Dimitri D. Kwenda is a Zimbabwean hip-hop artist as well as a poet (including spoken word) and producer. Born Dimitri Dzinashe Kwenda on the 20th of March 1986 to Dzarira Robert Kwenda and Olivia Kwenda (nee Mudokwenyu), he is the first born of the couple who later had a young daughter by the name of Martina Ruvimbo Kwenda. Dimitri grew up in suburban Harare for most of his life though at birth his father was studying in Russia and hence his mother was assisted by her older sister in Mbare to raise the toddler. When his father returned, Dimitri was 3 years old and moved in to an area now known as Old Marimba at 186 Buby Way where the family lived and would transition to Chiredzi since his father was working for Agriculture for Rural Development Association (ARDA).
At age 6 Dimitri the family moved to Belvedere Flats (Government flats for civil servants) which was convenient since there was a primary school (Selborne Routledge Primary School) which Dimitri was to attend and have an initial encounter with hip-hop music. The shift in the popular listening shifted from Ragga (Shabba Ranks/Shaggy) to R&B & Rap music in the time Dimitri was living at the Belvedere Flats (1991-2001). At the age 10, an orphaned cousin named Romeo Nhamo Kwenda had moved in with the family and he, as Dimitri recalls, owned a lot of cassette tapes and a little battered stereo (which was very cool). Dimitri picked up the Rap songs either play on Romeo's cassettes or on the local 3FM radio station show Hitsville top 20 countdown. He attributes his initial listening to his recollection being The Fresh Prince & Dj Jazzy Jeff, Arrested Development, Busta Rhymes, The Notorious BIG (Puff Daddy & Mase), Wu-Tang Clan, LL Cool J to name a few. He maintains that the dominant artists were the Puff Daddy, Mase and The Notorious BIG, Badboy crew. Dimitri also tells a story of how he discovered a cassette tape which he couldn't afford because his father had cut off his pocket money for childhood misdemeanours. He claims to have been desperate to find a cassette and there was a stereo the "children" were allowed to tune and play their own cassettes in and he woke up one day and reached behind the stereo as if some instinct was drawing him to the radio and he found a tape, which no one claimed!
On playing the cassette, Dimitri heard a harder hitting sound to the genre of Rap music (DMX, The Badboy Crew, LL Cool J, Wu-Tang Clan, Busta Rhymes, Mobb Deep) and the more he listened, he realised he could copy the rhythm of the sequence of rhymes by the artists. At age 10 he encountered a friend named Keith Kudzu Kuhudzai who was from the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe (Mutare) who had a greater array of music and had a CD player which was still a foreign concept to Dimitri Dzinashe Kwenda. His father had bought a toy keyboard with programmed drumlines and an 80s array of instrumentation "but this keyboard had a scratch disc similar to what DJs use for scratching on hip-hop music!" After an initial display of who was bigger and able to kick butt, Dimitri & Keith started a friendship which has survived the transition of adolescence, teens, university and adulthood.
Keith had an AIWA stereo which had a mic we could record onto tapes with (5CD changer, vocal fading, Dr. Dre's Been there and done that CD, Total's CD and a keyboard we could compose music on).With all this equipment and a lot more cassettes, we spent our time learning to write rhymes, firstly copying and editing our favourite rhyme Sayers and developing our own lame lyrics. We started distributing in the neighbourhood (our version of the projects of the USA were our government flats)
At age 11 Selborne was celebrating a 50 year anniversary and the 6th grade was scheduled to do a variety show, which Dimitri wasn't involved in but what then went on to happen was to influence his choices forever! Keith with two friends did a "Been around the World" rap over with Puff Daddy, Mase and Biggy rhymes. It was the act of the night and Dimitri chose to start rhyming quietly wishing to be in their crew (KTC)-Keith, Tanyaradzwa Muchemwa & Carl Sauringwa. It was after this that the neighbourhood mix tapes really took off with cassette album designs being done courtesy of Dimitri & Keith! The two friends then formed a neighbourhood crew called the D-KAST drill which was involving peers from the same complex of flats who were also loving the hip-hop vibe and hearing the sound of one's voice after having recorded oneself.
Next door to Selborne Routledge Primary was the prestigious high school, Prince Edward which Keith was going to having had older brothers who already attended. Dimitri having done well at the end of year grade 7 exams, had a good school choice and chose to move next door where he and Keith Kuhudzai encountered a young Tupac Shakur fan who was to become good friends with Keith named Tinaye Munonyara. These two went on share a class when Keith (now known as Trip-L-O-C) dropped a stream and formed a rap crew which Dimitri can't remember the name of and they recorded a song called "Raise Yo Hands Up." This was the period of the "Dogg" considering that DMX was the hottest thing on the scene, with Dr. Dre with the Snoop Doggy Dogg and Nate Dogg having come out with the 2001 album, so Dimitri chose the alias K-9! Tinaye was known as Fatal Dogg! At 14 Dimitri found the lack of inclusion taking its toll and decided to "quit" the game! Keith started a company he called "That Valley Ent." which was supposed to generate finances through the schooling system by selling food and coming up with pageants to help get aspiring artists to record at good quality studios. The money was hijacked by the older 18 year old boys and nothing came of it all.
