The love story of David Mathenge, better known by his stage name Nameless, and his wife of 16 years Rosemary Wahu Kagwi — or simply Wahu — reads like a chapter in the story of American rapper Jay- Z and his wife Beyoncé Knowles. Beyonce and Jay Z, real name Shawn Carter, first met in 2000, started dating a year later and have been together ever since.
Nameless met Wahu in 1997, befriended her and embarked on a love journey that has stood the test of time. They have been together for 23 years now, 16 of them as a married couple.
“Everywhere I go, she goes,” Nameless says with a cheeky smile, glancing at his wife as we sit down for the interview in Nairobi. I’m meeting with the Mathenges ahead of the premier tomorrow night of their docu-reality show on Showmax.
“We met at a function — my first performance, actually. I wasn’t Nameless then, but a young budding musician. Wahu was there as a back-up artiste for another performer. We started talking, she told me how dope my show was, and the rest is history.”
Nameless was in his first year at the University of Nairobi, studying architecture. Wahu would join the same university later to study mathematics. That presented the perfect opportunity to take their relationship to the next level.
Nameless, 44, and Wahu, 41, never planned to be musicians. They knew they would have professional careers once they were done with their university education.
“We were doing music just for fun. We were not taking it serious because there wasn’t any success story of a musician at the time. So how could you tell your parents you wanted to be a singer. Like who? There were no role models,” Wahu explains.
As years passed, their passion for music grew despite having to perform many shows for free. Music wasn’t paying the bills, but the couple couldn’t care less. After all, it was all just for fun.
However, not so long after that, they thought better of the idea. At the time, there was an emergence of serious local talent and the audiences were surprisingly receptive. There were acts like Hardstone — considered the pioneer of urban style music in Kenya — Gidi Gidi Maji Maji, and the rap group Kalamashaka.
“They made us realise that we too could be good. When they blew up, they brought the urban kind of style that resonated with us. They were such big stars,” Nameless notes.
Nameless and Wahu would end up signing with Ogopa Deejays, the first big record label in Kenya that played a huge part in the making of stars such as the late E-Sir (Issah Mmari Wangui), Uganda’s Jose Chameleone and Redsan (Swabri Mohammed), among others.
“We met E-Sir when we joined Ogopa. Already, I had a name — Nameless — having released my first hit, Megarider (1999). We became very close. We were good friends. We would perform shows together, spend time in the same room. He was like my younger brother and I really liked his vibe,” says Nameless.
The two formed a bond, both on and off-stage, for the two years they were together. One Sunday in March 2003 Nameless and E- Sir were involved in a road accident on the Nakuru-Nairobi highway, on their way back to the capital city. E-Sir, just 21 at the time, died in the crash.
Eight months later, the country lost another top artiste, rapper K-rupt (Carlton Juma). The 24-year-old was killed by a single gunshot wound by gangsters in a matatu on his way to Nyahururu for a show.
Earlier that day K-rupt had spent some time with Nameless, who had just returned to the country from India.
With the death of K-rupt, a rumour started going around that Nameless was a member of the secret society Illuminati, and that the reason his close friends were dying was he was sacrificing them for riches and fame.
“To date, this rumour hurts me. I have never understood why people would think that way. The bond and love I shared with E-Sir… I would not wish anything evil on him. People don’t know how much I miss him. It was an accident, just like any other, and I was just lucky. I would have died too,” Nameless explains
The rumour affected him so much that he almost went into depression.
“I hadn’t gotten over E-Sir’s death when the rumour came back after K-rupt died. To many, it was some sort of confirmation that I was in Illuminati. The day he died, we had met earlier. I had arrived from India and had a running stomach. I remember resting my head on his lap and when the time came for him to travel to Nyahuhuru for a gig, we didn’t even bid each other goodbye properly,” Nameless explains.
However, Monsky, as his wife fondly calls Nameless, says he understood why the rumour stuck and why many chose to believe it.
“The fact that both died in road accidents led many to believe the narrative to be true. I remember even when Wicky Mosh (another musician) was hit by a car and died on the spot months later, the rumour came back. I mean, I was big at that time; I was everywhere. Any time there was a big show, I wouldn’t miss it because I was on demand. I interacted with every big artiste then, so whenever something happened to them, it had to be tied to me.”
On September 10, 2005, Nameless married Wahu at a colourful African-themed wedding on the shores of Lake Naivasha. It was attended by top celebrities, among them comedy troupe Redykyulass and musicians Nazizi and Wyre.
The wedding was said to have cost them Sh1 million, not a modest amount at the time.
Wahu pipes in, disputing the amount: “Is one million too much? Anyway, I can’t remember how much we put into it, but it wasn’t one million, perhaps Sh700,000 or thereabouts.”
By 2005 Nameless and Wahu were making good money from music. Starting from Sh7,000 from his first paid show, the figures kept rising, as did their fame. Many corporates sought them for gigs and campaigns, as well as commercial adverts, and their brand kept growing.
“My parents actually allowed me to do music when I made the Sh7,000. They let me do my thing because I was now using the money to pay my school fees.” Nameless says.
But marriage life hasn’t been all rosy in the 16 years since their wedding. Their marriage was tested when blogger George Moseti published an article claiming Nameless was seeking to divorce Wahu after finding out he wasn’t the father of one of their daughters.
“This really hurt me badly. Why would someone bring an innocent child into such BS (b******t)? If it’s about me, I’m fine, you can write all you want about me, just don’t bring a child into such nonsense,” Wahu remarks.
But why didn’t the couple sue the blogger, as was reported by various news outlets after the claims?
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“There was no need to waste our time and resources over stupidity. We never intended to sue. What we did was put out a statement because the Internet never forgets and should she come across such nonsense when she is old enough, she will be able to see our response.”
The first episode of their reality show, This Love, produced by Eugene Mbugua, premiers tomorrow night on Showmax. Now in their 40s, the Mathenges say their lives have shifted from living a life of passion to that of purpose, and the docu-reality is their testimony.
“We have grown as individuals, separate brands and as a couple. We have moved from living a life of passion to that of purpose. We are private people even though we share as much as we can about us. In this documentary, we will be introducing a little bit more about us. The people who have walked with us through our journey of music and love, the ups and downs in our marriage, the behind-the-scenes chaos of our music project because, as you know, we are currently working on a joint album.
“We will also be introducing young guys who have become part of our musical story whom we would love to see grow. We want to inspire someone,” Wahu explains.
Nameless is working on his clothing line dubbed The N-Zone, a platform he intends to use to push his agenda on emotional intelligence.
“The N-Zone will be a zone to help look for platforms where we can talk about emotional intelligence and enlighten more. I believe the psychology behind it is a good and pragmatic way of living. (To answer questions such as) I fear failure, how do I work on that? I procrastinate a lot how; do I deal with that?”