Photography by Jedidiah Gli
Creative direction: Esther Bilson
“My music is basically a piece of my actual personality so I think it makes people feel like they can relate better with my music since it’s like a person.”
You’ve Been Served.
It’s not everyday that you come across a young one with the mind of an oldie. We had a discussion with the King of Tea concerning music (as always) and his view of the current state of things. He shared his story and experiences that have brought him this far.
Bryan The Mensah is a cool kid.
If you asked Bryan today how he’d describe himself, he’ll hit you with a statement like; “Okay. So my music is basically labelled contemporary.”
This is because he considers himself as a very current artiste who always has relevant issues to discuss or ideas to share. As a result, he allows himself to be carried away with the music and would not restrict himself to a particular genre like some other artistes. In his words; “Rather, I’m all about my message. So, to me, it doesn’t matter how I’m saying it. It’s just about what I have to say and that’s it. So contemporary is more suitable to define the kind of music I do. I make music to inspire, to teach and since I’m also a producer, every song I create is an opportunity to learn something new about music as a product. This is why I create.”
For Bryan, taking interest in music began at a very early age. He started recording and producing music back in primary school circa 2010. He recalls using his phone at the time to record himself rapping and thereafter, laying them over a couple of free beats found online. It was around that time that his second path as a producer was taken. “I guess that’s how I started learning how to produce because I was mixing those recordings by myself too. His name among the populous gradually became a household one with releases such as Wild Stereos in 2011, Jungle Fever in 2012 and Loud Silence in 2014. He firmly believes those tapes were key stepping-stones that helped define his craft and sound.
Just like most people, the early teen ages are the times that shape characters as young adults seek to discover themselves. Bryan, in this case was faced with insecurities mainly due to his weight. While growing up, he was ridiculed as a fat kid and in order to break out of that, he considered rap as a tactic.
“I chose to rap at first because I thought it was cool. At that time I felt like I needed to have something that made me cool, that way I didn’t have to even consider fitting in, because rap was going to make me cooler than everyone else.”
A lot has changed now and his view of things is much clearer and matured. He raps now because he’s realized he wants to share his experiences, perceptions and his culture with people. And considering how freely expressive rap is, it’s just made him feel better.
my mission is to make sure that out of all the bad, it’s not all bad. And people have to know that.
If you pay attention, you’d realize there are a lot of conscious storyboards in his sound. Also, his music receives a lot of influence from commercial genres like pop, trap, R&B and the sense of freedom and open mindedness from High Life as well as ‘not so commercial genres’ such as soul. When asked what inspires his need to use his music as a way to reach out, he said; “I read several articles about how music helps to shape one’s behaviour and I realized that a lot of the immorality, dishonesty, unfaithfulness, cruelty and ignorance that the world is facing right now is based on the kind of music that people listen to. Therefore, I decided simply not to be a part of it. Hence, the reason for the subject topics in my music, my mission is to make sure that out of all the bad, it’s not all bad. And people have to know that.”
Over the years, it has been proven that it is so easy to get lost in the sauce and lose sight of the relevant things that go on around the lives of artistes and entertainers. Staying woke is a common mantra among today’s youth. There is a current group of Africans doing amazing things with music. Bryan sees himself as a contributor to new sound and shows that he’s well aware of his surroundings.
He expressed his view on the current state of music in and around Africa while sharing his take on the entrepreneurial drive among the youth.
“Before, we used to have upcoming artistes just sit there, waiting for a mainstream artiste or some big organization to come and pick them up and invest in them. Now a lot of us have realized how much or even how much more we can do on our own. We have artistes dropping more music with more music videos, we have artistes organizing their own shows. We have artistes creating a whole lot of businesses from their music through selling merchandise and other products by virtue of the brand they’ve built.”
Bryan admitted that rap culture is shifting globally with minds like Kendrick, Cole and Chance leading a new wave of conscious rap, but only sees them as great sources of information and not exactly a source or point of direction that should solely lead upcoming artistes. He stands by this because he has such a huge feeling that there’s still so much left to discover and pioneer. As a result, he feels artistes should be more focused on creating their own direction because we’re all different people coming from different cultures and different environments. He continued saying, “There’s definitely a lot of those differences that we can put back into the music and create something unique instead of acting like they are the ones who have always set the trends so we should just keep it that way. We can do more. I know it.”
Brie Larson once said: “I love discussing social issues, but I’m not interested in scare tactics. I believe there is a way to bring awareness in tandem with forgiveness and love.”
Bryan shared his views on what music means to him, the role his music is intended to play in society and the challenges of making and promoting music in Africa.
I think we would be extremely sad and underdeveloped, ignorant people if we didn’t have music in our culture
“Music to me is a chance to say something that can have an impact on society so I’d want that something to be relevant. For the next generation in particular, I’d like to see them being inspired to recognize all their opportunities and take full advantage. In order to have more successful brands coming out onto the global scene from Africa. With hip-hop in particular, the genre is borrowed but the culture is not. We should have more of our individual African culture in our music and we’ll be just great. Collaborative work is not easy here in Africa because everyone else is trying to do their own thing and they don’t really care about helping out with works from others. They just want to blow up. So sometimes it’s hard to achieve certain sounds on your own. I think this problem exists because of our insecurities and lack of trust for one another. Cause one person might feel like he or she is either going to be taken advantage of or cheated at some point. This really affects the quality of our productions. It is a personal goal to have a social topic to discuss most of the time I make music. Music is very important to us as Africans because I feel like we patronize all kinds of music here way more than any other place in the world because it’s free. Or at least it seems to be for most people. I think we would be extremely sad and underdeveloped, ignorant people if we didn’t have music in our culture. As far as I’m concerned, music has taught me a lot about the practical aspects of life even before I began to experience them for myself. It’s such a huge informant. We really need music in our lives in order to grow. Music is a very powerful tool for social change.”
It’s never a Rain affair if we don’t delve into a little bit more than the norm. To further wrap things up, we asked Bryan to take us on the journey his mind has traveled recently. Mind you, the following might take away whatever hard guy street credit he has amassed. There’s truth in it, however.
Music has gotten so commercial that it is not even a personal expression anymore for some mainstream artistes. It’s just an opportunity to stay relevant.
“Lately I’ve been trying to understand why we have so many love songs as well as lust songs. It’s kind of alarming because it makes me feel like artistes around here feel limited in their creative processes and that can really destroy the birth of new sounds that we can all vibe to instead of doing the same thing over and over again till you retire as an O.G. I realized that sometimes the people really just want what they want but sometimes the artiste has to be the influence and not the other way around. The artiste has to give the people new things to appreciate. Because the people are not the ones doing the exploring, the experimentation and the production of the song. That is for the artiste or the producer to do. So the people don’t know what’s new. They only know what they’ve been given. The creatives in this case have to be the ones to determine the sound and not the people. Music has gotten so commercial that it is not even a personal expression anymore for some mainstream artistes. It’s just an opportunity to stay relevant. That shouldn’t be the case cos that is what promotes mediocrity and mediocrity is a waste of time.”
Intricate thoughts, if you ask me.
Experience Bryan the Mensah on his website, where he shares the stories behind his new EP Friends with the Sun, as well as merch and a short film coming soon.
“I’ve made my mistakes but I learned from em.
So I know just how much we all love a fair judgement.
But nobody dey owe you shele. You for earn loving.
The world is super cold with no polar bear hugging.
All we want is love and freedom from the fear coming.”
Listen to Bryan’s recent project, Friends with The Sun: