A candid interview as Meyniak opens up on why he defies the need to rap in vernacular,his defining working moments with McZee and what his 2014 album Before Dawn:The Sire really means to him
The past three years have been quite bliss for hip hop as artistes have taken the stride from being one track rappers to pushing their art into delivering albums to the masses.Also making his mark amongst those who have made albums is rapper Meyniak in the form of his 2014 release entitled Before Dawn:The Sire.Flashback from the Now Or Never times(one of the first few tracks he did produced by McZee) to present day Skebede , Meyniak has been proving for quite some time that he is more than just a regular rapper.He is a very deep and analytical thinker compared to most of the rappers of his generation who lose their audience in their failure to translate their intelligence into a palatable musical meal to digest easily.There are times his wordplay may lose you(X and O’s)but overally his brilliance and reflections all coated up in an album will surely impress you.
I first took heed of this rapper ,a year into my A level’s ‘The Miss Pearly ‘days’ and in those times I must admit I registered he was whiling up time and trying to get St Dominic’s girls easily in the form of being a high school rap god(it worked though ana nhingi nana nhingi). Three years later his aggression to carve his musical strengths has been nothing short of amazing with lyrical footprints that boasts of features with Sharky,Dj Krimz productions and Mczee to name but just a few .You see,Meyniak is goal oriented-far from being a rapper who is grinding to stay the same,almost could pass of as a musical perfectionist in any one’s books , quite level headed when it comes to who and how his art is managed and the hunger to do better even when he has achieved better makes him one of the focused rising lyrical emblems to grace the industry .I caught up with the rising artiste and this is what we discussed.
Mimy: You have become a force to keep watch among the new upcoming rappers and the genesis of your debut album saw cats taking you seriously and giving you the much needed ear you have been sweating for. Walk us through the process of finding yourself as an artist and when you realized you wanted to share your musical gift beyond being a bedroom rapper?
Meyniak: Being involved in music has opened several significant avenues for me which have established some constructive relationships. I cannot imagine not being part of the genre i.e. rap either with me being behind the mic or giving my two senses on the production side. However it only became an option for me as a result of enjoying poetry, but mainly for the reason that I feel I am still a bit terrible when it comes to my singing abilities. I am still not sure whether taking credit for the art I create is the best option given some of the boxes and stereotypes that my creative space has to, at times, work in. I am, however still grateful to the people who have in some way helped made this part of my creative, reach where it is now, so it is ultimately difficult for me to agree with I “want to share”. From where I stand, call it what you want, I am lettering my journal and that release from my thoughts to that pad is satisfactory enough. I also believe the ‘cats’ you noted, whoever they may be, have become, whether they like it or not part of the story I am yet to continue writing. Sweating?(chuckles) I would not put it in those words, my art could be for ‘sale’ but I guarantee you, ‘attention’ is hardly the buying currency. The idea, on the other hand, of reaching a status of being an inspiration and shifting culture is an attractive alternative so in that context I could say there are some rewards that come with exploring the art, outside of my comfort zone, that I am focused on other than a couple of individuals’ thumbs up. Not saying it is not awesomely flattering but, I do this for especially the people who know me outside of the kicks and snares.
Mimy:How do you describe your sound?What can the audience expect always on a Meyniak production?
Meyniak:Growth is an important motive for me to write because, with growth comes change. Similarly, producing what is expected removes the element of surprise which, in my view, is derailing oneself because surprise gives any product, brand or artist competitive edge. The ‘Weirdo’ (to whom you refer to as audience, I am glad you did not refer to them as fans) understand that the constant in my music is the dark aura, depressive energy amongst other things. Redefining myself is always the first priority and production is extremely important for me. Any producer or artist I have worked should know I am an aggressive and competitive person so it only feels right to say that everything that I create should exhaust every possibility of making a superior product I could possibly make within the circumstances. All my energy and focus is channeled towards creating a statement, a definitive chapter, a ‘formula’ that I hope some years from now some soul can develop and help make this a much more bizarre and weirder world.“…me I study the shows, the fans, study their hearts…” is that not wisdom being given almost for free by Jermaine? I believe my worth is in my honesty and sincerity. A large portion of the society I grew up in and still in is going through similar challenges and I feel blessed that I am not ashamed to show my vulnerability because honestly that is also my strength. I would rather be respected for my heart to heart ‘Mai Chisamba’ conversations on records than be praised for sub-standard sacrificed art. Oh…by the way was getting a bit too excited…my sound right? In one word WeiRd and we can only get WEirDeR!! A couple of other things too influence the sound, among them depression and a couple legion… but I am not going to address that in this article.
