David Mathenge, better known by his stage name Nameless, has been in the industry since 1999 making him one of the most influential personalities in the country.
Despite being a household name in Kenya and across borders, Nameless still has a lot to him than most people know.
Speaking in an interview, Nameless revealed a lot that is coming up in his life and what he has been up to.
You said a lot has changed for you throughout the years. What has?
How I conduct my relationships. I have grown to realise that people can have different points of view and that doesn’t mean that the other person is wrong. It just means we’re different and that’s okay. That is helping me better navigate life.
For instance my wife is very optimistic and I am practical. She may want us to do something and I’d say, “Fine, but let’s not be overly excited about it because it may not work out as expected.” Or I’ll want us to do it but take cautious steps instead of just jumping in. This would be a source of conflict before, and because I hate conflict, I’d say yes to something I don’t want and later start acting passive-aggressive about it. Now we’re trying to combine these different aspects of our personalities so we can be synergetic. It is not easy.
That’s why when I talk about us I celebrate our wins and mention the challenges as well. I want people to know we’re not perfect. I don’t want someone who is going through hardship to feel dismayed because they’re only seeing sanitised versions of ourselves on social media.
Even as you’re striving to be better the dynamics of your marriage are changing.
My wife and I are in the same age group, so we’re both going through changes. My parents told me as people enter their 40s, they obviously start gaining new perspectives that can clash with those of a partner and lead to a dissolution of a relationship.
Our new challenge is figuring out how to change but find a way to synergise so that we form a stronger unit. This got me very interested in emotional intelligence.
I am reading more to understand it and getting guidance through counselling and mentorship. I recently purchased the book Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman. I’ve also read the works of Steve Harvey who has written the book that’s my standard emotional intelligence bible, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
How do you grow together amid the public scrutiny?
We are both public figures and that has been the case since we started dating. We always decide what we will share on social media and what we won’t. We have been approached many times to do a reality show but have always turned them down because we know what we’d be sacrificing.
We have our boundaries. Also, my policy about what I post on social media is it has to contribute something positive. Even if I’m talking about a challenge. The same with my songs. I want them to put people in celebratory or happy mood.
You said you started reflecting on things you would have done differently. What are some of those things?
Fear of failing stops many of us from achieving great things and there are times that fear of what people will think or say has really limited me in some ways. I am an introvert who got into a very extroverted career.
I made a call and won a competition and that got me here. Looking back, I am glad I made the call because I don’t think I would have gotten into the industry otherwise even though I love it. I had to adjust and fight the side of me that didn’t always want to be out there, and it has been a constant fight.
One of the things my wife and I are interested in is mentorship. I mentor young people, but I want to be more intentional about it. There are people who have faced similar situations when they’re intimidated by something. I want to reach them and tell them to do it anyway.
That as you say has been a constant struggle. I imagine there are emerging one.
Definitely. Different phases of your career or life will present different challenges. I prefer calling them challenges, not struggles, because it gives me a sense that I can overcome them. I’m very particular about the language I use. I used words that reaffirm that I can overcome things. In my career it’s finding ways to keep reinventing myself.
I am an older pop artist, a pioneer urban pop artist. Which means that I don’t have a template to work with. I am treading in places not many people have been. So a lot of the things I do is trial and error, making mistakes and learning from them.
And what are the emerging fatherhood challenges?
My oldest daughter is becoming a teenager so that comes with new challenges. Your children are part of your legacy and you’re moulding them to contribute to the society in a positive way.
You want them to be better than you. My challenge is how do I effectively do that? How do I ensure them I am giving them the right skills? My wife and I are public figures so that adds another layer to it.
I have mentors who offer a sounding board and sometimes I look at what other figures are doing. In this case Will and Jada Smith. They are older than me and have been consistently doing what they love and raising their children as they do so.
I know it’s a different ball game – different markets, different situations – but there are basic principles that cut across all that can apply in my case. How do you raise children amid the constant scrutiny? I want my children to always go for a win-win outcome in their interactions because I believe the world will be a better place with such a mentality. I also learn as I teach them because I am largely doing it by example.
markets, different situations – but there are basic principles that cut across all that can apply in my case. How do you raise children amid the constant scrutiny? I want my children to always go for a win-win outcome in their interactions because I believe the world will be a better place with such a mentality. I also learn as I teach them because I am largely doing it by example.
I want them to strive to understand then be understood and to be proactive. About five years ago when my oldest daughter was seven, she came home upset because someone had told her that I am boring. Seeing my daughter so upset is one of the instances that I seriously considered quitting. But instead of running away, I used that as an opportunity to educate her.
What did you tell her?
I asked her how she felt about it and what she thought. She told me what surprised her was this person knows I am her father and chose to tell her anyway that I am boring.
I wanted her to understand that sometimes people say things to purposefully hurt you, because this person could have chosen to tell someone else or keep it to themselves but singled her out instead. I made her understand that most of the time the problem is the other person, not her. Then we went to my home studio and did a song about it and had fun.
Social media, I’m sure hasn’t made that any easier.
There are people on social media who will go out of their way to hurt you. I used to get so affected by hurtful comments because as an artist you get so attached to your work. Sometimes you release something you’ve worked so hard on and there are many positive comments and then one negative comment and you’ll spend time thinking about the negative one.
When I started out my mother told me some people will like what I do, some won’t and that’s fine. I always try to remember that. I admire people who don’t get affected by the negative comments. That’s what I’m working towards.
Is your dislike for discord why you’ve never publicly endorsed a politician?
I’ve been offered a lot of money many times to endorse politicians. One offered me a couple of millions to use me and my song, others have offered to pay three or four times my rate to perform at their rallies. I’ll be honest with you, the money has been tempting at times. But the question is, will I sleep at night? I cannot publicly endorse someone I don’t even know that well to make quick money.
It goes against my principles. What I normally choose to do during the election period is tell people to register, encourage them to vote, tell them to respect each other, remind them to weigh their choices well because they will live with those choices.
I thrive in harmonious spaces and always want the things I say or do and the music I make, to foster harmony. That’s what I want to be remembered for. I also want to take music to the next level. I did a remix of my first song Mega Rider with Khaligraph Jones because inter-generational collaborations are important to me.
What are you currently working on?
My current theme is celebrating 20 years in the music industry and there are new stuff I’m and collaborating with new artists and some from my generation who I’ve been thinking about working with for a long time.