HOWDOYOUSAYYAMINAFRICAN? | About artist Manchildblack Feb 3, 2015
"As he searches for his own promised land, Manchildblack might be on the road to delivering us all." - Jason King (NYU-Tisch School of the Arts, Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music).
The name Manchild may conjure up memories of Claude Brown's searing novel, Manchild in the Promised Land, but it has quite a different history for the man himself. "I was born Derek Gentry," Manchild confesses "but a Rastaman I knew during my time in D.C. would call me 'Manchild.' He never explained why, but when I started to become a musical artist I decided the name fit who I was and epitomized what I was singing about. Although the name (all one word) has no immediate relationship to Claude Brown's book, the similarities are there. The classic 1965 novel offered truthful evidence of what it meant to survive as a black man in a complex, troubling society. In the same vein, many of Manchildblack's original songs, most of which are co-written by guitarist Shelton Garner, also comment on the plight of African-Americans, shedding new light on problems of self-esteem, masculinity, and racism, among other topics.
Originally from New York City, Manchildblack always knew he was destined to be an artist. "I was a shy and quiet kid, so writing and performing was my outlet," he professes. After moving out of state and briefly attending college in Washington D.C., Manchild purchased a one-way bus ticket back to NYC to fulfill his dreams. In the Big Apple, he began to build his acting résumé by performing in the world premiere of the Richard Adler/Bill C. Davis musical Off-Key at the George Street Playhouse. A touring production on Athol Fugard's My Children, My Africa followed, as did an appearance on television in the A&E crime-drama 100 Centre Street. He received critical raves as the lead character Racine in Carl Hancock Rux's Asphalt, which featured music by Toshi Reagon and DJ Spooky.
Although much of Manchild's early artistic work occurred in the theater, the unexpected passing of his father inspired him to make the move toward first love...music. In 2006, He was signed to the legendary West End Records, releasing the acclaimed Awake in a Dream EP. Included on the release was the melodic ode to his father "To the Sky." The video for the song received frequent airplay on Centric Television, introducing Manchild's music and style to the masses. Also, on the EP was the dance floor filler "Rain," which found itself on the play lists of such world renowned DJs as Gilles Peterson, Danny Krivit and Bobbito Garcia.
Manchildblack's journey into the dance music realm inspired him to team up with acclaimed DJ/producer Ian Friday, to create the bi-weekly dance party Libation. This long running event has become a hugely popular destination for all lovers of good dance music and has featured guest DJ's and performers: Osunlade, Louie Vega, Black Coffee, DJ Spinna, Rich Medina, King Britt, Raul Midon, Peven Everett and Kindred-The Family Soul. The rousing success of Libation allowed Manchild to produce and/or curate stellar events at the world famous Apollo Theater, SOB's and The Studio Museum in Harlem.
In recent years Manchildblack has become an in demand DJ, spinning opening sets for Meshell N'degeocello, Seun Kuti, Theophilus London, Georgia Anne Muldrow and the legendary Roy Ayers. As a recording artist, he put out a slew of dance music singles including: "We Are", "Live 4 Love", "Magic" and the future soul EP, My Mind's I. He has performed to sold out audiences at such venues as Blue Note, BAM Cafe, Symphony Space, Joe's Pub, Apollo Theater and even Central Park Summerstage for The Black Rock Coalition's Stevie Wonder Tribute. 2012 saw the launch of his digital record label, Hype Life Music. as well as musical collabos with DJ Afro of Los Amigos Invisibles (The Copasetic) and his partner, Monstah Black, (The Illustrious Blacks).
As a recording artist, actor, impresario, producer, tastemaker and entrepreneur, Manchildblack is this generation's true renaissance man. His music and mission are both clear and powerful and is now resonating with audiences around the world. "This is about more than me, it's about a movement and I plan to be one of the leaders in the forefront of the change that's coming."
Learn more: manchildblack.tumblr.com
photo by Phil Knott