M.anifest describes his music genre as noisemaking, rabble-rousing, soulful, African Hip-Hop and has created quite a following having just been part of the Rocket Juice + Tony Allen, Flea (Hot Chilli Peppers), Damon Albern & Erykah Badu album.
His sophomore album ‘Immigrant Chronicle: Coming to America’ released in September, 2011 is receiving high ratings across Africa and across the globe. sought to learn more about this lyrically endowed rapper, his inspiration, motivation, obligations and expectations (see how infectious he is – I have started making rhymes).
Jamati: Who is M.anifest, give us a background of yourself?
‘Who am I’ is a loaded question. I am an MC, songwriter, Hip-Hop Artist.
Jamati: How did you end up in America and how was it like adapting?
I went to America on a scholarship to college in pursuit of that good old tertiary degree to make something out of myself, or at least pretend to. I went to Macalester College which was delightful for being a very international-student friendly school (alma mater of Kofi Annan). I never managed to adapt to the harsh winters but I’ve had many beautiful experiences in Minneapolis-Saint Paul where I got the chance to let my craft flourish in the warm embrace of a place that loves the arts.
Jamati: Why the name M.anifest?
M.anifest happened by coincidence. It stands for Music. Always Needing Illumination For Every Soul Today. I believe in the power of names. You can’t name a child Kofi kleptomaniac and not expect him to steal from the collection plate. I felt it important to choose (or rather stumble upon) a name that resonated well with how inspiration comes out of us subconsciously to make these words dance on beats to the delight of the people. Fortunately it came to me in a rhyme whiles explaining what music meant to me. It stuck with me.
Jamati: Tell us about your relationship with music?
Music is the longest romantic relationship I’ve been in in my entire life. It’s my medium, my gift; it’s what I’ve used to make sense of love, hurt, society, self and more. I’ve medicated on music, gone broke from music, been stimulated to know more about my ancestors, traveled and seen beautiful places and beautiful faces with music. Music has been in my family; my grandfather is a composer and music intellectual. Music was pleasantly prevalent in my upbringing in Ghana. It is also where I have channeled my rebellion, and most importantly the medium from which I’ll hopefully make useful contributions to humanity.
Jamati: Where do you derive your inspiration for your music?
I feed off my experiences: good, bad and lovely. Life is one big muse. I don’t take that for granted so I keep living and inspiration keeps descending on me; fortunately quite often.
Jamati: You have shared the stage with some of the biggest names in music in the world including Femi Kuti, Amadou and Miriam, Tony Allen… who is your favorite act so far to have shared a stage with?
Playing with Tony Allen, Damon Albarn (Gorillaz), Flea (Chili Peppers), Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, and more as part of the Honest Jon’s Chop Up tour in Europe (fall 2011) was pretty damn amazing. So many fascinating and inspired human beings on the same planes, buses and stages ended up being one of the most memorable time periods of my career.
Jamati: Having been in the music industry since 2005 what have the pros and cons been for you?
Through music I’ve met some incredible human beings, experienced some great places, and shared awesome moments with total strangers. The business of music is pretty much that; a business. On the other hand its money, lies, and people taking advantage of each other. A cut throat capitalism that can sometimes sap the happiness out of what is a completely vim-filled soulful experience.
Jamati: Tell us about your new album “Immigrant Chronicles: Coming to America” how’s the response?
“Immigrant Chronicles: Coming to America” is an enormous leap from my first album manifestations: sonically, stylistically, conceptually and how inspired and crafty it is. It’s a direct result of my transnational existence and the wildly unexpected personal journey I’ve had 2007 till now. In retrospect I think it’s the album I was supposed to make first. Watching it etch me into the consciousness of Ghanaians has been a joy. It was a pleasant surprise to earn “Songwriter of the year” and “Best rapper of the year” nominations at the Ghana Music Awards. And thanks to social media and the internet I’ve enjoyed seeing folks from Poland to South Africa to Australia sharing many wonderful things about it. I’m pleased thus far.
Jamati: You are the grandson of one of Africa’s greatest composers and ethnomusicologist Prof. J.H. Nketia tell us how that has affected or influenced your musical artistry?
It’s an honour of course to come from such lineage. The knowledge base of music I’ve been exposed to has been vast. Most importantly his life and work reminds me of the value of charting your own path and doing it diligently
Jamati: You have been compared to artists such as K’naan and Mos Def, how do you take that, are you trying to be like them?
Those are all respected names and I appreciate people mean to be complimentary by those comparisons. I respect them and like their music. However I’ll always chart my own path. No matter how much Tupac and Nas I’ve loved to listen to, bringing something new and refreshing is much more my calling than to imitate or even emulate.
Jamati: While most other rappers are known to flash out their expensive designer clothes such as Gucci, LV etc, you are always rocking traditional Ghanian/African garb tell us about that. Is it an identity mark for you or there is more to it?
It’s not a big deal at all for me. It’s normal. It’s absolutely ludicrous that it’s normal for a European to wear European clothes regularly but an act of defiance or statement being made for an African to wear African clothes regularly. It’s not a statement. It’s what I fancy as fly and flossy.
Jamati: What do you think of the Rap scene in Africa? Who are some of your favourite rap acts from Africa at the moment?
It’s thriving over here these days. We’re moving more and more from mimicking American rap to adapting it in more relevant ways for our peoples and more interesting ways for the world at large. Recently I’ve been checking for songs by Sarkodie (Ghana), Khuli Chana (South Africa), and E.L (Ghana). I also dig what folks like Tumi, K’naan, HHP, eLDee, and M.I do. I could go on
Jamati: What are we to expect from M.anifest in 2012?
2012 has already started off with a bang. I was featured on Rocket Juice & the Moon which has me on tracks with legendary musicians such as Tony Allen, Damon Albarn, Flea, Erykah Badu and more. It was an absolute privilege. We just shot 4 new videos from Immigrant Chronicles and I’m past excited to drop them! Definitely more touring as well in Africa, Europe and the U.S. is in store.