Mimy:Humble Beginnings: the mix-tape,from my perspective is simply you flexing your rap muscles and trying as best as you can to prepare your audience for an album. How did this mix-tape play a part in moulding you as an artist ready for the hip hop market?
Meyniak:The mix-tape was definitely me and McZee giving each other a ‘see you later’ gift. Dude was leaving to study abroad so left with only about a month we worked on the project. The Weirdo had not really had a solid project from me so it was kind of something for them as well, you know… In any market, investors and partners like to engage in commitments that usually have sustainability so the mix-tape definitely aided my mileage when it came to trying to get the respect of some producers and create affiliations. I remember walking into G Records handing in the ONLY copy I had of my CD, which looked like a Demo to be completely honest and telling G and Klasiq that I wanted to work with them. Looking back, I can see the superego I had, I mean I doubt these guys were even signing up artists. Anyway, the mix-tape was more of a simple ‘1 + 1’ math problem in class however, doing the album was a leap from that to quadratic equations. The need to also consider the team I had signed a contract with was new to me and I must say difficult coming from an indie environment. But we managed. And no, I do not think the Weirdo could fathom how the album was going to turn out like, the sounds are different, the album is more mature, more refined and more accurate when it comes to execution of concepts. Probably because of the lengths taken and the place I took myself before embarking on the project and constant echoes that lingered in my creative atmosphere. The mix-tape was cool…everything considered.
Mimy: From simply being an underdog three years ago to climbing a milestone of making and marketing an album do you think you have pushed yourself to the level of considering your music as mainstream rap or you are still building your empire one verse at a time?
Meyniak:I am nowhere in comparison to where I want to be, but I won’t describe where I am as a failure. Great Zimbabwe was not built in a day, or maybe it was? Hameno, ndichabvunza Soko Matemai point is I am not really concentrating on what I have done because of the simple fact that, it is DONE. I try to keep myself in check, it is all about shifting gears pumping the gas hitting the clutch I am on a mission I could never get enough. I do not know whether my art is mainstream, I think the Djs would know better, and from what I have seen it may not be. Still that does not worry me mate, radio is cool but when I am on that something foot by something foot stage I am with god. My spirit is in alignment with not only the universe but with other people in that space, in that moment. And that is the most important time, few of the liberating moments I have on this forsaken sub-Saharan land. I mean, the Djs play what they feel is relevant, which is subjective to their opinions, power to them, but when the Weirdo come out for that Can You Kick It show, or a Book Café event to witness me, how can that even compare to a spin? I appreciate the push radio gives to artists, myself not included in the ‘lucky’ bunch yet, but I LOVE the Weirdo. Period. I feel a legacy is at hand, my ‘footprint’ on the side bench while others fight for the side walk.
Mimy:You have worked with some of the upcoming hungriest producers of this decade Zimbabwean hip hop wise and amongst those includes McZee(Tinotenda Machida) whom you have worked with on many projects for quite some time. How has the experience been, working with someone hungry and aggressive to achieve better as you?
