Baloji has, over the past decade, captured the imaginations of music lovers the world over. Born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to a Belgian father and Congolese mother, he spent the first years of his life with his father in Europe, where he was often at odds with his environment. Through his experiences as an African man in Europe, he gained a deep awareness and understanding of his own and others’ identity, which has filtered into his music and poetry.

 

Baloji

Photography by Kristin-Lee Moolman

In the early ’90s, Baloji formed the Belgian hip-hop group Starflam with his friends; they released their self-titled debut album in 1998. The band worked on several albums together before Baloji decided to quit the industry altogether in 2004. It was the discovery of a letter from his mother, whom he hadn’t seen for over 20 years, that sparked not only a return to music, but a return to his roots. Shortly afterwards, he released his first solo album, 2008’s Hotel Impala.

It was a bold album, with standout tracks like ‘Entre Les Lignes’ and ‘Ostende Transit’ and ‘Coup de Gaz’ cementing his place as a solo musician.

Now, 10 years later, he has a string of acclaimed albums behind his name; his latest, 137 Avenue Kaniama, is perhaps his finest yet. It is a ground-breaking, ambitious and African in every sense. When the release of the album was announced, we knew we could expect great things. From the opening track, Baloji captures the listener as only he can, blending different sounds and influences together effortlessly.

 

Inspired by Baloji? Explore more creatives from the African continent here.