Mane and Cloak are some interesting stage names. How did you settle for those?
Mane: My beard makes me resemble a lion, and also the name is an acronym for May Art Never End.
Cloak: My stage name is inspired by the Harry Potter series. I have been a fan since reading my first book when I was seven. In the last book of the seven-book series, Deathly Hallows, three brothers are introduced and they each possess three highly powerful magical artefacts coveted by generations of wizards. The Invisibility Cloak was one of them. It could hide one from anything, including death — I fell for the fascination of evading death. It makes me feel like the shield of Mankind.
With the advantages of being signed to major record labels, how do you remain hungry when it can feel like one is literally being spoonfed?
Mane: We can’t afford to take our foot off the gas. It’s just a different type of hunger now. The stakes are higher, there is more money involved, but we still have to hustle like we never got any deal. It’s all about staying focused to your vision and believing things will take off when the time is right while working on your output. We have had to endure a lot; losing friends, have no place to stay, no food — we are ready to take things to the next level.
How did you end up meeting and decide to embark on this journey together?
Mane: When I left Sunshine Secondary School for Maranda High School, that marked the inception of Mankind. I met Brian and other like-minded people, and our common goals brought us together. For the longest time all we wanted was to form a group and make music. Six months after we all completed high school, we released our song North, which is one of our most-loved songs to date.
What would you describe your style as?
Mane: Experimental, alternative, pushing boundaries; we are not afraid to try different styles. From reggae to pop, you will be able to hear those elements in our music. We’d love to collaborate with Blinky Bill, Sichangi, So Fresh and David Blackman, among others.
Cloak: It’s ultimately less about the genre as opposed to what we are saying. We tend to focus more on what we are saying, but we are privileged to have the right producers such as So Fresh — that bring out our message.
You’re one of the few local acts to have landed a deal with Sony Music, and now Pine Creek Records. How did you manage to score them?
Mankind: With Sony, we have a publishing deal that we got in late 2016 through our hard working manager Marvin Okuye. As for Pine Creek, that came on board around last year in a deal we had been negotiating for some years, but couldn’t materialise due to little differences that have now been resolved. Pine Creek facilitates our recording, mixing and mastering, packages our music and art for the market, and also manages our music business. Sony ensures we are heard in every possible arena by distributing our music to various outlets and platforms, including out of Africa.
What is the trick to attracting major labels in Kenya?
Mankind: Artistes should concentrate on the music and content, and have managers to handle the legal and executive stuff.
Who are your musical influences?
Mankind: Frank Ocean, J Cole, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, Coldplay and Bob Marley. Locally, Sauti Sol, Just a Band, Camp Mulla, Wanja Wahoro and a lot of the underground Nairobi stuff.
With two extended plays (EP), a movie, and now an album set to drop with Pine Creek, what next for Mankind?
We are just shooting videos for the singles of our new album called Let’s Pretend. We have been rehearsing a lot because we have a major show in November, and more music should be on your screens before you know it. Stay tuned.