Dane Bradshaw gets us up to speed on new artist Mentalist, who's been getting shown love lately on 1xtra and Choice FM as part of the Resistance duo alongside Loudmouth.
One half of the UK duo, Resistance, Mentalist is a character with an aggressive and lyrical flow that is a product of a Trinidadian upbringing in an East London setting.
After taking part in U&I record's 'Quality Control' project earlier this year he and his rhyming counterpart, Loudmouth, are currently recording their soon to be released solo Mixtapes' in Outkast-like fashion. I caught up with Mentalist to find out what he's got planned for his debut solo outing 'Who Am I?', his views on the UK underground scene and to get a deeper insight into thoughts of the man they call Mentalist.
Having already gained numerous spins by DJ Semtex (BBC 1Xtra) and DJ 279 (Choice 107.1 FM), national airplay is only the beginning for the man who sits on the fence between battle MC and fully fledged artist. "My bread and butter like any other MC is battling but at the end of the day you'll hear more concepts coming from me", Mentalist pointed out. Coming from a more conscious stance he tackles more than just the obvious girls, cash and cars cliché. "Mentalist is a character, meaning he's not a standard run of the mill MC who sounds generic. When you hear Mentalist you'll know, that's Mentalist."
Towing the line between giving good advice and preaching is something that Mentalist is very aware of but he clearly sees being versatile as an important tool for success. "If you don't have all angles covered, your CD's not going to be big" says Mentalist who recently recorded a special for DJ Semtex over R&B singer Cassie's 'Me & You'. By rapping over a beat you wouldn't usually associate with his tough rhyming style he has allowed his audience to hear him in another light. "My lyrics on there are typical Mentalist lyrics and I'm not dumbing down my sound. The beats a big beat. Who's gonna deny that it's not a big beat? I tried to be as real as I am on a commercial beat because you gotta get your name out there."
Being a part of The QC (Quality Control) project was seen as a great learning curve that allowed everyone's voice to be heard and allowed for diverse styles to be showcased on the same platform. "QC was a collective or a family. People say we were a crew but we were a collective of MC's that went by the same ethos which was quality music and that's what we delivered", explained Mentalist. Being in such a camp which boasted the likes of Fumin of 'Forward Riddim' fame and seasoned pros Poisonous Poets, the levels in the camp could be nothing else but high. "There was a competitiveness in the sense that we wanted to be 'nice'. Everyone wanted to be 'nice'. I think you can see that evidently on tracks like 'Quality Control' and 'The Biggest'."
Having already dipped his toe into the scene by featuring on four tracks on the Quality Control project ('The Biggest', 'Straight Spitting', 'Quality Control' & 'Torture') he has recently surfaced a new track to radio, the K-Nite 13 produced 'Go In' which features guest vocals from Loudmouth and has already garnered airplay from Rodney P & Skitz and DJ 279. The 'Who Am I?' mixtape also touches on topics such as politics, social poverty and growing up in both Trinidad and England. "Being born and raised in the West Indies has shown me some different things to what I've seen over here so I've been lucky to have influence from both cultures. My dad used to sing Calypso and he's taught me a lot."
As an MC who refuses to be pigeon-holed into the UK Hiphop scene he draws influences from all walks of life and styles of music. Singling out the UK Grime scene as helping UK underground music to find its own identity by making people feel confident to use their own accent and slang, he feels it's made success in the UK more of a reality. "There weren't that many people blowing up in the UK but then you see people blowing up around 2002; Dizzee and Lethal etc. Now all these people are blowing up. We (me and Loudmouth) started to see that there's avenues here. There's money to be made. It wasn't like that a few years ago."
Similar to the thoughts of Klashnekoff, Mentalist feels that in order for the music to progress, you've got to take a step back and look at where it's come from and stresses that the origins of 'urban' music needs to be re-addressed. "Let's not try and change it and call it 'urban' to make people feel more comfortable. It's black music and don't forget the roots. The roots are black. Look at my boy Loudmouth. I think he's one of the tightest and he's white and he's one of the first to tell you that it's black music."
Juggling concepts and being relevant seems to keep Mentalist focused on the path to success by learning from other's mistakes and being true to his signature sound. "I'm trying to do this. Send a message and show that I'm well rounded."
Words by Dane Bradshaw