At 15 I was hit with the getting born again drug after having being stubborn and falling out with Keith for a whole term. At second term we just said, "Wussup!" That was it and we were good again. I got saved and started attending the then Hear the Word youth group on Friday nights. It was the most amazing time I ever had within the confines of religion because it was untouched, unadulterated belief and so much hope. Keith decided we'd start a duo rap crew and kept telling me to rhyme. I had thrown my young boy rhymes after being upset at the non-inclusive trend by my best friend. So I freestyled and the words kept steadily coming and I was alright for a 15 year old Christian! We became the "SCRIPTURES" and my influence had shifted to the wordsmith-ery and cynicism of EMINEM, who at the point of 2001, was at the top of the game. He was commercially viable but could battle with the best of them! So my rhyme style switched and my mind had adapted to packing rhymes differently!
The Scriptures auditioned for the offering slot at the almost complete Celebration Centre building under the encouragement of Bruce & Chris Izzett who were the youth pastors to whom Dimitri give a lot of stage presence credit for confidence. They were successful and got the Sunday slot. They performed and Dimitri claims he hasn't forgiven his mother for picking him up so early he couldn't enjoy the glory of the groupie! At this period, Dimitri had moved to New Marlbrough after his parents had built a house there and so he had whole different hood! After writing O'Levels all the rappers of the Form 1 class of '99 returned (Dimitri, Keith, Tinaye) mature and greater determination and got a young teacher who Dimitri had befriended a few years before named Rahim Solomon to be the teacher in charge of a hip-hop club. It was called the United Talent Club which encorporated Innocent Masamba (Killaflow) and Sopho Matsheza (then Kryptyk, now Mr. Badhabit) to name a few of the member who went on to persue a musical career of one form or another. Keith went on to form a new group called the "Heaven's Language" which had Trip-L-O-C, Fatal and Blah-Tee (Tanyaradzwa Muchemwa) and Dimitri became a solo artist. The club managed to perform at different religious gathering with different school, or so Dimitri says. Under the guidance of Rahim Solomon, Dimitri, Fatal, Killaflow and Keith performed for the highly acclaimed Allied Arts Institution of Zimbabwe annual schools event which is held over a week for students. It was a radio station program which involved Theatre, Hip-Hop & Dance called WKYD BOYZ FM. The act involving the hip-hop was instrumental zed by the late Sam Mtukudzi, Vimbai Mukarati (Jacaranda Mews) and John Pfumojena on marimba (xylophones). The act was awarded an honours grade and Dimitri recalls having improvised (freestyled) because his 8 bars went blank when he was on stage.
We recorded some tracks with a computer teacher name Bruce who used Reason 3 and Fruity Loops for making beats and Cool Edit Pro to record. I recorded some track with Keith and my flow had suddenly morphed into something quick and more complex! We were listening to Christian Hip-Hop, which was producing better music than mainstream Rap and the guys we were listening to weren't just average God worshipping rappers, they were MCs (Tunnel Rats, Braille, Deepspace 5, Mars ILL, Phanatik, Enoch, Elementz, Shai Linne, Light Headed, Sev Statik).
After highschool, Dimitri had a gap year which was spent, freestyling at church (Celebration Centre) and just being a teenager. He then enrolled at Africa University where he met Ashley Bawa who was president of a mixed denomination group called FOCUS and encouraged freshmen to express their talents so they could be used for entertainment. Dimitri went at the end of a meet and asked a student on the keyboards (if not Ashley) to play a hip-hop tempoed kick and snare drum and he freestytled.
The guys just went quiet and looked at me like, "Zimbabweans can do this and this kid is a Christian?" From then on Ashley would let me make beats on his machine and he also realised I had skills there as well! So even though I started drifting from the religious institution, I would be rapping at the big meets. I started drinking at 22 and smoking at 23, these are shunned where I am from!
Dimitri went on to perform at different college functions and always got the due respect from different students. After Africa University, Dimitri worked firstly as a Sales representative for Harvesters In Sport Trust which an NGO working with schools and corporate organisations to help groom personnel and also is a charity organisation. He climbed to being a Projects Co-ordinator but quit after a year citing the frustrations of dressing formally and not finding his line of work satisfying. A troubled Dimitri spent 2011 as a big drinker without direction who wrote some of his best work in the sober hours of daylight. In 2012, Dimitri having being told by friend Tawanda Mudzonga to choose something he was passionate about and persue it, for the universe will conspire to make life work out, decided to start attending the Book Cafe open mic session at which he met Francis Jiri, a bass player whom he asked to play a riff he could rhyme to. After a few encounters, Frank introduced Dimitri to his friends from Mabvuku who would become Dimitri's band to form the act Dimitri & The Scarecrow (Dimitri D. Kwenda, Phineas Ota, Vengai Ota, Billy Ngwira, George Ota & Francis Jiri). Dimitri also involved himself in the House of Hunger Poetry Slams which are a monthly instalment at The Book Cafe. He has performed at The Music Factory, Afrikan Hip-Hop Caravan (GODOBORI), Grahamstown Counter Festival, Love 'n' Hip-Hop and at the Zimbabwe German Society (Acoustic Night). With his band, Dimitri released a digital version of his debut EP, Scarecrow the EP.