After moving from the United Kingdom in 2009 to pursue studies in Media at Unam, Lenga Mwelwa continued his love for music under the rap name Fire 16.
The name is derived from the age he became born again, and the fiery passion he has had for music and the gospel since.
He quickly injected himself into an ongoing rap society on campus called Verbalize founded by fellow Zambian countryman, Barnabas Mukumbo. He released his first mixtape ‘Sackcloth’, which he now looks back on with laughter after that.
His second project was aptly titled, ‘So Much Better’, released in 2010 and he considered that to be his arrival on the music scene. “I gave the CD out for free because I didn’t want to charge people for something they didn’t know,” recalls Mwelwa.
He followed this project up with Uprise and a school tour in 2013 that consisted of St. Pauls College, Windhoek high school, Academia secondary school, St. Georges and Windhoek Technical High School.
“It was my first tour and the reception was surprisingly brilliant. All the students sang along to my music, except for the WHS students who were quite cold, but maybe that is because their Principal was right there in the hall,” jokes Mwelwa.
Fire 16’s songs have a very mainstream feel to them, relying on catchy Dirty South beats with simple rhyme schemes, although he has drastically improved on that front in recent years. Has My Back epitomises this, being a catchy song that lends that sweet sounds of Lil D.
Besides being a musician, Mwelwa is a music video director as well, with his video ‘8ight’ reaching number two on the Yo! music video countdown for three weeks.
He stresses that he has not had any challenges being a Christian rapper, where the subculture is almost non-existent in the country, although he admits the label can sometimes throw people off. “People have this stereotype of what to expect from a Christian rapper but then are surprised when they see how different I am from their expectations,” says Mwelwa. However he says it was difficult to get his songs on air when he was still starting up. “Radio stations have strict regulations in order to get your music on radio, but once you’re known a little bit, they even say ‘It’s cool, we’ll just download your song from the net’. But I think this in unfair to upcoming artists.”
Mwelwa says he recently caught flak for a line in the song Red Roses featuring Playshis the poet, causing the poet to want to distance himself from the song before eventually accepting it. In the song he raps, ‘If you’re born gay you can be born again.’
He’s currently working on a new project called ‘Waiting on Forever’ to be released in mid-August this year.