Retro Reviews: Elevating the Power of Rap Through Creative Storytelling in Asaph’s ‘Kingsvilla’ Albums


The calendar year is 2015. Tafadzwa Tarukwana saw it fit to switch from Kwanfire to Asaph. He dropped the Gospel Hip Hop title. With that came back-to-back albums; two of the most authentic and the best storytelling hip hop albums out of Zimbabwe. 


KINGSVILLA 1 & 2 are projects you can only do if you are trying to impress Mbo Mahocs. The projects were mostly produced by L.A Josh, the brilliant Charlie Zimbo and Dj Dakudu. Dakudu also produced the most recent Big Mhofu EP. Still nice as ever.


In the interviews preceding Kingsvilla 1, Asaph made sure to mention he believed that there were not enough authentic stories told in Zim Hip hop (it has been better since), ergo he took the initiative.

The irony of discussing authenticity and the album begins with Asaph lying to a woman that his name was Nkosi. 

He mentions the deed in the Nas inspired BYO State Of Mind midway through the album. In  hip-hop, it is generally preferable to play with the truth. 

Artists rightly have the license to employ fantasy, metaphor, mythology, abstraction, sentiment and exaggeration. Even when representing a lived reality, one’s own or someone else’s.

The epitome of poetry, authenticity and reality is in the track Burg Sosh

Asaph exhibits the power that rap has in order to teach and inform through story-telling. The tale is narrated brilliantly. 

His city narratives are heartbreaking as the reality of peer pressure, rape and alcohol sink in. 

The lyrics take a huge part of the song; the music is almost forgotten, but, the sombre instrumental makes up the perfect setting.

In branding himself as “authentic”, he may have set the very standards by which his music has been assessed on the overall. By extension, everyone else. Hip hop is relentlessly fact-checked. Rap critics and fans alike have made a habit of rubber-stamping only those artists whose lyrical tales and public personas are verifiable. 

Phonies get zero love. Even rap artists themselves have passed judgment.

Its a pride thing. You do have to be popular but being authentic is currency in the game and Asaphs bank is healthier than most. The man can claim as much cultural authority as the most trusted media correspondents.


An entire world built in under five minutes. One enamored with a story featuring simple yet intricate details, and fascinated by a rapper who wrote not just as a songwriter but as a creative author.

Zim Hip-hop has a not very long lineage of exceptional narrators. While stylistic changes over the last four years have altered the approach many artists take with their music, the basis of most rap songs is still fundamentally predicated on lucid storytelling. For the animated purposes of teaching or, at the very least, informing.

On Kingsvilla 2, the Mambo rap star builds an entire concept on the back of  being a pastors kid. It is a narrative that runs on a coherent but turbulent continuum in the two albums.

Asaph presents the life of a conflicted soul.  As the listener, we enter the mind of a man in a suffocating grip of an existential dilemma.

School brings him no joy; he drops out. 

Rap gets him into night life and clubs and the hotplate daijes, but by Sunday morning he’s in church with the family. 

And the ZESA shortages too. 

Understanding what his world was like as he sat through the stares of congregants who could not fathom how someone would preach redemption but could not control his own son — that takes a lot of artistic courage.

Even the way Asaph delivers his verses carries a certain rasp that makes the songs feel like an out-of-body experience. Ethereal. There’s a layer of intricate focus necessary to build potent, apt narratives and identities for listeners.

It is something you can easily relate to as a youthful city dweller. 

These are the stories of plenty lost souls finding their way back to meaning and substance. Life is like that. And rap lyrics and instrumentals portend the much-yearned redemption that is often elusive in this alienating world.

Open Arms wouldn’t have worked as a song without considering all the nuances of telling a real story. This same perspective is what makes No Regrets such a breathtaking tale. Depressing as it is.

Availability of Asaph’s Kingsvilla albums

The disappointment is both albums are not readily accessible and available. But they should be. Kingsvilla 1 is available on Spotify as a combined mix on YouTube, and Kingsvilla 2 is available for streaming and download on Audiomack. One can also look up Soundcloud.

Some standout tracks include Kingsvilla, Queensvilla, Burg Soash, Masiyiwa Moves from KINGSVILLA 1; and  City Hall Benches, SNDR, No Regrets and Open Arms from KINGSVILLA 2. 

Asaph refused to die on the city hall benches. A spectacle to behold.





p.sBe also sure to stream his latest project Big Mhofu, under Def Jam Africa, which is available for streaming on the digital streaming platforms YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music, and Deezer. 

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