Meyniak: That kid is just in another league…he demands excellence, he creates ‘pyramids and aeroplanes’ when folk of the same age still trying to figure out how to nae nae. I am blessed. He, along with other producers I have had the pleasure to work with, provided a more contemporary canvas for the colours I had to show. It has been an honour to partner with McZee on projects, being the guy who actively introduced me to the genre, gave me my first mix-tape to listen to back when we used cassettes and would give me my first mix-tape and be part of the beat makers for my album how can the journey be anything short of amazing? We the few remaining active artists of our group Hudboi Entertainment so we have been through a roller-coaster 10 year friendship, from the hustles of getting kombi fare to get to his house and back, having to be in boarding house in different schools, ZESA doing numbers when we eventually got the time to get into the studio for that one month of school vacation. I can confidently say it is much easier for him to understand me at times and how I would want things done without having to go the excruciating pain of constant explanation and illustrations.
Mimy: Before Dawn: The Sire from my leverable hearing experience is a musical jungle clogged with dynamic lyricism that takes the audience from an afro endorsed Jungle Bred to Fireworks that takes us on an emotional found journey of infatuation versus love .Free from any critics, how best can you describe the album through your ears ?
Meyniak: Wow, you think it is all that? That is some description on its own right there Mimy compared to what I have. I think I would have just described it as part of my collection of journals. The album is split into two parts (sets) with an interlinking part (intersection). The album in simple carries two main themes which are the dark, cryptic side of the album (Before Dawn) taken from obviously just before the sun rises which happens to be arguably the darkest time. The other side carries the confident aggressive energy, self-worth, proud, with some wittiness as well (The Sire) taken from the attributes of a king, which is a synonym of a sire. The album also has tracks which have a little bit of both, as kings were expected to have wisdom, mystical energy (especially in the native African context) and also rule with authority. So concepts of the album are based on those themes…not revealing everything but you should know there are other sub-themes as well.
Mimy: There are various emotions and sentiments shared within the album that differ from one another as they trancede to the last track.Take us on the emotions that guided the album and what key inspirations led to the differentiation of every track?
Meyniak:I am inspired by everything and anything. It may sound a cliché but those who have sat down with me for chats know what I am talking about. I am not afraid to feel, because it is in those moments that I am able to create, hence I absorb as much as I can. I will go through a few tracks at random on the album, starting with ‘Grey Twilight’. I wanted that serene, calm energy, similar to what you might experience when watching the sunset or listening to the ocean collide with shore rocks. The song “Jesa” by Trinity was also key in taking me to the right place. It describes the heart-breaking situation of star crossed lovers. ‘X and Os’ I mainly wanted to address relationship/love, sex, ‘immorality’ or rather the context in which it is understood. The only thing I would like to give away about this song is a breakdown of the title, those who have listened can then evaluate because I feel up until this point a few, if any, understood. There is X n O which is given meaning by the game hence illustrating the players in relationships, X n O from the shorthand form hugs and kisses, Ex and whores. That is all I will talk about, but I promise there is more word play. Fireworks is more of a reply ‘letter’ I wrote for a friend of mine. People usually neglect the constants of their life. An assumption that these things or people will always be there sometimes comes across as taking them for granted. I was simply trying to appreciate the person looking at the challenges and uplifting moments in any relationship, hence the words “…beautiful war in the sky…” P.D.R which stands for Pride Determination Resilience was inspired by the movie Pride (2007). The title of the track was also derived from the initials of the Philadelphia Department of Recreation which operated a dilapidated recreation centre. An interesting fact is that the movie is also adapted from a true story. My interpretation of the movie was how an African American swimming team battled with racism. The song then has its foundation on trying to eliminate discrimination in many social aspects, in an African setting, including religion hence the words ‘…is it candles or angels in the sky?…’ with candles representing stars, that is basically a statement asking whether the world is scientific or religious. “…open your mind when need the truth behind the church there is a tomb…” besides the literal meaning of most Anglican and Catholic Churches having graves or cremated people, the other meaning is how sad it is how some Christians would condemn other religions e.g. Jihads by Islam, when we have the Dark Age period. I felt the need to address other socio-political issues in the song and ‘Angels’ as well.
