Photo courtesy of the artist.
Interview: BRYAN THE MENSAH On His New EP 'I Don't Feel Like Going Outside'
The rising Ghanaian artist is all about the money in his new EP.
In an afrobeats-dominated industry, BRYAN THE MENSAHis a gem that you need to pay attention to. The young Ghanaian act has been active as a solo artist since 2016 and delivered three projects, a string of singles, and a few videos. This time around however, he's issued a project that's a bit more intentional.
Being a rapper, singer, producer, sound engineer, and visual artist, BRYAN THE MENSAH wears many hats. Over time he has made himself known for his unique marketing strategies when it comes to his music, things such as offering merchandise bundles along with music to push sales, and visiting fans on university campuses to play new music for them personally. These things typically should be common practice, but in the Ghanaian music space, they aren't. That makes Bryan an anomaly, showing dedication and drive that goes beyond just creating and releasing music, but a special attention to how it's received as well as the business side of things.
Bryan has a signature rap-sung flow which is distinct to himself, and he bars no subject matter, even going in from time to time on matters of love and relationships. Arguably no young, budding artist in the Ghana music scene shows the kind of drive and ambition he does—that's judging not just from his music but also from his moves in real life. You can tell that this is an artist who has his sights set on very big things.
BRYAN THE MENSAHPhoto courtesy of the artist.
All that hustle, drive, and ambition is now embodied in a single project. I Don't Feel Like Going Outside is a four track EP where the rapper focuses on just one thing – the money. From being on the Forbes list, to getting bank deposits, to building homes, you haven't seen this many similes and metaphors for getting rich in the same place before. Here, the rapper exudes a hunger and drive that makes you want to stop in your tracks and go get paid, the minute you press play on any of the songs. Whether it's the soundtrack of your commute to work, your gym playlist, or simply your new hip-hop fix of the moment, I Don't Feel Like Going Outside will get you pumped and ready for your next money-making move.
In his interview with OkayAfrica, we speak to Bryan about the EP and the experiences that fueled it. Read ahead below.
What's the idea behind the title of the EP?
I Don't Feel Like Going Outside is actually the excuse a lot of creatives or people in general tend to give when they become reluctant in chasing their dreams for one reason or the other, either laziness or whatever it may be. Outside here represents the real world, where there are real life challenges and obstacles that block your dreams or tend to get in the way. Normally when you get an idea, it works perfectly well in your mind without any hindrances cause your mind is actually a comfort zone. But as soon as you bring it outside into the real world, the idea begins to break, because it couldn't adapt to the real world restrictions. Hence the excuse comes in.
You'd realize the songs on the EP are the exact opposite of the life of someone who makes excuses. That is just to say the only way to prepare your dreams for the real world is by actually taking them into the real world. The only way you actually get ready to hit the gym is by actually hitting the gym. I know it's difficult and sometimes sounds ridiculous but that's just how it works. I didn't make the rules.
How long did it take to put the EP together, from start to finish?
I started working on "Build My Home" in 2017 as a beat that I was trying to sell to an artist client that I met online. The beat was initially called Western Union cause that's the method they were going to use to pay. Fortunately, I had sent them a couple of other beats as well and so they ended up selecting one other beat. "Deposits" was made in 2018, "Dimirika" according to the producer OKAIWAV, was actually produced on a flight while he was trying to while away time to prevent him from falling asleep on the plane. He played the beat to me at the studio in August 2019 during the early times when we first met. Forbes list was actually made in 2019 as well, while I was also trying to while away time 'cause I was waiting for OKAIWAV to come through to the studio 'cause we had scheduled a session and he was late. I'm mostly the late one though I guess he just had a bad day [laughs]. All in all, I'd say it took three years to get everything ready.
What's "Dimirika" about?
