From choir to hip hop: Billnass’ musical journey

Saturday September 7 2019


By Mpoki Thomson

Hip Hop artiste William Nicholas Lyimo aka Billnass has skyrocketed to stardom in the local music industry in a short span.

Having officially entered the Hip Hop game not more than Five years ago, today he brushes shoulders with the crème de la crème of the hip hop game.

Born in Moshi, the 26-year-old rapper first traversed the musical scene as a choir singer in his early years.

He later transitioned to modern music, gaining an attraction for hip hop and coming up with the alias Billnass, which he says is derived from his birth name. Today, Billnass has risen to become one of Tanzania’s most noticeable characters in the music stratosphere.

He describes his rapping style as a combination of hip hop and commercial Bongo Flava, something that has endeared him to the millions of followers he commands on social media. He often sings with such sanguinity spanning subjects such as love and daily hustles in the streets, topics which hit home in the local market.

“I’m passionate about what I do,” he says as he delves into the inner-workings of a hip hop artiste and the beginning of his illustrious journey. “I started singing at a very young age. I remember I would often rendition other artistes’ songs after listening to them on tape,” he reminisces.


This appealed to people who got a chance to listen to him. He was then encouraged to pursue music even further.

While at school he decided to join the choir and would tag along for rehearsals. This gave him a taste of how demanding singing can be.

Due to certain requisites needed for one to make the cut as a choir singer, Billnass’ talent never got to see the light of day. “This almost crushed my spirit, I nearly gave up on doing music after failing to get a spot on the school choir,” he reveals.

After putting music at bay for a while, Billnass would later rekindle his attachment for the spoken word at university. “I started freestyling in college. My dream was revived after people pushed me to go to the studio,” he says.

His skills went beyond rapping, his masterly for writing songs and unique ability in crafting catchy melodies set him apart from other artistes who’d preceded him in music.

A quick listen to any of Billnass’ tracks and you’ll almost immediately notice a uniqueness in sound and melody, this is something which he is conscious about and puts a lot of effort to achieve. “I want to be noticeable in the game. We have so many artistes out there that if we all barrage fans with a similar sound it will be monotonous and a cacophony of pointless repetitive sounds,” he says.

Billnass’ musical genre isn’t confined to hip hop. As a diverse artiste, he can sing afro-pop, afro-beat and reggae. “Take ‘Labda Nizikwe Tu’ as an example, it’s not a hip hop track. If you closely follow up on my songs and singing style you’ll notice that I tend to switch it up a bit depending on the type of project I’m working on,” he explains.

The Chafu Pozi hit-maker isn’t selfish to share some of his melodious aptitudes. He has helped in the writing process of some of the bangers we often hear on airwaves. You can witness a glimpse of his skills in the recent track by maestro rapper Mwana FA ‘We Endelea Tu’. “I contributed in the writing of the chorus,” he reveals. Considering the success of the song, Billnass might have that midas touch.

The two rappers have worked on further projects, which an elated Billnass reveals will be released on a later date.

Musical success

Since starting his career as a rapper, Billnass has had highly successful hits which have made rounds on all music platforms in Tanzania and beyond. From Chafu Pozi, Labda Nizikwe Tu, Sina Jambo to Tagi Ubavu, all these songs are uniquely targeted to resonate with different crowds in the market.

The crafting of the titles for the songs, which are vividly unique and sometimes peculiar and ambiguous, is intentional. “I use street words, some of which are Swahili words found in the Swahili dictionary but aren’t commonly used,” he shares with The Beat.

For the past week, Billnass has been on the radar thanks to his latest release featuring his ex-girlfriend – Nandy, titled ‘Bugana’. The two artistes dated a few years back and were the talk of town in their hay days.

The public eye was so fixated on their relationship that one mishap almost landed them in jail – this was a leaked raunchy video which found its way online.

Even though the incident was settled, fans never miss an opportunity to remind the two artistes of their past nightmare.

At the moment Billnass and Nandy are living two separate lives. However, their musical affiliations have never withered, circumstances irrespective.

Their latest song Bugana has received rave reviews from music critics and fans. Asked whether their past history as lovers has anything to do with the song being talked about so much, Billnass was quick to dissipate such assertions by attributing the song’s success to the hard work that both artistes put in.

Within a span of five days Bugana received more than 600,000 views on YouTube and was trending close to the summit in Tanzania and Kenya. It is one of Billnass’ most viewed tracks online.

So far the Kinondoni-raised rapper is yet to work with artistes outside Tanzania. He, however, reveals that plans are underway to go global, but at the moment his focus is on the local market. “Tanzania has a very huge market which needs to be fed with local content. So right now my main focus is on the home market, but eventually I will go international by doing collabos with artistes from West Africa, South Africa and beyond,” he says.

With a degree in procurement and supplies from the College of Business Education (CBE), Billnass has ventures beyond music.

Though not willing to share the nature or specifics of the businesses, he says such engagements outside music do not in any way affect his concentration in music, but are a soft cushion for rainy days.