His latest single #Shades dropped last week and started trending within minutes.
The 22 year old, whose real name is Emmanuel Mutendji, was born in Johannesburg to Congolese parents.
“Johannesburg is all I know, so I call it home, although Congolese blood runs through me. Life growing up was cool. I loved being outdoors with my friends. I was never a reserved kid. I had the craziest times.
"The only bad times I remember as a kid was when some of the kids realised that I’m from this country but not really from this country. So they used to discriminate,” he said.
It was that experience that made Manu shy away from people, but it never stopped him from falling in love with music.
“I fell in love with music at a pretty young age. I used to accompany my mother to choir rehearsals every Tuesday afternoon. I would sit in the back of the room and just listen to the sounds and try imitate what I was hearing very quietly.
"This was around the time I was 10 years old. I knew I had the talent then. I was just too shy to do anything about it,” he said.
When he was 14, his cousin played him a record they had recorded. “I still remember how the song went: “Every time it rains, summer’s coming home.” That’s how the hook went. I was blown away. I started chilling with my older cousins.
"I used to watch them play Def Jam Icon and listen to 50 Cent and Joe Budden. That was my introduction to hip hop. I loved how unapologetic the genre was. It resonated with me.”
Fast forward to 2017 and Manu is making a name for himself in the industry. He was on the recent season of The Hustle.
“The Hustle was was an interesting experience. Being on it taught me to always be prepared for whatever and that’s it really. Nothing more. Nothing less,” he said.
Speaking about his latest single, Manu revealed it took about two months to put the music together.
“I started working on #Shades about two months before it dropped. We had a house party and music video shoot at my manager’s house and at our Punchline parties, we usually have a freestyle session. We play a lot of beats by The Urban Lunatic (Luna Florentino) and everyone just starts spazzing. Anyway, Luna plays this one beat and it’s sounding mad wavy! DEE (DEEXCLSV features on the hit track) looks right at me and yells out, “Yo.
We live baby!” I immediately respond by singing “We so live!” Then I saw someone rocking #Shades and I start singing: “I be riding round town with my #Shades on, we so live!” DEE and I went crazy when we realised that we had just made a banger of a hook in the midst of chaos. Luna heard it in studio and went mad. So we gave him a verse too,” he said.
He also said that #Shades is about the summer. “This single reminds me of everything good about summer. It sounds like being in a droptop with your friends, enjoying a few drinks and enjoying the breeze through your hair with your #Shades on.”
Comparing #Shades to his first single, Yewen, Manu said there is a huge difference.
“Yewen was strictly for the streets. Them trap kids loved the record. It is a hard-hitting record. #Shades is more of an urban feel, good vibe. It’s a head-bopper of a track. It’s an unforced moment. This record is also more female friendly. Rocking #Shades is somewhat of a confidence booster. When you rock #Shades you feel extra good. This record feels extra good to listen too,” he said.
Manu, who notes 50 Cent, Usher, G-Unit, Chris Brown and Drake as just some of his musical influences, said his music is all about the moments.
“I’d describe my sound as moments. When you play one of my songs, pick any, you’ll get trapped in that exact moment. It’s like you’ll be walking in my shoes. I love to tell stories in my music. Whether the song be hyped up or slowed down. I keep the same style. Music is all about moments,” he said.
On his plans for the rest of the year, Manu said that he is working on more music. “I’m working on another single I might drop if I get the big feature I want.
“The feature seems like it’s going to happen. I just don’t want to jinx it. I’ve also been working on my ‘Negro Picasso’ project. It will drop early next year.”