Back to Stories

"Never allow anybody to tell you that you can't do something" 

In our tête-à-tête, rapper Octopizzo navigates us through humble upbringings, fame and giving back.

Octopizzo thumbnail visual

What makes Henry Ohanga, commonly referred to by his stage name Octopizzo, one of the great rappers in Kenya, is his innate understanding of the world around him. And the surroundings that made him.

"I grew up in a small village called Kibera. It is one place I love with all my heart; every single drive I have in my life is because of it, and I learned everything I know from those streets. It's one of my favourite places in the world."

Born in the sprawling slums of Kibera, Nairobi, considered the largest slums in the world, he purposed to pursue his career in music earnestly. "I always loved music, but initially, I wanted to work with flowers," he says, laughing.

Back in the days when everyone, from the artists to the promoters and managers who had arisen around him, were still busy dreaming, back when they were still figuring things out, he got it all planned out. One can even state that he was less infatuated with chart-topping stardom and more with becoming a local superhero.

"The best thing in the world is to invest in people. If you can change one person, at least the family tree of those people would never be the same. The reason why people fail is because they try to make such big changes. I believe in changing one person, and then it's a chain reaction. You finish with that one, and you go to the next one," he discloses.

Octopizzo visual in a room in Cognac

He's globally recognised and passionate about community outreach and youth empowerment. He founded his non-profit Octopizzo Foundation in 2015, "…a way for me to give back to the community…" he quickly adds. Through the Foundation, he hopes to use the uniting ingredients of creativity – art, music, culture and sports – to support vulnerable youths to realise their potential. "Giving back, for me, is number one before anything. And that's what I want to be remembered for. I don't want to be remembered for having the dopest music. Anybody can rap a whole song. I want these kids that don't even know what I rap about; I want them to one day, when I'm not here, have their moms telling them, 'this guy brought us food one day, and we ate one meal because of him'. This is what I want to be remembered for. Because I remember people giving us meals. I remember people giving me clothes. Those people are stuck in my mind forever. And this was almost 20 years ago," he shares, now proud to be able to have the chance to create something bigger than himself.

Octopizzo in a living room in Cognac

Octopizzo is a humanitarian and an entrepreneur, and his emphatic and unapologetic “My mom used to tell me that you can never allow anybody to tell you that you can’t do something” approach, makes him an inspiration, showing the world the character development that came from being raised by a strong female role model.

He’s also an award-winning recording and performing artist: a rapper that is grand one moment, vulnerable and down-to-earth the next, in his mind, never far from the neighbourhoods that made him.

"I think, now that I have travelled to other places, that Kibera was one of the best places to be myself and where people treat me in a normal way and not always like this rapper. In Kibera, nobody is starstruck. Everybody is the same; nobody is better than the other. There's a sense of community that I haven't seen anywhere else," he says.

Octopizzo jumping in the garden of Chateau de Bagnolet

The rapper has currently released three albums: "Jungle Fever", "Fuego", and "Refugeenius"; he's spent the vast majority of his time rapping about great subjects close to the heart. The latter album was an inspiration for one of his dynamic and powerful initiatives – Artists for Refugees, an initiative which encompasses his love for music, the arts and culture with those of the refugees – and it is through their shared love for art that he has been able to raise the profile of refugee artists and talent in the country. "Artists for Refugees falls under the Octopizzo Foundation. It all started when I was invited to perform at one of the biggest refugees in Kenya, and it reminded me a lot of my upbringing. I was performing for people in very tough situations," he shares. "I talked to the organiser and told him about the idea. And there was an opportunity to start a good program for these young people," he continues. "My main purpose was to use music, arts and sport as therapy for them. My program was basically using art as a form of therapy and putting your pain on music, art and sports. I've seen many benefits from this: over 300 people relocated from the refugee camp. To see them prosper is the best thing, and I'm proud to be a part of that," he discloses.

Octopizzo visual in Cognac Hennessy boutique

All of his albums were home runs, and now a fourth is in-coming. Releasing his latest album, "Lamu Nights", where one of the songs – "Eau De Vie" – was recorded at Chateau de Bagnolet, the artist keeps on building on his reputation, brick by brick, as a relentless rhapsodist, all while being grounded, constantly remembering his own journey.

"When I came to Cognac, the distillery visit was one of the highlights. My mom and I used to make this kind of alcohol, so going to the distillery reminded me of her, and it was very emotional for me. Making that alcohol with my mom, and selling it so we could go to school, is a part of my journey. So it stood out for me," he shares.

"Especially the eau-de-vie part, it got stuck in my head, and now I have a song called "Eau De Vie" that we shot there in Cognac," he discloses enthusiastically.

The record is predicted to elevate him to a new echelon of rap fame, set the stage for a new chapter, one that'll be epic, authentic and rank, one that doubles up, only to expose what the world already knew about Octopizzo: his innate understanding of the world around him. And the surroundings that made him.

Hennessy X.O 

In 1870, Maurice Hennessy created Hennessy X.O for his circle of friends and introduced a new style of cognac.  Hennessy X.O is the Original, the emblematic icon of the Hennessy Maison. 
Deep and powerful, the eaux-de-vie of this Hennessy X.O cognac are aged in young barrels and marked out by their power and energy, but also by their capacity to achieve a great roundness through time.
Our Tasting Committee has explored every facet of the blend and identified several emotions that were assimilated to an Odyssey through 7 chapters: 

  • Sweet Notes: The palate is warmly embraced by flavors of candied fruit.
  • Rising Heat: The intriguing sensation of an intense, rising heat slowly reveals the complex taste of eaux-de-vie patiently aged in oak barrels.
  • Spicy Edge: Perception of a strong spicy cognac note, tantalising the lips and palate with its distinct peppery flavor intertwined with a hint of chocolate. 
  • Flowing Flame: A wave of warmth grows, crests and then breaks. A robust presence, full and voluptuous, is felt. 
  • Chocolate Lull: There is the gradual discovery of something very familiar. It is the well-rounded flavor of a rich, dark chocolate.
  • Wood Crunches: A striking sensation is suddenly felt – the vigorous ebb and flow of oak notes interlaced with vanilla.
  • Infinite Echo: The evanescent oak notes leave a long, omnipresent finish in their wake. Seemingly endless, it echoes all of the subtleties of each taste and sensation that has preceded it.