HHAP Episode 33: The Evolution of M.anifest, from “Immigrant Chronicles” to “God MC”

In this interview M.anifest  talks about his return to Ghana and his experiences in both the US and Ghana. As an artist whose music reflects Ghanaian, African, and Diaspora experiences and cultures, M.anifest brings an important level of intellectual complexity to hip hop culture. When I point these things out in the interview, M.anifest says that he does not want to “be an alternative to the mainstream, but to be an alternative in the mainstream”.
In the interview M.anifest talks about how his return (& his experiences in both the US and Ghana) has been reflected in his music. He discusses the music industries & creative scenes in the US and in Ghana, African MCs in the US hip hop scene, his impact on the hip hop & music scene in Ghana, and his collaborations with other artists, including the late South African hip hop artist, Hip Hop Pantsula (HHP).

In this episode we begin with a look back, musically, at Manifest’s career. We begin with the song “Africa Represent” from his 2007 album Manifestations, then “Motion Picture” from the 2011 album Immigrant Chronicles: Coming to America, and his 2016 single “God MC”. We will end the show with the song “Hand Dey Go, Hand Dey Come” from his 2016 album Nowhere Cool. 

Website: http://manifestmc.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/manifestations/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/manifestive
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/manifestmc
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/manifestive/
iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/m-anifest/1377111213

M.anifest Touches the Heart with New Single ‘Me Ne Woa’

Crowned King of Ghana Hip-Hop in 2017, M.anifest is nothing to play with.  He is known for being a triple threat in the music business, as he is a rapper, singer, and songwriter.  In most of his crafts he incorporates both his native tongue and English.  An example of this is from one of his new songs, his single, Me No Woa (You and I) feat. King Promise.  From the looks of it, this song is speaking about his grind interfering with his relationship. Apparently, he’s been gone for some time, focusing on his music career, living the life of a popular musician and neglection is surfacing… Continue reading “M.anifest Touches the Heart with New Single ‘Me Ne Woa’”

Blitz the Ambassador’s Concoction

Blitz the Ambassador, a Ghanaian rap artist, has been influential in the concoction of African culture and American culture within his music.  Based in Brooklyn, New York, the basis of Hip-Hop is prevalent in his craft while still honoring his roots.  Let’s take a look at his 2016 video for his song “Running”. Continue reading “Blitz the Ambassador’s Concoction”

Medikal’s Coming Up on the Scene

Commentary on Medikal’s single Poof Gang

Sick, hospitals, doctors, nurses and patients.  All the reasons why he was given the name Medikal.   Medikal, born and raised in Accra, Ghana is an upcoming Ghanaian hip-hop artist.  Since his beginning starting in 2008, he, along with Sarkodie, has been named one of the highest nominated Ghanaian hip-hop artists for the Ghana Music Awards and has had a major impact on the hip-hop community in Ghana.  Continue reading “Medikal’s Coming Up on the Scene”

Ghana’s Native Son a review of Blitz the Ambassador’s Make you No Forget

Bearing a upbeat boom-bap style Make you No Forget starts with an infectious, head-bopping beat and a hard hitting rhythm. Shortly after the song begins Blitz brings us in with the chorus, “Police Corruption, they steal the election, brutality my brothers don’t get no option, thats why you don’t forget where you come from.” The verse then expands on the concepts of police corruption and how the kids of Ghana back in the 1990’s were worried if they were going to grow up or not. Also, what made it hard to forget where you’re from were the myriad of 90’s references to tv shows, and consequently ended up referring to Roger Milla, famous Cameroonian soccer player, bringing where he was from to the 1990 World cup with his signature celebratory dance, or better yet referring to Ivory Coast goalkeeper Alain Gouaméné stopping Ghana from winning the 1992 African cup of Nations with an amazing save, which Ghanaians attributed to the use of JuJu. Starting the next part of the chorus Blitz says that “As the weather gets hot, and the cops get hungry for busting people, we still harbor resentment towards them, whether they like it or not. Next verse brings you in with the kids from the first verse all grown up. They reminisce about the Motown, where they went to school, Gari and Shito, which was a snack spread that was popular in the 90s that got them through, Night clubs for Osu, where they went to party with the wrong attire and subsequently wasted time going back home to change to get in, only to realize that they should have just stayed home because of the rich kids hanging around getting the attention of the party’s female populous. In short, the song won’t let you forget where your from because neither will the world, and in the song he is nostalgically reminiscing over the days of his youth.

