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Mannywellz. Photo courtesy of the artist.

How DACA Is Affecting This Thriving, Young Nigerian Artist

Mannywellz has millions of plays and has toured with Jidenna, but his career may be crushed by Trump's move to end DACA.

Mannywellz is a rising, Nigerian-born artist who crafts songs from a potent blend of hip-hop, R&B; and West African influences.

And he's been doing great. Tracks like "Wrong Place," an electro-tinged R&B; highlight from the recent Soulfro EP, have earned him millions of plays on streaming platforms like Spotify and Soundcloud. He also toured across the United States with Jidenna last year, which only added to his buzz. But it's also where the problems started.


As a recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, Mannywellz' is one of the 800,000 young immigrants who receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and eligibility for work permits. That will come to an end soon under the Trump administration's mission to repeal DACA.

That uncertainty has heavily affected Mannywellz' career. It's influenced some of his most popular songs, like the sorrowful "American Dream," but also derailed long term plans and forced him forgo massive tours. He couldn't join Jidenna in international concert dates across Europe and Africa, for example, for fear of what would happen when he tried to return to the US.

In "American Dream," one of his most streamed songs, Mannywellz sings about coming to the U.S. at 9 years-old with his family, "... don't you worry we gon' have a better life, we will be one again, happy family... I was brought to come and live the American dream." However positive the lyrics may seem, the song is coated with melancholic singing and muted guitar work.

We sat down with Mannywellz to talk about how Trump ending DACA is affecting a young African artist like himself.

First of, tell us about your music and the new Soulfro EP.

It's music from the soul with Afro elements—a style of music that blends several genres, not just afrobeats. It's soul meets hip-hop, R&B;, folk, rock—whatever. I always believe in genre-bending. My influences come from my favorites like Asa, a Nigerian artist based in France. I love what Bob Marley stands for. Kanye West, Ryan Leslie, Timbaland. Also Fela and Sunny Ade from Nigeria. They really influenced that sound, then people in America like Drake and Kendrick influenced other cadences I use. Nigeria is the heaviest influence on the music, though. I use a lot of native sounds and instruments, like the talking drum. My vocals are very West African as well, in the way that I enunciate things.

When did you move from Nigeria to the U.S.?

I came in 2003, when I was 9-years-old with my youngest sister and my mother. My dad was already in the States. I moved to Prince George's County in Maryland—Bowie to be exact. I've lived there my whole life, from '03 to 2018, that's 15 years.

How was growing up in Maryland as a Nigerian kid?

It was interesting. There were a lot of African booty scratcher jokes. But I had tough skin. One thing that I'm not sure is positive or negative is that I tried to fit in. I didn't really get too much flack for being African—I became a class clown and people laughed with me. They were like "Oh that guy's from Africa but he's, like, cool."

How did you get into music?

My dad's a musician, so I was born into music. My dad and I have performed for presidents and vice-presidents of Nigeria. I started performing with him when I was 9 years-old. Two weeks into when I came to the U.S. he just gave me a mic. Nigerians would have parties and call up musicians to entertain, so that would be my dad, he did that all over the States. He released three albums in the US and, before he came here, he wrote a record for the church that sold over a million records in Nigeria.

Tell us about being admitted as a DACA recipient. What was life like before and after?

It was tough before DACA. I couldn't get a regular job, so I had to buy Jordans or phones and flip them just to pay my own phone bill. Things were hard. My dad had moved back to Nigeria, so it was just my mom and my younger siblings. That was five years ago or so in 2012. I remember my friends being able to drive when they were 16 and I had to wait until I was 19 or 20 years-old to get a freaking permit. Receiving the DACA was a relief because I was able to get a regular job—from Ledo's to Sun Trust to PNC, you know.

Are your siblings DACA recipients?

My sister is but my two youngest siblings were born here so they're citizens.

How did you feel hearing the news about Trump wanting to repeal DACA.

It felt weird man. I didn't know how to feel.

And that announcement put a stop to the Jidenna tour you were meant to be on?

Yeah, so with Jidenna, a friend of mine sent them my music. They loved it and became fans of the art that I was creating, so when he announced his tour, my management got in contact and said, let's make this happen. Touring with another dope Nigerian act, who's doing his thing, I learned how tours work, the ins-and-outs, what to do and what not to do. It was BIG. We went everywhere around America but I couldn't even go to Canada because of my DACA situation. My legal situation through this DACA stuff has been very taxing on my career. We didn't want to risk it. Jidenna asked me to go to Europe and Africa with him—he's in South Africa right now—But I can't do anything outside of the United States at all because of my situation and fear of the risk that I may not get back in.

