5 top African artistes who almost died of drug addiction

5 top African artistes who almost died of drug addiction

Life in the fast lane is attractive. Big cars, beautiful women, wealthy men, bottomless bottles and merriment are just but a few of the perks of the celebrity life. Often, drugs are also part of the story.

What starts out as ‘harmless’ experimentation slowly becomes a habit. Before long, one realises that they are tangled in the web of addiction.

While dependence on drugs affects all types of people, celebrities often have the most public battles with the vice.  Here are 5 popular artistes in East Africa that have battled with drug addiction:

  1. Nice

If you switched on your radio in the early 2000’s, chances are that you would hear one of Mr. Nice’s chart-toppers playing.

With massive hits like Kindalipo and Fagilia, the Tanzanian singer caught the eye of a top South African record label. They signed him, and they relocated him to South Africa.

Things were looking up for the hit-maker, but when he went to South Africa that his fortunes began to go down south too.

What went wrong? Alcohol.

Mr. Nice

Mr. Nice became a slave to the bottle and ended up refusing to serve his master, music.

Given a lavish mansion by a recording house and still loaded with cash from his numerous lucrative performances, Mr. Nice forgot to make music and instead got into making out with the bevy of beauties who were drawn in by his fame.

Before long, word got out that the star had turned his house to a harem and he was helping out ‘prostitutes’ in the club with their many ‘problems’.

Sooner rather than later Mr. Nice went from the millionaire doing charity at the club to the pauper who needed charity.

Expectedly, his many women disappeared as his accounts dried up.

Fed up with his antics, the South African music stable evicted him from the massive house. Mr. Nice downgraded to a maisonette and sold off his cars one by one in an attempt to maintain the superstar lifestyle.

With both cash and cars gone, Mr. Nice was reduced to living in a one room SQ until his visa/working permit expired and was deported from South Africa.

Not much was heard from him until 2012 when he resurfaced at a gospel crusade held at Sheikh Amri Abeid Stadium singing gospel songs.

He then embarked on a mission to rebuild what he had squandered and he released the track Tabia Mbaya before signing with Grandpa Records. Sources indicate that his love for the bottle also sabotaged the Grandpa deal.

Mr. Nice’s drinking escapades have made it into the media, and the artist has made it clear that he has no apologies to make for it.

In a recent media interview he told off those who are criticizing him for overindulging in alcohol saying that he will drink as much as he wants, and he will even sleep at the bar.


Dennis Kaggia, popularly known by his stage name, DNA, is another artist who has battled alcohol addiction.

After rocking Kenyans with his hit song Banjuka Tu, the deep voiced musician found himself in some deep trouble of the alcoholism variety.

The artist admitted that it’s very easy to get lost because success brings along many fake friends and negative influences.


“Sometimes, nobody is willing to tell you that you’re messing up. I was drinking myself to death and many people were just watching it happen,” he said.

The bottle was main reason for leaving Jomino Records, the stable that produced Banjuka Tu. It was after here that he went on rehab.

“DNA was drinking heavily and that was the main reason why we parted ways. We were always managing the situation by hiding it from the media because he was one of our biggest artistes and we owed him a responsibility,” recalls Eric Mutabari, then one of the stakeholders at Jomino.

At a Dubai Complex in Kisumu, sources told Pulse that DNA nearly blacked out before he could perform, and organizers had to slot in Jua Cali earlier than scheduled to save the day.

“I continued to drink heavily until April 2009, when I got saved. I quit drinking as it was threatening to kill my career,” DNA told Pulse back then.

According to his wife, Ruth, DNA is a well-known recovering alcoholic who speaks about the vice and is steadfast in his fight with alcoholism.

“Just like any disease, it takes time and my husband has put all his energies into fighting alcoholism. He has made positive strides and the songs and concerts he is doing all over are a testament to that,” she said.


Ray C

Ray C’s battle with drug abuse has got to be one of the most publicised ones in the region.