Mimy:In these times when hip hop within Zimbabwe is growing and appealing better to a mass that seems to appreciate vernacular rap more than English rhymes, the album sees you adjusting to a few vernacular undertones but the rest of the album is in English. Qouting one line from your verse on The Sire ”…who that asking why don’t I rap in vernac.Cause I can and I wont” hasn’t the vernacular bug beaten you yet or you lyrically still playing stubborn with your suburban rhymes?
Meyniak:I understand that a lot of artists would like to claim that they are representing their roots because they use vernacular language, which I won’t protest to, however if anyone feels I should be given credit but won’t give me because I choose to use English then power to you mate, remember ignorance is bliss. I feel language is a means, beautiful even, of communication, but it is not the only one. I listen to tonnes of music from different languages some of which I do not understand. I had to Google to know what ‘Loliwe’ means, that Zahara song, but the fact is I had already been moved. Emotion is what attaches people to music, that is why even the ‘crappiest’ mp3 song could be a masterpiece if given the appropriate emotion on stage. I will use the language that appeals to me in faith I have done it so well it will appeal to someone else. I have been blessed with the education, with education comes power, with power comes choice and I choose to rap in the manner that comes natural to me. Besides I do give them some vernacular, it might just not be me saying it(chuckles)
Mimy:On the album you worked with various producers , from the trap god McZee to the deejay cum producer Krimz to G records affiliates Gwagz and Klasiq. How was your working experience with such diverse vessels of talent and how did their sounds aid in giving your lyrical ideas a voice?
Meyniak: Every single producer that I had on the album had their own idea of who I was when I was making the project. Their interpretation of my capabilities may not have been a complete summation of what I wanted for the whole project but, those building blocks from everyone made the project what it is. I had MclyneBeats who is usually comfortable with Bangerz come through and spice up the project, I had already developed a good relationship with him as we had worked on other projects as well. Boy Tricky made it very conducive to work, he listens and the alignment of conceptualization when we made Angels and Jungle Bred was incredible.
The detail we had to put on the instrument to create a melting pot of intricate sound yet simple to the ordinary ear is mind-blowing. McZee and Fun_f are really talented producers, the beats that made it to the album were different to what I normally hear in local Hip Hop circles, Big up to them! KrimzBeats is insane. Between him and Gwagz I do not know who I fought with the more about production. These guys elevate and push me to become sharper. It was an amazing experience working with the two gentlemen, Gwagz produced a sequel of a record I had done and we put it on a compilation album for 2013. On the album we made another masterpiece, one of my personal favourites. Klasiq also helped me progress, guy was with me almost every time I was in the recording studio creating two of my favourites on the album. Geez the experience was overwhelming, almost 8 months working on it. Credit also goes out to the special ears that came through to the booth for a listen so they can chip in some input. Amazing!
Mimy: Ciya steals a whole lot of features on the album compared to other featured artists.How did your ideas compliment each other and how was the experience of working with an RnB voice?
Meyniak:Ciya has a special voice. Before the album, I had met him about a couple of months before, once, at the University of Zimbabwe through a friend. I hit him up when the project was commencing and we made the first single for the album, P.D.R. Well he is down to earth so it is not difficult to work with the chap when a good concept is on the table. And I won’t deny that I am not the easiest guy to work with, but Ciya makes it easy to cut a record, he has the passion and talent.
Mimy:What future projects and business ideas can we expect for the coming years ?
Meyniak:Well I could make the cut for a compilation project which is likely to be released this year, so look out for that. As for individual projects, well, let us starting looking at 2017. I been working however, with a lot of young talent on guest appearances on projects, and a couple of tracks out already and more are coming hopefully slick videos as well. I am mainly focusing on engaging with Weirdo more directly so shows are the top priority right now to hear any NEW music. I am hoping to acquire knowledge which directly and indirectly influences the music, so you might see me involved in a lot fashion, film, modelling events…etc.
Meyniak dropped a track recently called Jeso produced by Fun F.If you haven’t checked it out do take a listen.For more of his music do visit www.meyniak.bandcamp.com.Follow him on twitter @meyniak_artist.