"Dimirika" actually means 'keep running' in Twi. In the song I'm talking about someone who owes me money and consistently finds ways to avoid paying me back, and so now I have to chase them down myself and get my money back. I think a lot of people will actually relate to this song a lot because apparently it's a very common thing in Accra for one to be in debt and still be the same person buying hella drinks in the club and posting it on Snapchat for the people you owe to see [laughs]. In Ghana this is known as being a 'bomber'. Real bombers are not supposed to be in debt as they bomb though, just saying. On the other hand, there are a lot of people being taken advantage of and working for 'rich' people virtually for free just because they have hopes of becoming as rich as them one day. What they keep forgetting is those 'rich' people are only able to stay rich by not paying other people the money that they deserve.
BRYAN THE MENSAH - Don't Forget Feat. Jay Cliff (Official Video)www.youtube.com
Were you just being creative or is that a personal experience?
It's a very personal experience. I have loads of people owing me money right now. Ironically, a few days after the EP dropped, a couple of them contacted me themselves and paid me back. I don't know if they thought I was going to put out a debtor's list or something now that I have a lot of people's attention due to the music doing well [laughs].
Which other songs on the EP are based on your experiences?
I think all the songs have a personal connection with me one way or the other because they reflected my thoughts and various mental states I've gone through over the years. That's how come you'd realize there's a lot of discussion concerning making money or anything money related 'cause that's the space I've been in these past few years, because both my life and my music career became a bit more demanding financially. So I had to go out to get the bags in and that's what I've been doing ever since I got hit with that reality, which happened to be the same period of time this EP was being put together.
Tell us a bit about "Build My Home."
"Build My Home" is a message for all the friends and family we grew up with. The ones we used to play ball with. The ones we used to party out with, the ones we used to play video games with and all the cool fun stuff that young people do together when they're growing up. This is just to say stop expecting me to be that young wild and free person you knew from back in the day 'cause a lot has changed now. I have a bunch of goals now and I can't risk not meeting them just because you want to spend time hanging out now. There'll be loads of time for that when we're all finally successful. This dream and this passion is the space I've lived in for a very long time and it has become a home to me. I need to focus on building it so that I can live in it much longer.
Why did you make the EP so short?
Apart from the fact that we actually had 10 songs and my manager slashed it into 4, I also believe that the EP had a simple strong message that didn't need too much talking to be done to put the message across. Sort of like we picked the best words to tell the story with 'cause we knew it would make clearer and easier for you to get it. Plus y'all have your lives to live. We can't be the same ones telling you to go out and live your dreams and then be the same ones getting you to spend all your time listening to us telling you to live your dreams. Makes no sense. Short and straightforward makes everybody happier and more productive.
BRYAN THE MENSAHPhoto courtesy of the artist.
Which song is your personal favorite? Why?
"Dimirika" is my favorite right now because I love the way it makes people feel when it comes on. We did a listening session tour where we went to fans in different schools and campuses to play the EP for them before the EP officially came out. In one of the schools, "Dimirika" came on and these people were literally just jumping to the song the whole time right after the bass and kick dropped. I doubt they actually even heard the words then but yo music is a feeling. At the end of the day, who cares if they didn't hear it? All I know is that it made them feel comfortable enough to want to go crazy and that's an amazing superpower for real.
Why are all the songs on the project so hustle themed?
'Cause I'm a hustler baby! [Laughs] Just kidding. I think it's because of the financial demands my music career is beginning to show me. In order to sustain it or move it to the next level I need to be constantly investing in myself and in my craft and brand because no one is going to do that for me. At this point I strongly believe that my manager is the only other person who shares my exact vision and trust me, we've been doing our most for a while but as the time changes we need to go harder as well so there's always an element of hustle that needs to be acknowledged. I'm at this point in my life where there are literally no hobbies. Everything that I enjoy which is listening to music has now become work to me because every song I hear more or less becomes a case study where I automatically tend to derive lessons that I can apply to my own music in various aspects and that's all just a lot of work as well.
What else should we expect from you this year?
Seeing is believing, so I'm going to be putting out a lot of visuals this year. I'm trying to tell my story in the most convincing ways possible and with that I can't just tell you from the music. I'll need to show you from the videos. And I Don't Feel Like Going Outside is actually an introduction to another EP that'll be out later this year called Outside Isn't So Bad. So please expect that, and generally more good music and collaborations.
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