The Tanzanian songstress went from gracing top stages in the region with her catchy tunes, to backing out backstage as fans waited for her performances.

Fred, who served as Ray C’s manager when she lived in Kenya talked to Mambo Mseto’s Mazazi Willy Tuva about Ray C’s drug problems.

Ray C



“She used to have to take drugs before shows. It was so bad that sometimes she would go backstage during a show, and when we’d check up on her we’d find that she had blacked out from taking drugs. Then we had to wake her up to continue the show,” he said.

He particularly recalled one incident that took place in Eldoret: “There was once she went to do a show in Eldoret and we had agreed on what I’ll pay her. After I paid her what I owed, she said, ‘Lazima unilipe zaidi, kwani hawa watu wote wamekuja kuniona. Nikashangaa kwani haelewi mkataba?’” he told Willy M. Tuva.

(Translation: You have to pay me more than that; all these people have come to see me. I wondered whether she understood the process.)

That is when the promoter suspected she might be asking for more money to get drugs.

Things got so bad for Ray C that she was arrested for possession of bhang during her stay in Kenya.

Kamande, the owner of South B’s Picolina Club bailed her out and promised to take care of her. He put her up in a house in South B, but Ray C still continued taking drugs till she couldn’t go to work.

By this time, stories about her addiction were doing rounds in both Kenyan and Tanzanian media.

Concerned about the toll the drugs were taking on Ray C, her Kenyan and Tanzanian friends decided to hold an intervention .To help her fight the addiction, they took her to rehab in Iringa (Ray C’s hometown).

President Kikwete reached out to the troubled songstress and was able to cater to her needs while in rehabilitation.



Born James Wathigo, sweet looking Jimwat grew up in Kikuyu debuted into the local scene with Sema Nami Sweetie.

The Under 18 hit star rose to fame after several releases, the most memorable one being Paulina, which he did with Gabu of P Unit.


He lived up to expectations for a while, sailing high on the then triumphant Calif Records label, before going silent. His hiatus from the music scene spawned rumours that he had lost his mind due to an addiction to hard drugs.

Jimwat came clean to the public saying only consumed alcohol, but that one thing is what ‘messed up’ his life.

“Alcoholism is downplayed but has and is messing up a lot of youths. Alcohol addiction can halt a person’s future growth by enslaving the victim to the vice, thus halting career and life growth positively,” he said.

He added:  “I have had a long battle with alcoholism. Alcohol dependency can enslave you to the point of negatively affecting your life and giving up completely resulting to messing you up.”

Jimwat’s reality check came when he had a grisly accident on Thika Road.

He rushed to a nearby hospital in Kahawa Wendani, from where he was later transferred to Kenyatta National Hospital before he was discharged.

His disastrous marriage to the bottle prompted him establish the Jimwat Foundation in February.


Vanessa Chettle

She’s made a name for herself as one of Nairobi’s party girls, and her love for the night scene is what opened her up to addiction.

“I love going out, socializing and partying. I’ve been partying since I was 16. When you are out there, you always hear about drugs being cool and see people using them.” She intimated in an interview with Pulse.


After a while, Vanessa wanted to get a bigger high and this led her to try hard drugs.

“Partying became my job as I am in showbiz. At some point, I felt that alcohol was not enough to keep me going. That is when peer pressure overcame me. Slowly, I got into drugs,” she added.

Chettle used ecstasy and cocaine and disclosed that it was very easy for her to access them.

“You would be surprised that these drugs are actually easily accessible to those who use them. I won’t give more leads into this as that is now in my past,” disclosed Vanessa.

The hard drugs took a heavy toll on her body: “The downside is that my health deteriorated and I stopped thinking and acting normal. I lost a lot of money because the drugs were really expensive. I was basically losing myself in every aspect.”

In the Pulse interview, Chettle said that she had overcome the addiction.