Known as an artist who treats his boyish energy as a potent force with the potential to fuel and propel his musical art to greatness, Lil Maina has in the past few years become one of the fastest-rising music stars in the country. This is an artist also known for an exhilarating sound that refuses to be constricted within the confines of a single genre. From Drill to Gengetone and even Arbantone, Lil Maina has been termed, rightfully so, might I add, as a purveyor of multiple aesthetics. This versatility is witnessed in his debut album Maisha Ya Stunna which was released in December 2023.

Album cover for Lil Maina's debut album 'Maisha Ya Stunna'.
Album cover for Lil Maina’s debut album ‘Maisha Ya Stunna’. | Image: Lil Maina

The first song in the 10-track Maisha Ya Stunna is Saa Sita, a song with a hissing electronic beat which features Arbantone sensation YBW Smith alongside Danski, with the two making sure the album kicks off in the clouds. TheArbantone-esque vibe from the intro features is maintained in the second song Cocoa Butter where Lil Maina retains Danski as the featured artist . The 3rd song Alert, one of Lil Maina’s most commercially successful songs of 2023, is the  icing on the cake on an exciting first quarter of a promising album.

As a Kenyan internet sensation turned artist, Lil Maina clearly understands the power of social media and in particular, the power of association with the artists extolled by users of  the various platforms. Maisha Ya Stunna has songs featuring some of these zeitgeist artists such as in Ma G Kwenye Klabu, the 4th track of the album, which has serene synth arrangements that you can’t help but applaud. The track features the prolific Scar Mkadinali. Its follow-up track Doba Imewai features Kenyan Teen sensation Trio Mio whose own boyish energy intertwines with Lil Maina’s resulting in the song being one whose tempo immerses a listener into a dreamlike kind of oblivion. Zoza, the second to last song in the album features Buruklyn Boyz. It is a drill song that acts as optimal proof of Lil Maina’s aforementioned versatility.

Fom after Fom, the sixth song which one might be deceived is the album’s interlude, is a track which mirrors Gengetone’s use of retro hard hitting beats while placing primary importance on the exploration of hedonism in the lyrics. Company, the 7th track features Atlanta-born Kenyan R&B artist NJERI who introduces a satisfying  storytelling aspect to the album through her Kikuyu lyrics, which Lil Maina runs with throughout this uniquely instrumented song. Sinzia, the follow-up to Company, also has a similar storytelling aspect with the vocals of the featured Caleb Awiti stamping upon the song the label of an Alternative RnB track. Lifeline, the last track in the album, sees Lil Maina employ a poetic cadence, punctuating this project in a percipient way while making a case for the song as one of the finest end-tracks to a Kenyan album in recent times. Lifeline features Spinx Mafia.

Tracklist for Lil Maina’s debut album ‘Maisha ya Stunna’. | Image: Lil Maina

Coming of Age

A project I personally term as the best of 2023, and deservedly featured among Wakilisha’s Top 15 albums released in 2023, Maisha Ya Stunna represents the coming of age of an artist who has constantly existed under the unstated accusation of riding upon, or rather having his music rely on, his prior success as a hailed internet personality. Maisha Ya Stunna is indicative of not only this assumption being unfounded, but also of Lil Maina being an artist maybe on the cusp of establishing a name for himself as among the finest (and most versatile) Kenyan musicians we have currently.