America is the center of the entertainment industry, and as a country is a dominant force in every genre; from rap, to R&B to electronic and rock music alike.
One field they can’t seem to get their grips on is afrobeats or afro swing - outside of Houston native Davido (if that counts), Atlanta star Jidenna (not sure that counts) or K.Michelle’s incredible cover of the classic Love Me Jeje (definitely doesn’t count). Burna Boy and Wizkid’s collabs with the likes of Drake and Future have been great but as of 2020, the States definitely haven’t seen a genuine, homegrown afrobeats artist come out and stand on their own quite yet.
However one singer that caught my eye is Maryland-via-Nigeria singer Mannywellz, an afrobeats-meets-R&B artist with his own refreshing and soulful take on the genre.
Striking out (as far as I know) with last year’s incredible META EP, with great tracks like Imperfection and Philosophy, he follows that effort up with a more ambitious and great sequel, Mirage.
Mirage is a short project, but his longest so far, and so far it proves to be a great display of Manny’s talents, from his great voice to his expressive and soulful songwriting.
There are several standouts on the project - there’s the opener, Peace, which features these large guitar chords and synth moog bass that creates a unique vibe over the afro-inspired rhythms. The melancholic vibe in the song, created by Manny’s smooth voice and drug-addled lyricism is supported by a passionate verse from Nigeria’s Tems, who completes the song.
Peace gives way to the R&B ballad So Good, and the slower tempo allows Manny the opportunity to explore his vocal range over the powerful bass guitar and keys, pushing the song to new heights. While I loved his take on afrobeats in the thoughtful and introspective META EP, Manny is definitely not wrong to try out R&B. Dangerous feels like an acoustic guitar interlude; and Floating with 90s R&B revivalists VanJess is another collaboration that pays off.
But I think Manny on afrobeats, when he takes the time to write his thoughts out and try out new harmonies, is hard to beat. Sweet and Tender, with its slowed-down afro-guitars and plucky synths, as well as his poppy song with fellow Maryland native and frequent collaborator Wale are the real highlights of this project.
Mannywellz is a great up and coming artist you need to check out, with a wide range of talents you need to lend an ear to. With thoughtful lyrics, great production and a great voice to match, Mirage is a project that’s going to stay in my Spotify playlists for a while.