Though Mannywellz came into popularity in Africa after his collaboration with Tems titled “Peace” in 2023, he’s been making music since childhood, gracing stages across North America and dropping singles and EPs since 2017. The self-proclaimed “Bandana Papi” is flawless with his pen game and always smooth on his records. He has mastered what a lot of artist’s worldwide find challenging; showcasing his Nigerian heritage while putting his DC swag on full display. His latest album, Don’t Tell Anyone, is a seamless curation of art which takes you from the dance-floor to after-hours all centered on love, his subject of choice.
According to Manny, it’s been a hard fought journey especially when he was starting , “It wasn’t smooth, only a few people understood what I was going for because I always knew I was one of the people that was rooting for the growth of African music and Afrobeat in America so I will always get into these discussions… I remember one of the most important ones was in 2018. I was in the studio, I was with some rappers and managers and I was just telling them (all black people) to go reconnect with Africa because there is going to be a shift in culture and Africa is the future not just in entertainment. I remember having this discussion, I was watching what happened to people like Wizkid, Burna Boy and Davido. This is before Tems was even Tems, 2018 before “Try Me” before “Essence” I have always had that foresight so here I was a pioneer but some people looked at me crazy. Some people get it, some people don’t, but now everyone looks at me like I’m a genius.”
He explains further that, back then his only tool to connect with the Nigerian music community and his fans was through Twitter and other social media. He noticed his music growing a little bit more every time he dropped a new song or project till it got to where people loved his music not just in Nigeria but all over Africa. Blending his roots with his foreign environment has come naturally to him through trial and error. “I remember when my dad moved back to Nigeria I told him that I won’t speak if he doesn’t speak Yoruba to me so that forced me to get better in my Yoruba. I also had friends who had just come from Nigeria and we will connect, they tell me things and show me things. I have family there and I talk to my cousin. I always kept these relationships so when it was time to make the music it was seamless I kept listening to Sunny Ade, and Fela like deep culture stuff.”
Manny grew up drawing inspiration from his dad who, although a pastor, was a musician as well. His dad always encouraged him to listen to all types of music. He recalls he was blessed in that way because he didn’t have to sneak around like many other artists. Perhaps that went on to inspire his latest piece of work, Don’t Tell Anyone. “The name was inspired by Jesus when he performed multiple miracles, I think it’s in Luke chapters 5 and 8 and he told the person not to tell anyone. That was something because how can you heal someone and tell them not to tell anyone. This is almost impossible, so that spoke to me. I also thought about my story in America because being an undocumented immigrant not having citizenship is almost like we are always told to live in fear. We are always being told to not tell anyone. We don’t have papers, we don’t have a green card.”
Mannywellz continues harping on the other side of fear; love. “When I fear something I run towards it. I don’t run away from even the smallest things. I wanted to make songs that uplift and do the opposite, to be very open. I love love and I want to share this feeling. I wanted to put out more love songs versus toxic songs, positive love songs not ‘shake that ass’ or ‘I love the way you wine’. I want women to listen to this and feel important like ‘I am deserving of this love, romantic and platonic.’”
Delving into his writing process during the making of Don’t Tell Anyone, Manny says “the whole process was fun because I got to create with my friends again. This is the first time I wrote every song with a writer. I see that as entrepreneurship. Creating opportunities for the people around you and repping African music from this side of the world.” The opening track “Déjà Vu” sets the tone, an inescapable melodic rhythm layered with MannyWellz’s luxurious tones, complimented by Ghanaian rapper Foggieraw. The only featured artist on the project. Flowing straight into the lead single “Everything” a bounce-fueled Afropop anthem intertwined with MannyWellz signature RnB vocals.
“I think people can tell how true to this I am and they can tell that I’m African, I’m a bush boy, when my accent switches it’s natural. The thing is that people are trying to force and lean to one side more. Either they are more African or American. But either way, I connect with both sides. That is why I said I’m a bridge and I want to continue building this bridge between Africa, Nigeria, and America.”
Gaining massive momentum off the back of his sold-out North American tour earlier this year, it opened his eyes to the changes occurring on a global music stage. He managed to collect data that showed that African music right now is building a bridge between Africa and America. The experience of observing the average Caucasian, Spanish or black American sing his most African music including the Yoruba parts and then the Africans singing along to his most RnB songs brought him to the realization that the change he knew was coming, was in full effect.
Manny believes he has grown to become more skilled in every aspect of his music creation. “I’m a quicker writer, producer and a better performer. And that’s because I’m always creating. I’m always in the lab and always trying to grow. I enjoy what I do so it doesn’t feel or seem like work to me. I see and feel myself growing and it’s fun.” He encourages his fans to love people more, and not just romantically after listening to Don’t Tell Anyone.
Residing between DC and Los Angeles, MannyWellz took his first trip back to Nigeria after 18 years, earlier this year, making 2023 an important year in more ways than one. The Nigerian-American artist has found his sweet spot, a personal take with global perspective. It’s the melting pot of immigration brought to life. Whether it’s onstage in North America or in the earbuds of young Nigerians, Mannywellz is pioneering a cross-pollination of influences like no other. And he doesn’t need to tell anyone, it speaks for itself.