FYI Houston’s Amelia Marie interviews Ugandan hip hop artist Cruise Leseaux and they discuss politics and economy in Uganda!!!
Last month I (Amelia Marie) had the chance to sit down with one of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s most promising upcoming rappers, Cruise Leseaux. We met in the Congolese sector of Uganda’s bustling capital city, Kampala, where Cruise is trying to make a living spitting the truth and making traditional Congolese crafts. He faces many challenges as he is a political refugee, and not a Ugandan citizen. Nonetheless, he is doing something positive, in the face of adversity.
So tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Aganze Maombi Bertin, and my fans know me as Cruise Leseaux. I’m a young rapper from Congo. I came here in Uganda in 2012. I came here as a refugee because of the war [in Congo]. According to what I am facing here in Uganda as a refugee, it’s kind of mentioned in my music, what I do. More people here don’t really trust people who are not Ugandan. That’s what’s really making me so sick, and what’s really giving me trouble to get shows and to meet people. It is not easy to work here.
What inspired you to be a rapper?
My inspiration came from a young rapper. He’s an immigrant from Algeria. He’s called Medin. He really sang the things which I am facing here, all over the world, and in Congo. I got the inspiration to talk about what is really bothering me in my heart. So that’s why I’m really writing the music which is for freedom and peace, because as a rapper and refugee I really don’t have that freedom, and it really hurts in the heart. As me, Cruise, if I wasn’t a rapper, I could be a soldier, a rebel. But I don’t know how to use guns, I know how to use the microphone. So I am representing as a rebel in hip-hop.
What do you believe is your best song, and what is the message it sends?
My best song is Tous a la Base. I think it is putting all the [listeners] on point, so if we are all on the same point, we can bring change because we shall be having the same mind, the same heart and the same ideology. It means we all have to have the same mind so we can bring a change in our community. We can fight our problems around us if we are together.
You say it is difficult to be rapper in Uganda. Why?
Because here in Uganda I can’t get connections, and they (Ugandans) don’t trust me. They just pretend to be good with me, when we are talking, but like, to put my music up, or to give me the mic to speak my mind, they just give it to their fellow Ugandans. They don’t take me as their brother.
What is the thing that you would like to see change the most?
The thing which I really think about changing in the world is people’s behaviour. They are thinking different because they don’t have information. So I feel like I can change people’s minds with my information. That is why I use my music as a gun to change people’s minds.
What else do you do to support yourself?
To support myself, I am an artist. I make Congolese kitenge and art. So with that I can get some food and money to go to studio.
You are involved with an arts project. Tell us more about it.
The project is called HHN22 Arts All, It is an art group founded in 2010 in Congo, then restarted in Uganda on the 21st November, 2012. HHN22 means “Habilitation, Hameau (Hamlet), Nacre (Nacreous)” and 22 is “The force of strength to work and determination”. It’s an open group that welcomes individuals of different backgrounds and nationalities. The major aims/objectives of the organization is to discourage both youth and adults to stop prostitution and other criminal or negative acts/ attitudes through performing Art.
What motivated you to start this project?
I got the motivation from the situation in which we live as refugees. There are lots of challenges, that prompt many to indulge in dubious acts. By participating in this project, they are able to live with self esteem and are able to earn a simple living out of this.
How does your family feel about you living in Congo?
The situation does not allow me to live in Congo. Am now living in Kampala as a refuge.
Does your family support your hip-hop?
No, I get not even a single help from my Family. My Family does not want me to be in Congo because Congo does not support revolutionary Hip-Hop. And in fear of what might happen to me, am in Uganda.
Your hip-hop is conscious. Why do you think so many other rappers are doing unconscious hip-hop? They don’t send out positive messages. Why do you think it is this way?
Well, we have different motivations and so different messages.
Do you plan on going back to Congo?
Yeah, I really think about it but you know my music really sticks out against the government. So I am fearing that the government might do something to me. So I and the government are not friends. They can really give me problems. So that is why I am fighting for my freedom here in Uganda, so I can really do something for change.
What can people listening do to help Congo?
I think people can just try to change behavior in Congo. People don’t have that information. You can find a rebel and ask him why he is fighting and he will tell you he does not know. He was born during war, and he is now just there fighting because he grew up in it. What people can do, people who have the opportunity, they can give information to Congo and help people to change their mind. I wanted to use my hip-hop to change what is out here. What people outside can do is to educate Congolese people, inform them so they can know what is really happening. There is nothing else about it except educate and change their minds. I want people to know that Cruise is there, he is doing hip-hop. He’s doing that conscious hip-hop which can get a helpful message out. If you support nature, if you are a supporter of peace, really pay attention to what is happening in Congo. Those people are really suffering. Don’t do anything that contributes to that suffering. Learn about it and their environment.
I want people to know that hip-hop message, some other people can do good, they have that message to change, but they don’t know how to do it. So hip-hop can help people to get their message out. I know many people like me who are doing a good message, but no one wants to help lift them up. So that is why I have Tous a la Base. Myself alone, I am so weak because I don’t have people there who can be there for me. I still have that fear to speak out because I fear to be knocked down.
Is there anything else you want the world to know?
This message is for the Congolese government: I’m telling them to stop what they are doing. I know they don’t know what they are doing. They think they are putting themselves in happiness, when really they are killing people. They have to cool down and think what Congolese people are facing. Who is causing all the problems in Congo and why are those problems in Congo? So if they think about that, I think change can come out. Tell those people in Congo to stop what they are doing. They are putting non Congolese [foreign investors] to lead Congo. They don’t have that heart of Congolese to lead people, they are just looking for money and minerals. They are stealing, imagine in a country so rich, yet there are people so poor there and suffering, you can’t imagine. People from outside are raping the country. We have a rich country which can help all generations survive. These people from outside are just stealing and leaving us poor to suffer.
For my tour I want Congolese to know this, just be so wise, and be so sharp. Know what you are facing. Don’t cry about what you facing, but struggle to get change. If it needs you to fight, fight.
For more from Cruise, you can follow him on Facebook:
Bertin Punchline Cruise Leseaux
Or look for his music on YouTube.
Watch out for his full-length album, Tous a la Base, and the video which is coming out mid-August.