Q&A with Mokobe
Sony Recording artist Mokobe is a French Malian hip hop artist whose foundations in the highly influential and successful hip hop group 113 elevated his awareness to a world platform over the last few years. Millions of records sold in Europe, an expansive online presence and a tenacity to represent a positive aura from all the areas of his life through his music, Mokobe brings together all of the rich characteristics of modern art and never leaves behind the roots of his African origins. Mokobe’s solo career has seen the release of two stellar albums in Mon Afrique (2007) and Africa Forever (2011), the second of which caught our attention from the good people at Sony France.
Mokobe is currently in the running for this years BET Awards for Best International Act and has been touring the world relentlessly since the release of Africa Forever last year. With a Victoires De La Musique under his belt and records that feature some of the biggest international names around, Mokobe will soon take over the world if he continues on this path. It is with great pleasure to present this exclusive interview with Mokobe at Sound Colour Vibration.
SCV: Growing up, who were your biggest musical influences and role models?
Mokobe: EPMD, NWA, Kool and The Gang and Public Enemy.
SCV: The beginning stages of becoming a professional musician is always different for every artist. Some artists take decades to get to a position where they can really see the world and connect to thousands. What were some of the most defining experiences in the beginning of your career that gave you the momentum that has taken you to where you are now?
Mokobe: With my band 113, we were very popular, we won two “Victoires De La Musique”, the equivalent of a Grammy in the U.S. We sold three million albums in Europe, but we also missed a lot of opportunities because were not organized, we were not serious enough. So, when I decided to record my first solo album, I wanted the top American artists and I wanted to record in Africa (In Youssou Ndour’s studio in Senegal and in Salif Keita’s studio in Mali), I really needed to be focused on what I was doing. I went there with a very small team, my producer, my manager and that’s it, and I’m proud of the work we made…
SCV: Family, friends and those closest to us can be some of the most vital nurturers to the creative process. What people in your life have made the biggest difference in the path you have taken on as an artist?
Mokobe: My family is very important to me, and they all support my career, but at the beginning I didn’t dare to tell them that I was in a hip hop band. My father discovered the truth the day of the “Victoires De La Musique”. He switched on the TV and saw me receiving the trophies!
SCV: I can hear so many flavors and genres in your albums. French hip hop, vibrant African rhythms, vocals processed in vocals, synthesizers, tropical melodies, American hip hop production techniques, live instrumentation and club music, there is a little something in there for everyone. How does it make you feel when you listen to your music and hear all of the sounds that come from so many places in the world?
Mokobe: I’m born in the suburb of Paris but I’m also Malian, Senegalese and Mauritanian. All those cultures are part of what I am. I’m in Africa every three months, Senegal, Mali, Ivory Coast…I’m an African hip hop artist, I’m an entertainer!
SCV: I am a huge fan of the song you did with Fela Kuti’s son Seun Kuti and his Egypt ’80 group for your first record. How did you link with the Egypt 80? That must one of the most incredible things to record with such a revolutionary and important group. How did the session experience come out and what were your most memorable moments when creating that song?
Mokobe: I was not familar with Fela’s music, but when I met Seun, we’ve gotten along very quickly, he’s amazing! His lyrics are very powerful and I’ve enjoyed very much recording with him. The horns have been recorded in Nigeria, unfortunately I wasn’t there…
SCV: With your career involving a lot of film, how do you find the time to take on both worlds with such passion and dedication?
Mokobe: I’m not alone, I work with a team who takes of the opportunities I can get, and made them work…
SCV: To anyone out there in the world that speaks English and may not understand the words you are saying in your music, what are some of the biggest messages that you carry through your music?
Mokobe: Good vibes, social African problems, dancing, peace, humor, etc…but essentially the good sides of Africa! We wrote enough about aids and poverty…
SCV: Who are your favorite artists out right now?
Mokobe: Jay-Z, Salif Keita, Youssou Ndour and Nas.
SCV: What are your favorite albums this year?
Mokobe: Meek Mill [Self Made Vol. 2]
SCV: Thank you for taking the time Mokobe. Before we go, are you working on any new albums or tours that you would like to share news with us about?
Mokobe: I’ve just gave a concert at the Olympia in Paris, it was an old dream and I’m very glad I made it! I will very soon work on a new album.
*Conducted by Erik Otis
Check out Mokobe’s latest record Africa Forever here: http://itunes.apple.com/fr/album/africa-for-ever/id472317775