Blitz the Ambassador – Make you No forget feat. Seun Kuti

Different Country, Same Attitude

There’s two types of people in this world: those who conform to the rules set by society and those who rebel against it. In their collaborative hp hop song “Gentleman”, rappers M.anifest and Wanlov the Kubolor come together to tell you that they’re the ladder and not ashamed of where they’ve come from. For today’s blog, we will look at the African diaspora and how this common African experience has translated over to the music of these two artists. Just to give you a bit of a background on each, M.anifest is a Ghanian rapper who is known to many as the king of Ghana hip hop. He migrated to Saint Paul, Minnesota back in 2001 to attend college. He even resides in Minnesota as well as Ghana currently. 

Wanlov the Kubolor is a Ghanaian-Romanian musician who moved to the US for college back in 2000. Both of these artist are very proud of their Ghanian roots and let their experiences as immigrants influence their sound.

Wanlov

In their collaborative song Gentleman, both rappers immediately start the song off saying the chorus immediately saying “I won’t be gentleman at all, I’ll be African man original. I wont be gentleman, won’t be gentleman at all”. They immediately set the tone for the song with their straight forward acclamation to stick to their roots despite living in a country that has a different culture. Within the song they mention a number of aspects that are associated with the men of western culture and then rejects them with their own versions that they’ve grown to live with in Ghana. Both M.anifest and Wanlov the Kubolor have experienced first hand what it feels like to migrate to not just a different country but an entirely different continent like many Africans for the sake of their futures. the African immigrant population between the year 2000 and 2010 increased from 800,000 to 1.6 million and of those people these artist were part of that. There’s such a big population of African Immigrants that can relate to this song and are able to not feel alone in their fight to not keep who they are while surrounded by Americans. Gentleman is a great song that compares the two cultures and also speaks to what they mean to the Ghanian rappers. It’s fun, it’s unique, and it will always be African.

Comparing Ghanaian Hip Hop to Nigerian Pop Culture

I’d like to draw your attention to two very talented African artists that have been making major mainstream noise in the music industry and show no signs of slowing down in the future. African rapper Sarkodie and African pop artist WizKid both are musically talented artists but vary differently in the deliverance of their genre of choice. I am going to compare style and lyrics from Sarkodie’s song Adonai ft. Castro to WizKid’s song Ojuelegba. Adonai begins with a nice beat and then soon goes into a steady uptempo tune with Castro speaking and then followed by Sarkodie. Now, this isn’t your average hip-hop song that normally would catch you off guard but Sarkodie is making an ode to God for blessing him with gifts such as his talent amongst other things that he is grateful for. For an artist such as Sarkodie, he raps mostly in his native language which is Twi so you will not understand anything in the song except for the part “Hallelujah”. As noted, he does rap rather fast and he carries all the qualities of being a rapper such as the dark glasses, the choice in clothing and the hand gestures he uses. His style can be considered multifaceted which is always good for rappers trying to tell stories. On the other hand, you have a softer mellow beat when WizKid’s Ojuelegba comes into play. I first heard this song on the radio because the remix had featured Canadian recording Drake. Ojuelegba speaks about Wizkids experience in his native land Nigeria. Unlike Sarkodie, WizKid sings in English use what it sounds like, a little of autotune to enhance his voice. There is one shot in the video that shows him in the studio wearing dark glasses and his chains which definitely separates him from Sarkodie but both artists show gratitude in their songs.

Ghana & Senegal: Letters to the People

There are many types of hip hop songs: some sample old songs, some create their own back track, some tell a story and some send a message. In many African countries, the voice that hip hop artists have due to their popularity has been used to speak to it’s community of listeners (typically the youth) to send positive and political messages. Protest and Combat type hip hop songs have been ways of stressing an issue that is affecting the lives of many. An example of this is the Senegalese group named  Y’en a Marre  who took their talents and urged the large population of young people to vote against corrupt actions that were taking place by the government. Besides these common characteristics, there are also songs with a message to the people that are simply enlightening.

Ghanaian hip hop/ hiplife artist m3nsa has a song that speaks to his audience in a way to reassure them about life’s doubts called No One Knows. The video begins with a young girl in a yellow rain jacket and red boots lip-syncing to the song No One Knows by Asa about the uncertainties in life with a big smile on her face. M3nsa then enters with his positive verses. The big picture that the entire music video as well as his lyrics were trying to convey was that despite the constant fear of the unknown, it’s okay to not know what will happen, just trust in yourself and live each day one step at a time. This song’s message and visual imagery conveys positive energy and reassurance to it’s audience.

m3nsa

There are many hip hop songs that are similar to M3nsa’s that bring comfort to a common fear that many have. On the other hand, there are times when an artist makes a song that comforts an audience who are experience a certain situation. The Senegalese hip hop group Wagëblë has the perfect example for that with their song titled Message of Hope. This song is not in English but there are many elements within it (and obviously the title) that are clear signs of a song with a message. The first thing the audience sees and hears  is a clip from a news report explaining how despite the great poverty in Senegal, there are young musicians who are developing a “unique brand of hip hop, sending a message of hope to the country’s younger generation”. This sets the mood and theme for the video. Wagëblë are those artists and they want to bring that message of hope. Throughout the music video you see them performing live which shows not only their connection with their fans but their influence. There isn’t much imagery or any theatrics in this video like in m3nsa’s but I believe it’s for the simple goal of the audience having their focus on the lyrics. This is also hinted during part of the video that only show their lips mouthing the lyrics.