How do you navigate your situation now?

My main goal is to inspire kids that are just like me. Coming out and letting everyone know that they're not alone in this DACA fight and that we can stand together, pray together and make something happen. I think that's my main goal with my art, with what I stand for and what I release on social media.

Have you met many other DACA aritsts?

A lot of people have been messaging me saying they're DACA kids. My guitar player is a DACA kid. I'm not going to mention names but other people back home that are aspiring artists, Nigerian to be exact, are DACA kids.

Is there anything else you want to add?

Just pray for us. Pray for the DACA kids!

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Janet Jackson Returns With Afrobeats-Inspired Song & Video 'Made For Now' Featuring Daddy Yankee

The icon's latest is a nod to the sound, fashion and culture of the diaspora.

Ms. Jackson is back.

The iconic artist returns with her first single since the release of her 2015 album Unbreakable, and it's a timely nod to the "made for now" influence of afrobeats fashion, sound and culture.

On "Made For Now," which features Puerto Rican reggaeton titan Daddy Yankee, Janet Jackson does what she's done successfully so many times throughout her decades-long career: provide an infectious, party-worthy tune that's fun and undeniably easy to dance to. "If you're living for the moment, don't stop," Jackson sings atop production which fuses dancehall, reggaeton and afrobeats.

The New York-shot music video is just as lively, filled with eye-catching diasporic influences, from the wax-print ensembles and beads both Janet and her dancers wear to the choreographed afrobeats-tinged dance numbers, even hitting the Shoki at one point in the video. The train of dancers travel throughout the streets of Brooklyn, taking over apartment buildings and rooftops with spirited moves.

It's obvious that Jackson has been studying and drawing inspiration from the culture for some time now. She even hit the Akwaaba dance, popularized by Mr Eazi, during her Icon Award performance at this year's Billboard Music Awards.

The bouncing video, directed by Dave Meyers, features contributions from a number of creatives from Africa and the diaspora who were involved in the creation of the video, including designer Claude Lavie Kameni and choreographer Omari Mizrahi. Ghanaian health guru, Coach Cass pointed out some of the many dancers involved in the production on Instagram, who hail from Ghana, Nigeria, Trinidad, Grenada and the US.

Ahead of the video's release, it garnered attention on social media when Jackson was spotted filming in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, wearing what many thought was a questionable fashion ensemble. The outfit in question only makes a small appearance in the video, and we're glad to see that Janet's other looks appear, at least slightly, more coordinated.

Watch the music video for "Made for Now" below. The singer is set to perform the song with Daddy Yankee live for the first time tonight on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, so be ready!

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You Need to Hear Juls' New Single 'Saa Ara'


New hip-hop and highlife grooves from the celebrated UK-based Ghanaian producer.

By merging the diverse influence of growing up in Accra and East London, Juls has managed to cultivate a hybrid afrobeats style that has set him apart from the rest.

For his latest single, "Saa Ara," he teams up with award-winning rapper Kwesi Arthur and gifted lyricist Akan.

The brilliant fusion of vintage highlife instrumentals and booming hip-hop beats, along with Kwesi Arthur's lively chorus and Akan's fiery delivery gives the song a very spiritual and classical feel.

Soothe your soul this weekend with these tasteful sounds from Juls.

Listen to "Saa Ara" by Juls featuring Kwesi Arthur and Akan below.

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News Brief

FIFA Refuses To Meet with Nigeria's Sports Minister as Ghana Takes Steps to Avoid Ban

This could jeopardize Nigeria's qualifier against Seychelles in September, while the Ghanaian government has pledged not to dissolve its football association.

In lieu of the ultimatums Nigeria and Ghana's football associations faced from FIFA, one country is on its way to dodge the threat of being banned, while the other is not going down without a fight.

FIFA has refused a proposed meeting with Nigeria's sports minister, Solomon Dalung, to discuss problems in the country's football federation, BBC Sport reports. They say their leadership and the FIFA president is unwilling to meet during the proposed time period.

FIFA is giving the NFF until August 20 for Chris Giwa, who was acknowledged by the courts as the president of the federation, to leave the NFF offices.

Giwa's lawyer Ardzard Habilla asserts that FIFA can't ban Nigeria as the federation's issues need to be sorted out internally by the country's judiciary.

Habilla questions, "Do we take it that FIFA laws are superior to the judgment of the highest court in our land—the Supreme Court, and has FIFA elevated itself before the constitution of Nigeria?"

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