Words by: Blossom Maduafokwa
If you thought you knew what to expect from Afro Trap MHD seems determined to subvert those expectations with Mansa.
MHD is known for shaking the room, and his newest album, Mansa, is no exception. Born to Guinean and Senegalese parents in France, the rapper is known for meshing Trap and disparate African rhythms into the hybrid genre Afro Trap. More than just being a genre, however, Afro Trap quickly became a movement. This “movement” marked his career with staple tracks such as “Afro Trap Pt. 3“ (which quickly became a de facto French Champions League anthem in 2015), “Afro Trap Pt. 7“, and most recently, “Afro Trap Pt. 11”, which has been in France’s top 10 charts since its release in late May.
The latter song was a clue to just what sort of shift MHD was planning, as it featured a distinct Nigerian Street rhythm that differed from the hard Francophone beats that MHD fans were typically used to. However, it only meant one thing: that Afro Trap was continuing to expand.
Mansa’s fresh release brings this idea home. Of course, the album still had its fair share of essential French African rhythms. Its second track “Elle” is straight up French Trap, while “Pololo”, featuring famed French rapper Tiakolo, is a classic Afro-French summer banger that’s sitting comfortably at number 3 on France’s Apple Music top charts. “Illimite” is classic MHD-brand Afro Trap, coming with fast production, rapid-fire lyrics, cheeky adlibs, and a chorus that is half-rap, half-chant.
However, Mansa still held strong influences from outside of the Francophone realm. The famed “Afro Trap Pt.11” was, of course, present in the album’s lineup, but MHD’s growing sound didn’t stop there. While slower than traditional Afrostreet rhythms, his tracks “Sagacite” and “FNR” are hard, danceable tunes that are hugely reminiscent of the Afrostreet sound. MHD goes even further on the unavoidably catchy track “Fiesta” where he recruits none other than Nigeria’s Naira Marley. The two make what can only be described as a slower Street track, underscored by an Amapiano beat that goes from lowkey to thumping within a minute. “Fiesta” makes MHD’s first official Amapiano track, bringing the ever-growing South African genre firmly into the French scene. What’s more, the song also expands the conception of “Afro Trap” to include Amapiano.
His only other international feature was Adekunle Gold, another Nigerian albeit one operating in an entirely different genre than Naira Marley. Together he and MHD made a generally standard, chill Afrobeats song called “Wonder Mama”. While the song itself was essentially average, almost existing solely for the sake of having the two superpowers on one track, it adds a balance and artistic range to Mansa as a whole. MHD is obviously no novice in the realm of creating Afrobeats tracks with Nigerians – having made tunes with WizKid and Yemi Alade in 2018 – but his Adekunle Gold and Naira Marley features bring him into the contemporary Nigerian music scene and solidify his ever-growing Pan-African presence.
With Mansa, MHD plays with various African genres and subgenres in both new and old ways, setting both him and the project apart in the realm of modern African music. You could say that MHD has left his comfort zone, but we all know that for him, genre blending is practically second nature. The French rapper has yet again proved that the “Afro” in “Afro Trap” can be anything that he wants it to be.
You can stream Mansa in full below.