Daniel Kigozi Jr, the artist better known as Navio, is a young,
dynamic and talented musician who’s been one of the pioneers of the hip hop scene in Uganda. Despite being only 26, Navio has spent over a decade in the industry and his growth to become a major star has mirrored the growth of hip hop itself in Uganda.
Music was an unlikely career choice for the youngest child of an engineer and a doctor but right from the beginning, Navio showed a knack for musical and lyrical composition far beyond his years. At the age of 16, he formed the hip hop group, Klear Kut, with four of his closest friends: Tom Mayanja aka The Mith, Jonathan Leslie aka J-Baller, Abba Lang aka Langman and Habib Abdul Hussein aka Papito. Little did they know that from humble origins, it was to be the beginning of a musical journey that would take them to uncharted heights of success and popularity.
Mind, Body & Soul
Hip hop was a much maligned “foreign import” and, despite the best efforts of Ugandan rap pioneers like MC Afrique, Prim n’ Propa and D&D Slam, had yet to find a mass audience. That all changed when Klear Kut dropped their debut album “Mind, Body and Soul” in 2000.
With five explosive MC’s in fine form, radio friendly production from legendary local producers, Dawoo and Steve Jean and collaborations with numerous local R&B stars, the album was a smash generating several hit singles including “All I Wanna Know” with Julianna, “Remember” and “Let’s Get It On”.
The album had the good fortune to arrive at a time when commercial FM stations were mushrooming across the country and it received wide airplay across the country. It also marked the first time that Ugandan hip hop began to receive positive mention and award recognition across Africa.
In 2002, Klear Kut was nominated for two Kora Awards, the continent wide awards known as the “African Grammies”, for Best Single and Video for “All I Wanna Know”. On the back of their debut album success, Klear Kut were the first Ugandan group to ever appear on MTV Africa with several of their hits enjoying regular airplay and notoriety.
In 2003, the group released their second album, K2, which had a harder, less commercial edge than their first album. It enjoyed similar success however, mainly off the back of two giant hit singles “Mon Coeur ‘Murder of Crows’” featuring Rania and the remix of the crowd pleasing “Superstar” featuring Bebe Cool. They then picked up their first major awards in 2004 at the PAM Awards, Uganda’s leading music industry awards, where they walked away with Best Hip Hop Group.
A break from Music.
At around the same time, Navio started to take his first steps towards a solo career. Having started out so young, there were still a number of steps the group members needed to take and after great early success, they made a decision to complete their education before resuming their careers. Thegroup went in different directions: Langman went to Germany, J-Baller to the U.S, Tha Mith to India, Papito to Rwanda and Burundi and Navio to South Africa.
Just before he left for South Africa, Navio wrote and recorded a song that would become one of the most popular of his career. “Rukus” with Peter Miles was such a generational anthem that four years after its release, it was featured in the finale of Big Brother Africa in 2008. During his hiatus from music, he occasionally collaborated with other artists as he did with all girl group, Blu 3, on their hit song “Burn” in 2007.
Klear discussion and preparing on second album.
After several years of studying, Navio officially returned to the
music scene in 2008, with a degree in communications from Monash University in South Africa and a new company, Navcorp, an entertainment company set up to manage his affairs.
Now a fully fledged solo artist, he got to work on his debut album, “Half the Legend”. Throughout 2008, he released several songs that would form the basis of the album: “Bugumu, “Salooni” featuring GNL, “Ngalo”, “Badman from Kamwokya” featuring Bobi Wine and “Respect” featuring Jua Kali. These hits brought him numerous accolades including: winning Best Hip Hop Artist at the PAM awards and nominations at Kenya’s Kisima Awards for Best Male Artist, Best Music Video and Best Hip Hop Artist.
In between working on his debut album, Navio also found time to work on a unique concept album: traditional African music fused with a hip hop sensibility. It was an idea he had been considering for years and in 2006, he had found the perfect
partners in the group, Percussion Discussion.
One of the finest folk music groups to ever come out of the African continent, Percussion Discussion, have performed across the globe bringing their blend of socially conscious African rhythms to an international audience. With three members of the original Klear Kut crew: Navio, Tha Mith and Papito, the two groups came together on a two year journey to form a once in a lifetime concept album: Klear Discussion. Fusing the lyrical hip hop flow of Klear Kut with the soulful African instrumentation of Percussion Discussion, the unique album received rave reviews from both hip hop fans and traditional music purists.
While preparing for “Half the Legend” Navio also received the rare honour of becoming the first artist to ever be nominated twice in the same category at the Kora Awards. Both Klear Discussion’s “Klear Discussion” and Blu 3’s “Burn” featuring Navio were nominated for best song at the Kora Awards in 2008.
The launch of “Half The Legend”
In May 2009, Navio launched “Half the Legend” at a star studded concert in Kampala supported by local stars like Bobi Wine and Julianna. It’s the latest chapter of a successful career that now sits at a crossroads. Having successfully conquered the East African market, Navio is now taking the next step and looking to make his name internationally.
African Hustler Music
This fall, Navio headlined his first American tour where he performed at the Uganda North American Association (UNAA) event in Washington as well as large crowds in Boston. On November 5th, Navio will launch his second studio album, “African Hustler Music” at a star studded Uganda launch. It’s the next step in the evolution of an African star.
For videos, go to his YouTube Playlist.
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