Exclusive: Mann explains the evolution of his sound and cites Mase, Lil Wayne and Andre 3000 as artists who helped shape him as an artist.
Mann broke through in 2010 with the song "Buzzin," a J.R. Rotem-produced track whose remix featured 50 Cent. The Los Angeles-based rapper features a new sound on his recently released The L.i.s.a. EP. L.i.s.a. is short for Love Inspired Stoner Anthems. The seven-cut collection features Ty$, Clyde Carson, Buddy and Cassie.
Now independent after having a major deal with Mercury Records, Mann has developed a new sonic direction, in part due to his new focus on spirituality. As he works on reestablishing himself, completing his forthcoming free LP The Grey Area and exploring his emerging sound, the 22-year-old discusses some of his favorite albums in an exclusive interview with HipHopDX.
Mann says that Mase's debut album, 1997's Harlem World, is his favorite album of all time. Mann, though, was only about five years old when Harlem World was released. He knew the Bad Boy project from one of his older cousins, who would play the album in the car when they were together.
Mann became infatuated with the Harlem World throughout the years and bought the album when he was old enough to purchase music on his own. “I really did my research on Mase after that," Mann says. "Like just the way he put Harlem out there, and the way he kinda was like the flagship [artist for Harlem] and put his city on. He was like the main fly rapper from the city. It was like, 'That’s who I wanted to be.' That was the first real artist I really liked."
As for the first album he bought, Mann says Lil Wayne's debut set, 1999's Tha Block Is Hot, holds that distinction. Mann says he bought the album because of the New Orleans rapper's age. "I just felt like he was like the closest rapper to my age at that time," Mann says. "Bow Wow was a rapper, but it was like [Wayne] was a real rapper and something that was real and he was young, so I wanted to check out his project."
Mann says he was surprised about Wayne's content on Tha Block Is Hot. "It’s funny, on that album he couldn’t really cuss, cause you know he told his mom he wouldn’t cuss," Mann says. "So, when they was playing it, he was just keeping it real without cussing. It was just like, it was possible and it showed me it was possible to be like a young rapper talking about real shit. Before I felt like they always tried to keep young rappers talking about young stuff, but he was like a young man living an adult life, but he did it without cussing, so it showed how young he was at the same time. I felt like I could relate in that way."
Now that Mann is working on a new style of music, he cites one album in particular as the reason for his change: The Love Below, Andre 3000's half of OutKast's double disc 2003 album, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below.
"That’s what sparked me to be creative, instead of just rapping about typical rap stuff," Mann says. "Like the amount of creativity he had in that album just like…was just next level to me. I didn’t know a rapper, an artist that I considered a rapper that everyone respected as a rapper could like do something that transcends rap. That album, I feel like transcends all genres."