WHY I RATE: Mnelia

Selected by: James Keith
Photography: Seyi Solaja

Name: Mnelia

Where She’s From: North West London

Genre: R&B

File Next To: Taliwhoah, Dolapo, Rebecca Garton

When She Started: 2017

Sounds Like: “The mood my music gives off, I believe, is definitely one of a scenic, late-night drive mixed in with a nostalgic feeling.”

First Music That Inspired Her: “Frank Ocean’s ‘Swim Good’. The production and the artistry behind it just wanted me to delve deeper and it definitely inspired me to start making my own.”

It’s difficult to pinpoint one specific breakout moment for rising R&B singer Mnelia (pronounced: muni-lee-ah). The truth is, her career thus far has been a series of breakout moments, each one greater than the last. Online write-ups will tell you last year’s “Say Yeah” was the pivotal moment in her career, but that would be ignoring her debut EP, After 6, also from last year. It would also ignore her most recent single, “Senseless”—a crowning achievement that came with an exquisitely-realised video from director Terry Paul that could be viewed as a calling card for the artist, collating together magazine covers and presenting her at her absolute best.

If we go a little further back, to 2018, for her 2:4 project, we find even more. Seemingly arriving out of nowhere, it was a cleverly-conceived eight-tracker that walked the listener through the lifespan of a relationship, from those early flirtations, through the honeymoon period and out the other side. We say ‘seemingly’, because her first official drop was “Used To This”, which she uploaded to SoundCloud in 2017. It was a strong debut and the first example we got of her long-standing creative partnership with StevieBBeatz. With the exception of only two or three tracks, Stevie has produced the vast majority of her material ever since, including “Senseless”.

The truth is, Mnelia’s always been on this path, but the path has been on a constant incline. “I’ve always listened to different artists and had a love for music, but actually making music myself didn’t happen until 2017,” she tells TRENCH. Those inspirations span multiple genres and decades (“a variation of anything and everything,” she calls it), from ‘90s virtuoso Jeff Buckley to modern-day rock band The Marmozets, from Brandy to Frank Ocean. “Even now, if you listen closely to how I put my music together, a lot of that’s inspired what I make today,” she says.

Cruelly, thanks to the pandemic, Mnelia’s been robbed of the chance to take most of this golden material to a live audience, but that is sure to come eventually. For now, she’s focusing on balancing motherhood (“Being a musician whilst being a gangster mum to my son is something I hope inspires others that no matter how difficult. You can still do it.”) and earning what must surely be an inevitable Grammy. That, for her, “would be a childhood dream come true.”

TRENCH Highlight...

Posted on April 26, 2021