57 is a significant – and fairly popular – number in Ghana. Aside being the year in which the country attained independence – (19)57, the number happens to be, as revealed to us by Mena, the most recurring number in Ghana’s weekend lotteries.
These two facts however, were not the primary inspirations behind the naming of Mena’s debut album, 57MENA.
Numerology. That’s where Mena got his 57 from; and in there, the number represents creative freedom and questioning; which elements the album’s content truly does embody.
On his part, Mena sums up the whole album as a diary recounting to home happenings from an eventful life journey.
In a very recent conversation, Mena detailed the inspirations for each of the album’s songs. Here, below is a track-by-track overview of 57 Mena; which he almost exclusively produced; handling production of nine out of the eleven tracks on the album.
Shall we begin with some unsolicited advice? – Not everyday rappers who rap about leering at human bodies; sometimes rappers who notice the beauty of lilies and put that in their rhymes.
For Mena, it was important that the album opened on a celebratory note – celebrating the journey to the completion of the album; essentially making “something out of nothing.”
According to Mena, Hungry was inspired by the variant forms of hustle – as necessitated by the generally dysfunctional systems of his society. Mena recounts two separate incidents that he’s witnessed; plus that recent one of the late Capt. Mahama, and uses the events surrounding these brutal deaths to make a case for addressing the root causes of many atrocities in our society. This quote by Emma Golden should somewhat sum up Mena’s sentiments regarding this issue: “it is organised violence at the top that incites individual violence at the bottom.”
Utopia. That’s Mena’s choice word for capturing the essence of this song. The phrase – envy the birds – came to him as he was on the hills in Ho with two other Bush Boys; and saw a bird gliding in the sky. The envy was made all the more intense by Mena’s recurrent dreams of flying. And being high – literally and otherwise. The songs quit sounds like it.
Call out my Name
“Call out my name is for all those times you got lost in some relationship and ended up placing someone else before yourself.” And this, Mena says, is not limited to romantic relationships. Definitely one for your self-care playlist.
World Wide Beast
To Mena, this one is how he feels about his art – as something the whole wide world needs to see. And he vows to be unrelenting in his pursuit of this end.
Kids of Today
This song is simply a nod to kids of today and their smartness – which Mena feels is comparatively peculiar. Noteworthy: during our conversation, it was posited and pointed out that the gold digger trope – as is employed in this song – that women are saddled with, is rooted in sexist thinking. Quite smudges the pleasantness of the album.
A Day in the Life ft. Alex Wondergem
“Being thankful for another day,” is basically what this one’s about; inspired by a forthcoming documentary (on Mena) of the same title. A passable song, in more than one sense: alright, skippablele.
How You Doing?
That track about Mena’s excitement with – and the satisfaction he gets from – creating? It’s this one.
Got some (Interlude)
A wavy interlude made of of true life stories: Mena’s girlfriends mum didn’t like that her white daughter was seeing a “nigger.” But there’s not much here – just racists being their pathetic selves. This is where the pleasantness is at: your partner laying in bed watching you create art. Imagine!
Keep on Moving
It is what it is. Keep on moving inspite of it – and them – all.
“This song is a ritual being performed to take the mind, body and soul to its original state/format.” That, by defying what Mena calls “external stimuli.” and getting “back to nature where we came from.” Quite an apt and symbolic choice to close the album. Shall we end with something stimulating? “Do you remember a time when you didn’t exist?” No, you don’t. Well, then, according to Mena,: you’ve been here forever.
Written by: Moshood Balogun
Photos by: Elinam Quist & Victor Attiso