M.anifest is in his own lane, and he’s here to unite the worlds of Afrobeats and Hip-hop. The award-winning, multilingual musician and recording artist takes pride in his impeccable worldplay, witty bars, and vivid storytelling in his lyrics, and he’s here to defy all musical boundaries.
You may have seen M.anifest on Burna Boy’s African Giant album as the two superstars collaborated on “Another Story,” paying homage to their African roots during a time that it’s needed more than ever. And if you follow M.anifest, you know he’s all about dressing his part oftentimes draped in traditional African wear mixed with modern-day pieces. A fedora, symbolic accessories, and minimalist clothing is his vibe.
Now, the rising star unleashes his newest single and visual for “No Fear,” tapping Roc Nation’s own Vic Mensa and Ghanaian singer Molly. Following the success of his last single “Confusion,” this holds fans over until the release of his forthcoming 5th studio album titled MTTU.
The rising star has recently unleashed two new singles and visuals, – “No Fear,” tapped Roc Nation’s own Vic Mensa and Ghanaian singer Moliy while “Confusion” is produced by London-based producer Juls—off his forthcoming 5th studio album, Madina To The Universe (MTTU).
Flaunt caught up with M.anifest via Instagram Live, who joked that it was 200 degrees over in Accra, the capital of Ghana. Read below as we discuss his time in the Midwest, what Ghana means to him, how he connected with Vic Mensa, the meaning behind Madina To The Universe, how he infuses his culture with hip-hop, his fashion, working with Erykah Badu, a forthcoming collab with Blinky Bill, and more.
How are you holding up over there in Accra?
It’s cool but in the afternoons, it can get [hot]. I’m not complaining, I’m just very hot. You know, I used to live in Minneapolis and that was the exact opposite, too cold.
What brought you to Minneapolis?
I went to school there, that’s where I actually started my music career. It’s crazy in the Midwest, Purple Rain you know? [laughs]
What was it like coming up there? Minneapolis has a lot of crazy things happening, especially during this time with the racial injustice.
It was cool, aside from the extreme cold winters. The creative scene was cool, the indie scene was poppin’. They have the Rhymesayers, it’s a good place to go indie. They have a lot of theater. In terms of social dynamics as you can see, everything was not all easy. It’s wild because it’s the first place I saw a project building filled with Somalis. The city dynamics have been interesting in that regard so I am not surprised with recent happenings over there. But that’s America for you. I’m glad I am back home. [laughs]
When did you go back to Ghana?
I think 2012. It’s been a while, but I was in America for 10 years. I like America… to visit. [laughs]
What does Ghana mean to you?
Ghana is home. Everybody has a complicated relationship with their home. It’s an interesting time right now too over here. This weekend, particularly the last couple of days, the discontent amongst the youth has been building up. Electricity prices are up, water up. The electricity is not stable, different things that aren’t making life as easy.
Ghana is getting a really good look in the world, people really love coming to Ghana the past couple of years. But it’s about time to make this place better for the people who live here full-time. For me, it’s a complicated relationship. I love this place, but we have so far to go. This place also frustrates the fuck out of me as well. [laughs]
What do you hope to see happen in Ghana?
I hope we can adopt a better form of democracy. We’re stuck with capitalism. We need to really increase the quality of life and opportunity for people across the board. I live in Accra and even people in Accra sometimes think the whole Ghana is about the city. No. I do influencer work for UNICEF, you go to these rural places where certain basic amenities are absent: flowing water, electricity in houses. I hope to see us level up life for everybody.
“No Fear” out now, how was it collaborating with Vic Mensa and Moliy on that record?
That was dope. It was effortless. Vic and I had connected years before, but we hadn’t linked up on the music. What’s mad about this whole pandemic, we all had to sit our asses down so we can connect properly. It was one of those things. We connected, I sent the record, he did it in no time, he came out to Ghana, we shot the video. We kicked it. Moliy’s dope, she’s coming up. I always like doing that kind of thing. I’m not DJ Khaled, but I like putting different people together .[laughs]
I interviewed Vic and he mentioned how excited he was to go to Ghana and work with artists like yourself. How did you guys tap in?
The first time we connected was 2016, but we tapped back in last year, the second or third quarter. The internet’s a beautiful place. If you forget all the trolls, the internet is dope. We tapped in and said “we’re long overdue, let’s do this.” He said he’s trying to come to Ghana, I said perfect timing. It was really simple: you exchange your most recent numbers, jump on FaceTime, and you make it happen. Effortless.
Best memory from the video shoot?
Because we shot part of it at night, we had to use a generator from a truck that’s powering everything. At some point, the generator went out. [laughs] We had a couple more scenes to shoot, and they were going to go bring a different generator, but time was of essence. At one point for one scene where the Samurider (Shaina) is smashing the TVs, we literally got all the cars that were there to come and shine their lights on the set to shoot that scene. The director said “yo, this car! This car! Turn around, come and shine it over here.” It’s a typical Ghana story, what can go wrong will go wrong but you have to figure out how to adapt.
What do you want people to take away from the visual?
“No Fear” is really about feeling fearlessness. I wanted the visual to have a little bit of mystique. That’s why a lot of it is at night, instead of having all these super bright daytime colors. You’re double 0 7’ing your way through life trying to achieve something. People don’t know what’s in the suitcase we pass around, we’re on a mission.
Fifth studio album MTTU coming soon, what’s the meaning behind the title?
The title means Madina To The Universe. Madina’s the neighborhood in Accra I was born in. It’s crazy because until I left Ghana, I really didn’t realize how profoundly Madina shaped me as a human being. Madina’s the place where there’s music everywhere, there’s all sorts of people. If I’m being truthful: it’s mostly a low income neighborhood, but it still has middle class people there. I grew up middle class in a low income neighborhood, it was very interesting. There’s mosques, there’s churches, there’s bars, there’s everything.
