of the complicated global cultural landscape into 12 stories that skate through trap, dancehall, club and industrial styles. Her authoritative guiding force is never more evident than on ‘No One Seems To Bother’, a collaboration with Duma’s gravel-voiced singer Lord Spikeheart. Trading bars over Debmaster’s slippery, bass-heavy rhythm, Yallah and Spikeheart ink an alternative East African sonic landscape, with activated lyrics (“the world is going under, no-one seems to bother”) and rasping, death metal-inspired groans.
“Yallah Beibe” is a call to action, a loud siren that’s intended to educate the wider world of East Africa’s shrouded history and bright future. Yallah’s collaboration with rising star Rati Gan ‘Bigbung Song’ is the best evidence of this, looping Rati’s Afro-Caribbean dancefloor flex and Yallah’s politicized flow around a twisted bass-heavy beat from Chrisman, joining hands between the DRC, Uganda and the wider diaspora. Tracks like ‘Baliwa’ and the anthemic ‘HERA’ meanwhile completely center Yallah’s signature lyrical dexterity, playing her tongue twisting raps against Scotch Rolex’s pan-global foley-trap splatter. At times, the sounds feel as if they’re from their own planet entirely – a fourth world that’s rooted in collaboration rather than appropriation.
If “Kubali” re-established Yallah as a force to be reckoned with, “Yallah Beibe” cements her status as one of the world’s most exciting MCs, both on record and on the stage. There’s nobody doing it quite like her.