“Be bold, open to new experiences and learning but most importantly, do not give up.” – Ruby V
If you are a fan of Kenyan Hip Hop then Ruby V is no stranger. She is young, fierce, very hard-working and has an attitude that screams that she is ready to take over the world. Ruby V is a radio host, content creator, founder of UnKut Africa and mental health advocate.
Often our inner selves already know what we want to be in life even as children. This was the case for Ruby V but it did not quite happen the way she thought it would. Finding herself in a field that she did not know much about would soon result in her name being synonymous with Kenyan Hip Hop, the birth of a company and an awards event. I had a conversation with Ruby V to learn more about her journey, her thoughts on Kenyan music as well as some of her projects. She gives us tips on how to thrive in the entertainment industry.
Tell us more about yourself and what you do.
My name is Ruby V, a content creator and host at Homeboyz Radio, hosting Weekend Breakfast every Saturday and Sunday from 6-10 a.m. as well as Hip Hop Culture every Saturday from 7-9 p.m. I also have a company called UnKut Africa whose main aim is to shine a light on talented upcoming artists.
How did your journey in radio begin?
I started off as Mwalimu Rachel’s assistant back in 2014. She had these events called Class In The Sun and I was in charge of the guest list. A couple of months later, DJ Finalkut asked me to join Hip Hop Culture and the rest, as they say, is history.
Was this what you dreamt of doing as a child?
I have no conscious memory of me wanting to be on the radio as a kid. However, a few years ago I met a friend of mine from primary school and she said that’s all I used to talk about so I’d say yes!
Let’s talk about UnKut Africa, how did that come to be?
We started as UnKut the Cypher back in 2016. I called up the most active rappers at the time to be part of the Cypher in celebration of the steps we had taken in 2016 to propel Kenyan Hip Hop further. In 2016, I got to attend a lot of events centred on Kenyan Hip Hop and loved how positive the vibe was. In creating UnKut, I wanted to amplify this and give rappers some sort of hub where they could get together and be their most authentic selves.
What drew you to Kenyan hip hop?
I was assigned a Kenyan Hip Hop show and out of fear of losing the spot because of lack of knowledge, I started researching more about it so I could always have new info to feed the fans with and keep them glued to my show.
In 2019 there was the blast of the #PlayKe campaign, in your opinion what do you think has been its impact and what is the way forward?
As I’m sure you have noticed, we no longer have events such as Naija Night and there is a lot more appreciation for Kenyan music. Gengetone, though it isn’t my cup of tea, is reigning supreme across radio and TV stations. A few of the newer artists are also getting recognition for their work and that’s great.
However, I think beyond just making noise online about this, Kenyans need to support more by buying their favourite artists’ music and attending their shows in large numbers. Playing music isn’t enough; we need to buy it too so that these artists can earn from their talents.
Tell us more about UnKut the Cypher
UnKut the Cypher was the very beginning of this whole UnKut Africa movement in 2016. We’ve helped boost a lot of Hip Hop artists’ careers throughout the 5 previous seasons. So on March 7th, we will have the 6th season and we want to go back to the basics with the Cypher. I’ve got 28 badass rappers ready to take it to the next level. It’s going to be a different experience. Nothing like it has been done before, trust me!
What has the interaction with the artists been like for you?
It’s been great. So far I haven’t met any artist who’s been proud or acted any type of way. It’s always mutual respect.
2019 was a big milestone with the UnKut Hip Hop awards, what was that like?
The planning was very hectic. There were so many sleepless nights, anxiety and feelings of doubt. The actual event though was very beautiful. You know that feeling you get when you’ve put so much into a project and it actually works out? That was how I felt all night long. Seeing everyone all flashy in their suits, and fancy dresses and the excitement that surrounded it elicited an indescribable feeling. My highlight was definitely people walking up to me to tell me how they were blown away. The fact that I was able to do that with the help of a few friends and no corporate backing really encouraged me to keep at it. This year’s gala is definitely going to be so much better than last year’s. Wait and see!
UnKut Africa also started UnKut Mental Health Ke, what inspired that?
In 2018 my younger sister tried to commit suicide in our home. It was a very horrendous experience for my family. I beat myself up thinking, “I should have seen this. Why did I miss it?” I consider myself a very observant person so I couldn’t understand how I did not see the signs. I didn’t see it coming and I felt really bad because, at the time, I’d spent a significant amount of time with her and never saw it.
The horrible experience, however, got me thinking if this had happened right under my nose, how many others have been in the same exact position or have lost people to mental illness? So I created the page to offer that encouragement; “ You are not alone and there are ways you can help manage your illness.”
What has been the impact so far?
We’ve been able to encourage people to embrace their weaknesses no matter how difficult or “soft” it may seem. I’ve been approached by a few people who have told me that my story helped inspire them and it honestly feels really good. I feel like I am helping and leaving a positive mark in people’s lives. You never really know the impact of your social media outreach until you get feedback.
What has been your proudest moment so far?
Definitely the UnKut Hip Hop Awards. The fact that I was able to do what has never been done in the history of Kenyan Hip Hop and that no one can take that away from me no matter what.
The Hip Hop industry is male-dominated, how has the experience been for you as a woman in the industry?
It’s been crazy. I’ve got so much hate but I’ve also got love. I stayed true to my path and slowly but surely some of these “haters” have converted into my biggest supporters.
What keeps you going?
The fact that I am not where I envision I could be is based on my will to work hard and smart as well as my talents. I have this deep conviction that I can do more and greater things.
What advice would you give to anyone looking to venture into the entertainment industry?
Have a clear vision. Why do you really want to do whatever you have set your mind on? Be bold, open to new experiences and learning and do not give up. It may be tough but you’re tougher.
What do you think will keep you awake at night after this interview?
Probably trying to do proposals and planning for the upcoming Cypher show on March 7th.
What should we look out for in the future from Ruby V?
There’s going to be a very visible difference in the way I handle my business. Expansion, merchandise and a lot of fun community projects that are open to every and anyone.
Read more about people doing great things in the entertainment industry. It Gives Me Great Joy To Play Music That Helps Listeners Be Proud Of Their Heritage And Individuality – Ayrosh