In today’s age, technology has flooded our lives with content. Caught in the mire are modern musicians who champion an art form that’s more widely distributed than any other throughout human history. And we, more often than not, overlook the music created by unfamiliar faces because it’s challenging. We’d rather have an easy listen, a known quantity to skim through while we think about something else.
Hearing is easy, but listening is difficult. Welcome to “Why We Like It”, where we rebuke the trends in favor of thoughtful analysis and underknown sounds.
“No Record Store Day” — Otis Mensah
How We Found It
Yet again, a single sent to our SubmitHub inbox by UK poet laureate Otis Mensah has been a banger. “No Record Store Day” is the third installment of his Otis Mensah Exists series, where the tracks are accompanied by their own animated gif posted to Mensah’s YouTube channel. This series is the follow-up to his 2019 EP, Rap Poetics.
Why We Like It
“No Record Store Day” stands out among the other singles that comprise Otis Mensah Exists. The Intern’s beat is psychedelic, composed of crashing drums and imposing guitar riffs as opposed to the more relaxed instrumental approach to the previous tracks. This works to invigorate Mensah’s similarly energised, frantic approach to the song. The lyrics are dense and sprawling, analogous to the emotions felt by everyone while locked away in our houses during quarantine. Being one of the best lyricists the UK has to offer, Otis Mensah is able to express such emotion with the accuracy only his poetry can attain.
The only true way to explain what Otis Mensah executes on this song is to describe it as an assault. You are hardly given a second to process the depth of the last line before your brain is activated by yet another profound musing. Combative and restless, Mensah’s style is inspired by the pandemic, encapsulating the feelings of fear and confinement through his delivery. The cancellation of Record Store Day is the device Mensah uses to express his frustration and angst through, rapping “No record store day / Stuck in a cave like an allegory / Winter came and stayed / Now I stay indoors ‘cause it’s mandatory.” All Mensah has within these walls are his thoughts, explaining the range of emotions present in the song.
Mensah’s mind seems to race between analysis of the internal and longing for the external, bouncing between full-blooded pride for the quality of his music to pure desperation, claiming that he would risk getting the virus just to see some trees. The extent of the ground covered in “No Record Store Day” is difficult to do justice. Given the time and lack of stimuli, Otis Mensah has seemed to have found a way to do what many artists have tried, but have not pulled off to this degree. Packing a song with all the emotions one feels in quarantine, with the pure chest-rotting anxiety and with the simultaneous serotonin-inducing joy that comes with a racing mind can only be done with the level of mastery over language and sound that Mensah possesses.
From Otis Mensah
“At the beginning of lockdown, I was struck with a profound sense of confusion, melancholy and resistance. I realised that so much of my sense of purpose comes directly from performing music in real life, going to live shows, planning for live shows, finding catharsis in the tangible exchange of emotion that happens at a show. When everything I’d been working towards in that vein had fallen through, it just hit me. It took me a few weeks to sober up and sit with that uncomfortable unknowingness, to build a new routine centered around space and silence to think and create a new.
“I finally started recording myself at home and dusted off the old condenser microphone; I found a new sense of inspiration with the freedom to record my rambling thoughts down at any time. Those rambling thoughts became what will be season two of #OtisMensahExists. Lockdown injected my music with a stronger sense of urgency, feeling like this is my sole vehicle to connect and I think you can feel that in the music. There’s more emotion in its gruesome and untampered state, there’s less replication because I don’t have to wait three or four weeks to try and recreate the vibe in the studio.” – Otis Mensah for CentralSauce (2020)
More From Otis Mensah
To keep up with the range of endeavors from Otis Mensah, follow his twitter @OtisMensah.
Below are the other two singles from Otis Mensah Exists as well as last year’s Rap Poetics EP.
More to Discover
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