On a cold Thursday night, I was escorted through the hills to an undisclosed Mulholland Address.
As the black car that arrived for me took me through windy, pitch black roads, I sat in anticipation: Was I underdressed? Was this gonna be another night at “the club?” Beyond the gates was the opposite—an elegant, chill dinner party serving up Nigerian food and endless wine and cocktails.
The host of the night was Mannywellz, the Maryland-based musician and producer who stayed humble and courteous as he debuted tracks off his new EP, SoulFro. A kaleidoscopic feat, it was an extension of his continuing eclectic fusion of hip-hop, jazz, afrobeat, electronics and live instruments.
A self-taught-multi-instrumentalist, the 24-year-old has found his credibility in the underground, while potentially tipping into the mainstream; through this worldly fusion that embraces modern times, as well as stays reverent to his Nigerian roots steeped in Yoruba traditions. His words stretch poetically as heard on tracks like “Watermelon,” which uses food to allude to the structural dynamics of the odd man out at the dinner table. We recently chatted with autodidact wunderkind to find out what makes him tick.
skyelyfe: How did you get your start?
Mannywellz: Music runs in the family, and I’ve been around it my whole life. From my grandfather teaching me how to sing harmonies, to performing with my dad on big stages in front of Nigerian presidents and ambassadors all before the age of 13. Closer to my late teen years I decided to buy my own music equipment to start producing and recording myself, and to put out my own content. It took and required a lot of YouTube, trial and error to start.
SL: Did you derive any specific inspiration for this first piece of work?
Mannywellz: For SoulFro, I tried my best to stay connected to god to draw inspiration and be really creative. My roots are something that I’m already super connected to through my everyday life.
SL: Who would you say are your main music inspirations?
Mannywellz: Asa, who is my favorite artist—a Nigerian artist that resides in Paris. Also, Lauryn Hill is a huge inspiration to my music as well.
SL: What was it like going on tour with Jidenna?
Mannywellz: Touring with Jidenna was amazing—one of the greatest experiences ever. I got a glimpse of what the future holds for my team and me. His team is really dope, too. He has a lot of cool and genuine people around him. It was really refreshing to see that.
SL: Where do you see this year taking you?
Mannywellz: I’m going to be happy in 2018. I see myself touring and performing everywhere. I see different kinds of people connecting with SoulFro and spreading the project everywhere around the world.
Want to give the rising artist a listen for yourself? Check out his latest EP for free HERE!