Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1074

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Mann: It's a Mann's world

Mann Mann Mann Mann

With its robust, bass-prodded groove and layers of super-catchy hooks bolstered by an instantly-infectious, breezy chorus, the radio-and-club-friendly West Coast bounce of âBuzzinââ is currently providing West LA, California rapper/singer Mann with his well-deserved first taste of mainstream international success.

Indeed, based around world-conquering US producer (of Jason Derulo/Sean Kingston/Rihanna fame) J.R. Rotemâs choppedânâscrewed sample of the 1986 Nu Shooz transatlantic pop/soul smash âI Canât Waitâ, the universal appeal of âBuzzinââ is also additionally - and substantially - enhanced by a distinctively-weighty guest-rap from multi-million-selling global hip hop icon 50 Cent.

All of which ultimately evidences the undeniably-uplifting, unique blend of hip hop swagger and melodic pop flavour that a now-19-year-old Mann originally began crafting when he first picked up a mic in his hometown at the young age of 14. Since which time he has continued to gradually increase his profile on the rap underground through a succession of mix-tapes - most notably the three volume-series âWest L.A. Diariesâ.

Meanwhile, April 2011 finds an instantly-welcoming, humble-mannered and behatted Mann (originally born Dijon Thames Shariff in July 1991) happily greeting - during his first-ever visit to London - âBlues & Soulâ Assistant Editor Pete Lewis. As - relaxing in a quiet corner-room of Universal Musicâs ever-hectic Kensington HQ - the two discuss in-depth Mannâs aforementioned current UK Top 10 single âBuzzinââ; his upcoming debut album âMannâs Worldâ; his urban upbringing in West LA; plus his ongoing role in the resurgence of West Coast rap.

PETE: Whatâs the background behind your current international breakthrough Top 10 hit âBuzzinââ - which samples prominently the 1986 Nu Shooz pop/soul smash âI Canât Waitâ?

MANN: âOne day, around two years ago, I was walking through a store with my mom when the original Nu Shooz song came on the radio. And, because I really loved it, I was like âWhat is this SONG?!â⦠And when she told me it was an old song from the Eighties, straightaway I hit-up J.R. (Rotem) and asked him if he wanted to flip it⦠So he was like âYeah, for sureâ - and made the track... But then, once I got it, I didnât really know how to ATTACK it!... Until one day I just kinda went in the studio and said âIâm not gonna even THINK about making radio record! Iâm just gonna go in, be me, and write song about how I FEEL!â... And, because I felt good that day, I wrote a song about feeling like MONEY - which turned out to be âBuzzinâ!â

PETE: So how did rap megastar 50 Cent end up coming on board for both the remix and video?

MANN: â50 came on board after heâd heard the record on the radio. He basically added a verse to it, dropped it on-line - and, because his on-line presence is so big, people started treating his version as an official REMIX. So I reached out to him; he said he wanted to shoot a video; we shot the video... And since then heâs kinda become like this big mentor figure whoâs given me a lot of advice, which Iâve definitely LISTENED to! Because, you know, 50 is a cool guy - a lot cooler than people CREDIT him with being! Heâs really truthful, heâs honest, he has a big heart⦠Plus he really wants to see people - especially young, up-and-coming cats - SUCCEED!â

PETE: So what can we expect from your forthcoming debut album âMannâs Worldâ, which has been described as âhip hop thatâs still pop enough for the masses - a soundtrack for celebrationâ?

MANN: âBecause itâs my first album, Iâm taking it really serious. You know, J.R. is producing it, and weâre actually re-sampling a lot of records because we want to have a consistent SOUND. And Iâd say the sound that we have right now is kinda comparable to what Snoop Dogg did on (his 1993 debut album) âDoggystyleâ. Where he was like flipping old, feel-good records and re-introducing them to a new audience by adding his own twist and his own flavour to it.â

PETE: And how would you break it down lyrically and musically?

MANN: âLyrically all the songs are basically about loving life and having fun and enjoying yourself, while at the same still keeping it true to real-life. While musically the flavour is definitely R&B - where weâre taking it back to like the Eighties/early-Nineties, when music wasnât so fast-paced and you could just bob your head and ride to it... So yeah, itâs definitely sounding pretty classic right now.â

PETE: Youâre quoted as wanting to craft a new sound thatâs consistent with your own âBirthday Philosophyâ. So what do you feel youâre bringing as an artist, thatâs different for today?

