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It’s not beginner’s luck when it comes to Papa Mbye, it’s the real deal.

Local artist Papa Mbye prepares for the summer release of his debut EP, “MANG FI.”
Image by Jacob Pesci
Photo courtesy of Jacob Pesci.

Though he’s just getting started in the local music scene, rapper Papa Mbye is making a name for himself. With his unique delivery, hard-hitting lyrics and lively production, Papa has been blazing his own trail and making it look easy while he does it.

Hot off the release of the frenetic and hype-filled music video for his single “NOFOODINMYTUMMY,” the Minneapolis based MC is just getting started for the summer of 2021.

His debut EP, “MANG FI,” is in the final stages of production and is set to drop within the coming months.

Following a loose narrative, the project dives into topics of loneliness, self perception and self discovery. Mbye discussed how the EP’s underlying themes of isolation are feelings that stem back as far as the age of two, when his family immigrated to north Minneapolis from Gambia/Senegal.

“When I came here, I always stuck out so much. I always got noticed very easily,” Mbye said. “I still didn’t feel normal or like I wasn’t included, and I guess it’s hard to shake it. Those feelings never left me.”

According to Mbye, the creation of “MANG FI” came about nearly by accident. In the beginning of quarantine, he began experimenting with production software and creating his own songs. His experience as a musician at this point consisted of several performances at house shows, rapping and freestyling among friends. Despite this, Mbye dove in head first and came out the other side with six tracks and a newfound passion.

“I feel like a kid that just started a music class because I guess I don’t really have any musical understanding or experience before this, so I’m kind of just learning everything now,” Mbye said. “I still kind of feel like a beginner that got a crazy head start.”

Musical collaborator and producer on “MANG FI” Ben Farmer champions the work Mbye has put into learning the ins and outs of music production, and his drive to continue to improve his skill set.

“Papa is one of the fastest learners that I know,” Farmer said. “I remember a year-and-a-half ago he was asking all types of questions about Ableton and how to do this and how to do that, and I’d be in the studio with him and I can see him frustrated at the fact that he can’t work quick enough. And then in no time he has completely learned his way around those tools. He is fearless when it comes to his art and I’ve learned a lot from him in that regard.”

Though music production and rapping is a newer enterprise for Mbye, he has always been a natural creative. He first discovered his artistic side at an early age through illustration and cartooning.

Producer for “MANG FI” Zak Khan first began collaborating with Mbye after an unplanned meeting at one of Khan’s studio sessions. Mbye did what he does in whatever setting he is in: create.

“Papa showed up with his drawing book and a bunch of crayons and pens and stuff in a bag.” Khan said. “He sat down and while we we’re making music he was just drawing. At some point, I just remember looking over what he had and it seemed like he was making drawings but also writing lyrics. And we were curious to hear what he had written over the beat I was making, and so he performed what he had written for us. It was really spur of the moment and organic.”

As live shows are finally returning, Mbye is making plans to re-take the stage, most notably at his show September 9 at 7th Street Entry opening for local artist Miloe alongside Bugsy.

Mbye hopes to continue honing his artistic skills from all areas. Whether it be through music, video, illustration or anything else he takes on, this is one artist to keep your eye on.

“You know I’m still pretty early on in my musical journey and more than anything, I’m just having a lot of fun figuring things out,” Mbye said. “Finding this new form of expression is really exciting and I guess I’m just kind of developing my language, and what I want to say through it.”

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