Ghana: A Chat With M3nsa

interview

Photo: Msia Kibona Clark
Ghanaian musician M3nsa.

The Ghanaian hip-hop scene is one of the most diverse in Africa. A look at Ghana's top emcees reveals artists that vary greatly in style, lyricism, skill and demeanor.

M3nsa, aka Mensa Ansah, can be counted among that list of Ghana's top emcees, and stands out for his unique style and brand of lyricism.

I sat down with M3nsa during his recent visit to Los Angeles, after the artist performed a special Valentine's Day show at Zanzibar nightclub.

M3nsa began his foray into music as a teenager, and says he was greatly influenced by parents who encouraged his musical interests. He says he was also influenced by his older brothers who regularly played old school American hip hop.

M3nsa would begin his music career by producing tracks for other artists. He would eventually craft his own lyrical skills and give more attention to developing his career as an emcee. Based in England, M3nsa acknowledges that his style is a reflection of his rich musical background as well as his experiences living abroad.

His career entered a new phase when, years ago while in the United States, M3nsa says he met up with high school friend and fellow musician Wanlov the Kubolor. The two would go on to create the infamous rap duo Fokn Bois. The two artists showed off their creativity and comedic skills in the 2010 Pidgen musical hit film "Coz ov Moni". The film was the perfect platform to exhibit the duo's skills as musicians, producers and actors.

Since then the duo has gone on to produce several controversial and highly talked about songs and videos. When I asked the artist about some of the controversy he shrugged and admitted that they were aware that some of their songs would create a buzz, but were surprised at the amount of response their music has gotten. Songs like "Thank God We're Not A Nigerians" played on the rivalry between Ghanaians and Nigerians, but some did not get the joke. The song inspired several heated debates across the Internet and on social media.

In 2010 M3nsa also released his solo album "No. 1 Mango Street." The album blends hip hop, jazz and African rhythms and further reveals the artist's talents as a lyricist, producer and performer. The album features the hits "Adjuma", "Fanti Love Song", "Kelewele Pimpin'", and "Brkn Lngwjz" with Wanlov the Kubolor. While one may not categorize M3nsa as a "conscious" artist, he is one of the few hip hop artists today that has regularly produced solid club hits, like "Adjuma", while infusing much of his music with socially relevant lyrics.

I asked M3nsa what was next for him. Juggling multiple projects keeps him busy, and he regularly travels between the United States, the United Kingdom and Ghana. The artist will begin working on "Coz ov Moni 2" later this year. Like the first film, he says the sequel will include cameos by Ghanaian musicians, but this time the film will include speaking roles for the additional characters.

He is also working on two albums. The first is with the group Atomic Junction, an album he is working on with his cousin, musician Ryan Ansah. He is also working on a highly anticipated, yet to be titled, sophomore solo album.

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