wageble

Both these songs come from different artists from different countries and yet despite their differences they both have a common goal of getting a message across. The message doesn’t always have to be about politics and it doesn’t always have to be about mundane anxieties but what does matter is that the audience can understand and relate. Hip hop will continue to change, warp, and evolve but one thing that keeps it alive is what makes us human: empathy.

Ghanaian Groves

I’m relatively new to the intricate and unique sounds of African Hip Hop. There is a great sense of diverse sounding Hip Hop that I’m simply not used to nor was I aware of.  One thing that I’ve learned in my new journey into sound is the amazing music that is produced by Ghanaian rap artists. The Hip Hop scene in Ghana is responsible for producing some of Africa’s rawest sounding artists. Artists like Reggie Rockstone, M.Anifest, Wanluv The Kubolor, Tinny, Sarkodie, the list goes on. With that being said my discovery of Edem’s Gbevu was pleasantly on par with my expectations. Edem is a popular Ghanaian rapper who spits in ewe. For myself, I personally find his music a bet refreshing because the language barrier is easier to manage. Although this is not a socially conscious track I believe it has major international potential.

The instrumental to the track Gbevu has an almost Ghanaian/ middle eastern flavor. It’s pleasantly similar to a sound that Timberland the american super producer would create. I would like to note that the sounds of auto-tune here are pleasantly layered over his chorus vocals.  When I watched the official video for the track I instantly noticed the familiar fashion. Everything from the skinny jeans tucked in timbs, Adidas tennis shoes, Hennis & Morits sweatshirts, snap-back hats, ray band sunshades, form fitting extended length T shirts look American.

There are even instances in the video where popular american dances are either mentioned or subtly performed. (Edem mentions and does the migos’ Dab at 1:11 in the video above followed by a milly rock at 2:20) I mentioned that because I’m happy to see integration of African American culture with Ghanaian culture.  Growing up African in America its popular to believe that Africans in Africa want nothing to do with African-Americans or their culture. Seeing things like American dances, fashion and even hearing american influences debunk that belief. Edem is an amazing talent and I look forward to discover more tantalizing sounds of the motherland.

 

 

M.anifest – “Cupid’s Crooked Bow”

Immediately, M.anifest’s “Cupid’s Crooked Bow” begins with a smooth, African drum beat, fused with South African artist Nomisupasta’s unique voice – a kind of tone that is completely original but also, to me, sounds like a mix of Adele and Erykah Badu’s voices (especially when Nomisupasta sings in English). M.anifest raps in English, creating a familiar sound that that reminds listeners of classic, slow-beat American hip hip. Because of the elegance of his lyrics, M.anifest’s rapping style is a kind that likens that of American artist Common, with the way he describes and admires his encounters with a woman.

The video is in a pleasant high quality, and the images offer watchers a relaxed, night scene that includes an abundance of dancing and some drinking. The refraining lyrics in the song “There’s something special about you”, along with M.anifest’s nostalgic verses offer a sentimental mood to the song, easily making it an admirable one with its use of piano and occasional electric guitar licks.

The use of guitar makes “Cupid’s Crooked Bow” a song heavily rooted in Ghanaian music, because Highlife – a Ghanaian genre that predated hip hop in Africa – consists of European instruments and is especially guitar-heavy. Because M.anifest includes this in this piece, he is able to be a true representative of hip hop and decidedly remains close to this distinctly Ghanaian sound.

dancer2

After the 3 minute mark on the video (around 3:06, to be exact) “Cupid’s Crooked Bow” suddenly takes on a “trap beat” – something especially prominent in modern rap music, and very unlike the African drum beat that is present throughout the majority of the song. This is a profound artistic touch because by adding this trap beat, M.anifest displays the growth and diversity of African hip hip music – over the years – through his song (beginning with traditional African sounds and ending with a mainstream rap beat, used worldwide). As soon as this beat appears, a girl simultaneously appears in the video and begins to dance while holding a strong eye-contact with the camera. Her dancing is representative of West African dancing styles, and is therefore another significant cultural element of the video.

Watchers of “Cupid’s Crooked Bow” see and hear it all at once: the Highlife elements, the classic slow-rap style, the traditional African rhythmic beats, the West African style of dancing, and the Western music elements. They are able to identify all of this; and because of it; the song is sophisticated, easily admirable, and is an undeniably good track.