The Shuffle: “Prices” harkens to that one time when Camp Mulla eclipsed Wizkid

Camp Mulla should have never left.

To understand just how big Kenyan hip-hop super group Camp Mulla was/is, when they reintroduced themselves through an impromptu concert in Nairobi after 5 years underground, music forums around Africa went crazy.

This is virtually unheard of for an African group, even more for an East African one who were all teenagers without proper representation when they debuted. But there is just something about these five, especially their charismatic female vocalist Karun that resonates with young Africans. Many argue that if Camp Mulla hadn’t temporarily disbanded, they would have eclipsed Africa’s biggest export and former contemporary Wizkid. Like Wizkid, the group’s peak culminated influence that spanned across Afro-urban culture and mainstream pop. Though Camp Mulla’s split at the turn of the decade robbed us of a world where the forerunners for African music are as progressive as they are youthful and uber-talented, the theory that Camp Mulla could have levelled on the the same ground with the Starboy is put to test when they featured Wizkid on “Prices” one of the main singles from their 2013 album  Funky Town. 

The first thing that stands out about “Prices” is Karun. A singer with enough charm to sway an entire continent, Karun was often the glue that held Camp Mulla’s often experimental songs together, and the honey that lured in listeners and kept them through the varying styles of the group’s rappers. She is on top form on “Prices”, vocal samples of her ad-libbing are threaded into the song’s contemporary hip-hop beat, acting as an undercurrent over which tribal inspired drums, a staccato synth riff and chopped and screwed string are layered. With a verse, several hooks and a bridge, it is mostly her song. The group’s rappers follow, each deck loaded with a braggy, swag filled verse about how the group’s life and fortunes have changed since their music went mainstream and their fan base swelled. But the only person who really goes toe to toe with Karun is Thee MC Africa who shares the chorus with her, and Wizkid who tucks in an early verse at the start of the song, setting up the tone for the entire thing.  Swaggy and brimming with confidence, “Prices” is the kind of feel good song that goes straight to evergreen classic.

It’s hard to believe that 5 years have passed since this super collaboration was released, the production is still so fresh and the vocal work and instrumental will definitely get people pumped on any DJ’s rotation. Man are we glad to hear they’re back. Perhaps it’s time for a Wizkid/Camp Mulla rematch.

Listen to “Prices” here.