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MNEK Wants to be a Fucking Icon

A poorly kept secret star in the making, Uzo Emineke first came to prominence at 14, producing remixes and writing incredible songs for others, generally riling up the pop world. Now, at the grand old age of 19, he’s ready to launch his own project. Watch out world. We caught up with him backstage at Lovebox to chat the new album and fangirl over the legendary Jam & Lewis.

First, let’s remind ourselves how amazing ‘Wrote A Song About You’ is, and then let’s have a chat with him shall we?

Notion: So, MNEK, how are things?

MNEK: Great! Didn’t get many hours sleep but it was great. I had the party MNEK yesterday and that went great and now we have two gigs today.

N: So how does the whole campaign feel like it’s going at the moment?

M: Really well man! You know I think everything’s happening in its own time and I’m really happy and my band and me are growing on stage and people are becoming aware of the music. I’m in a good place and I think the campaign’s going great.

N: Is it quite a funny situation for you having been around for so long. It’s been like five or six years and yet you’re only really properly pushing brand MNEK at the moment?

M: I don’t think it’s weird. I think I had to grow up because I was 14 when I came on the scene. So I think as much as I was rushing, like ‘oh-my-god I want to do it now’, I wasn’t ready then. So now I’m doing it I’m ready.

N: So when was that moment when you suddenly went ‘now is the time for me’? Was there a kind of moment when you thought I’m ready for this?

M: I don’t think it was one defining moment. It was more so generally that as me and my writing were growing and everyone was becoming aware of me in that sense, I think it just felt natural and I became inspired to do stuff. It came naturally. It wasn’t like my management and I were like ‘okay, so now we do the album’. It had to be right and I think when there was a steady flow of songs happening it was inevitable.

N: Do you have a particular criteria for what’s very MNEK project and what’s for other people when you’re writing songs or when you’re looking at the songs you’ve written?

M: I think it’s very clear when you hear the music. I think my music is very different to everything I’ve done with everyone else. Especially when I’m doing stuff for me it’s me, myself and I a lot of the time and when I’m doing stuff for other people it’s with them, I co-write with them and I’m really helping them paint their picture. So I guess for my own stuff it’s me painting mine.

N: Totally makes sense. What do you think is brand MNEK to use quite a silly phrase? What do you think is you?

M: What is me? I guess the MNEK sound is very 90s influenced. I think it’s very big and at times quite cinematic and very vocally driven. I think there’s part of me that isn’t afraid to be pop music but I’m not trying to say ‘look at me, I’m an RnB artist’ – I’m not. I think I’m just a pop singer who channels very different elements – there’s RnB, there’s hip-hop, there’s electronic, there’s dance. And as far as the look, I wanted to make sure it was very me and that even if I wasn’t shown attributing my African heritage through my music it was going to be through my fashion. So African prints are always in there. I really collaborate with my stylist on getting custom pieces and getting that all together.

N: If there was a collage for the album what do you think would be in it or on it?

M: I guess, I was very much inspired by people like Janet [Jackson]. If there was one album I was inspired by while making [my album] it was the ‘Velvet Rope’ album.

N: Is that Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis?

M: Yeah, they’re my idols – Jam and Lewis. I actually met them and then played them stuff from the album. They loved it and I was so thankful because I look up to them like no other. So ‘Velvet Rope’ is one of my favourite albums, ‘Butterfly’ by Mariah is one of my favourite albums, ‘Black Box Dreamland’, Friendly Fires ‘Pala’. It’s all inspired by things like that but at the same time every song sounds really different from each other which I’m really appreciative about as I didn’t want any song to sound the same.

N: It’s a lovely mix of stuff. A couple of months ago there was a Tabu records box set released, and Tabu records was kind of the start of Jimmy and Terry and I’ve just become so obsessed with Alexander O’Neal at the minute.

M: I love Alexander O’Neal! The ‘Hearsay’ album!

N: Exactly, and Cherrelle and everything like that. Best influence I think – absolutely love it. That’s a good collage. So how far down the line is the album now? What can you tell us?

M: It’s finished. We are aiming for either the end of this year or quarter one. It’s my baby and it’s been five years in the making really. Maybe it wasn’t necessarily me in the studio for five years because I had to grow up to really be able to make it. It’s definitely a coming of age album because I made the bulk when I was 18 and I learnt so much in that year. I got 18 tattooed on my wrist in roman numerals. I think it’s a powerful album which I’m really proud of.

N: Have you got a name [for the album]?

M: I can’t say yet. It’s a sick title though. And the cover’s really cool too.

N: So this time next year where are you? What’s happening? Have you visualized that yet?

M: Hopefully on tour and releasing more songs off the album, releasing some more visuals from the album. I really want to make sure that whatever the case, whether it flops or whether it goes massive that the visual of the album, the message of the album isn’t sacrificed and that it’s still out there.

N: What is that message?

M: The message is that I want to be a fucking icon.

Wrote a Song About You is out now and is very amazing.



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