Doing this album, I reached a point of reflection where I’m like “let me channel that energy that shaped my life.” Our goal is to be able to take these stories that build you from that place you’re from to the world. I’m even trying to be more ambitious so I said “to the universe.” Madina To The Universe, that’s what we’re doing. That was the motive for it. Honestly, I was working on another album before that. When the pandemic hit, I said “nah, let me pivot. Let me re-route my mind.” I was in the crib, had equipment on the dining table. Had my engineer come through, we’re making stuff. In a month, we made most of the tracks.
That’s coming out in the summer, right?
Yeah, it’s coming in the summer. Everything is finished, it’s wild. You know what’s crazy? I won’t even lie, I added one or two more tracks this year. [laughs]
Right? You keep making fire music, you keep wanting to put it out.
It’s true. It’s tough because you make the music, you love it, you want to put it out, but you have to do everything business-wise. By the time it gets closer, you’ve already moved onto something else or you’re doing new things. To have the discipline to understand what the purpose and goal was, to follow through with it is what I’m practicing currently. Madina To The Universe!
There’s a couple of people on there. We released another single, which is produced by Juls in London. He’s a dope Ghanaian-British producer, he’s done a lot of stuff for different people in the UK.
He did “Confusion” for you, right?
Yeah, he did that. He did a record for Tyler, The Creator and GoldLink as well.
Talk about combining your Ghanaian roots with hip-hop and creating your own lane with that.
You know, the dopest thing about hip-hop as I saw from a distance was always that everybody, wherever they came from, put their identity into it. If you came from the South, you put it into it. If you came from the West Coast, you put it into it. It was a natural thing for me to do the same with the music I came up listening to. The music of our people is always going to be part of how I make hip-hop. I didn’t even have to think. The only difference over time is I’m getting better at knowing how to do that.
At the beginning, it was difficult because I was in America when I began. Okay I have these ideas, but how can I make them happen with the people here? By the time I came back home, I started finessing. Some songs, I would use 808 drums and put highlife guitars on them. Ideas that aren’t supposed to be together, but it makes it beautiful when they are. For me, it was always important. It was always going to be. It wasn’t an identity struggle of trying to carve out a contrived plan or anything weird, it was natural.
How was it working with Erykah Badu?
Wow. That was years ago, I was in London. It was early on in my career which is crazy. Damon Albarn from Gorillaz, he was working on a project. He’d seen me perform in Spain, he said “we’ll definitely link up.” Next thing you know, I’m flying to London to work with him I thought. Then he introduces me to [Flea] from the Chili Peppers who was in the sessions, then Tony Allen. The next day, Erykah Badu walks into the session. It was dope. That taught me something very early on: stay dope and the opportunities will come. In this era of super clout chasing, just stay dope. Nobody cares whether you have 3 followers.
What goals do you have for yourself?
Aside from buying America. [laughs] I’m really trying to always shape the status quo in my ecosystem whenever I come through. To really help break the mould for the people who are going to come after me, embolden them and let them even do crazier shit. For me, that’s what it is about. I’ve reached that level in my career that me being able to choose my own path and do it in a dope way is going to empower so many other people coming after me.
When I came back to Ghana, it was very difficult for people to see outside of the popular dance music that was being done. It’s like “if you’re trying to make money, you have to do this.” I’m trying to show there’s a way to be successful doing what you’re best at. That for me is very important both on and off the mic, to be able to chart that path.
Talk about your fashion. You’re very true to your roots, but you also have your own style.
My fashion is exactly like how I make music: I combine and smash ideas together. You look at this thing, it’s got some kind of print. It changes over time. Now, I’m into rings. For the last couple of years, I’ve been into rings. I’m not going for no diamond ring, but I’ll go for some interesting ones. This is from London, from two African brothers; Art Comes First. I used to wear a lot of these fedora hats, but now I’m trying to mess with the brimless. See how that looks.
What do you call those hats?
Brimless hats. I started messing with the brimless hats last year. Who knows? Next it might be… I don’t know, give me an idea.
Do you like streetwear in the United States?
Yeah, but I wouldn’t wear it straight. I’d combine it with something that’d give it my edge. Put me up on game, which streetwear should I be looking out for?
I feel like people love Bape. Do they wear that out there in Ghana?
I think so, the thrift shoppers probably get it the most. There’s a place in Ghana called ’Kantamanto’ that’s where most of the thrift shopping be going down. They bring all those things from the West. Bape has been there for years now I reckon.
What do you like to do for fun when you’re not doing music?
Netflix and eat. [laughs] I definitely binge on TV. I like to leave the city, go to different places. The beach, new different places. I’m looking forward to exploring the country more now that I can’t travel as much as I used to. What else do I like to do? I don’t know how to roller skate, but I’m going to learn. I have a son and he likes roller skating so I’m going to start. I’m going to film myself falling a couple of times. If anybody laughs at me, I’m coming after them.
What’re you most excited for this year as the world starts to open back up?
To travel, simple as that. I literally miss being in places. I’m not thinking of the performance bit, because I miss being in new spaces. I get so much from being in new spaces. It inspires me in many different ways. I’m looking forward to it, I’ll probably even come to the States during the summer. My former manager lives in the San Fran area.
Someone asked when you’re coming to Kenya?
Kenya has shown me my love. “Confusion” video, I see a lot of streams on YouTube from Kenya. Whoever asked that, there’s a big record coming from Blinky Bill featuring myself and a Kenyan rapper. Did I give out too much? [laughs]