MANN: âIâm definitely bringing a positive energy. I know that I have a really good heart, and so I wanna spread the way I think and the way I am to other PEOPLE - whether it be through music, or through my shows, or through just being me and meeting my fans. You know, I want people to know that you donât have to be conceited or cocky to be a star, and that you can be as humble and down-to-earth as anybody else and still make great MUSIC!... So in that way, I think the thing that most sets me apart from a lot of OTHER artists today is that Iâm approachable and Iâm not AFRAID of that. You know, I love talking to my fans, whether it be on Twitter or whatever - and the âBirthday Philosophyâ is PART of all that, because thatâs the way I THINK! I believe that every day is your birthday, and that youâre constantly reborn. So thatâs what my music represents and why itâs always UPLIFTING!â

PETE: So letâs talk about your early musical influencesâ¦

MANN: âMusically as a kid I was always listening to a lot of old skool West Coast artists such as Snoop, DJ Quik, Dr. Dre - you know, all the greats. So I guess thatâs what inspired me to rap the way I DO with the feeling that I like to give OFF. Because I always loved those guys when they werenât on that gang-banging tip and they were just talking about having fun - like Quik in particular used to talk about just kicking it with his friends a LOT!â

PETE: And what was the West LA neighbourhood like that you grew up in?

MANN: âWell, the neighbourhood I grew up in was definitely part of the urban community, but at the same time we were the âhood closest to HOLLYWOOD! Like we could see the Hollywood sign, we could see everybody down on Sunset (Boulevard)... You know, we could see SUCCESS! And so, because of that, itâs kinda like we were always inspired to DO more and to MAKE it! Which I think is the most beautiful part about growing up in West LA.â

PETE: So how did you first get into rapping professionally?

MANN: âIn the beginning, for me it actually all started off with acting, then it went into dancing... But then, because I was the youngest person in my dancing group - they were all like 20 and I was 12 - and I wanted to be like the older people, I started WRITING. And, though at first they were all kinda knocking me and saying âNo, you canât do it manâ, I still kept at it until I started getting really GOOD - to where it basically started becoming my LIFE! Which is when I started performing in different places. And though - because I was still in High School - I wasnât able to do TOO much of it, whatever free time I DID have was always spent doing MUSIC! Which I guess was what kept me out of TROUBLE!â

PETE: You were born in 1991 - arguably the year when West Coast rap was beginning its five-year take-over of the hip hop scene worldwide (through artists like Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and 2Pac). What was it like growing up in LA amidst that environment?

MANN: âWell, thatâs why I have so much West Coast pride TODAY! Because, as a little kid, that was the first thing I HEARD - West Coast MUSIC! Which is why itâs always had a special place in my HEART!... But having said that, by the time Iâd got to my teens it had already kinda faded away because the sound had got repetitive... So yeah, for a long time I MISSED that sound - which is why Iâm now so hungry to bring it BACK! Because to me itâs kinda like the game has gone full-circle - and the person to bring it back had to be someone who KNEW the sound but was too young to have grown up IN it.â

PETE: So how does the West Coast rap scene today differ from its Nineties heyday?

MANN: âWell, like I said, back then it kinda faded quite quickly because it got so repetitive, to where the message was always the same old thing - âI gang-bang and Iâm HARD!â⦠Whereas today itâs like the West coast has something ELSE to talk about. We talk about fashion, we talk about having fun... Itâs like nobody wants to do the old West Coast gangsta-rap thing any more because itâs kinda played-out, plus we donât wanna PIGEONHOLE ourselves. Instead today we just wanna be able to perform and get love EVERYWHERE! So what you find is that West Coast rap these days is basically about people being THEMSELVES! You know, while I may be Mann - an artist from West LA whoâs happy to represent his city - that doesnât mean Iâm stuck in a BOX! And thereâs a lotta OTHER young West Coast artists coming up too, who feel the same WAY!â

The single âBuzzinâ Featuring 50 Centâ is out now through Def Jam

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