Mantist emerged out of the dusts of the war-torn South Sudan, the horse-trading and spiritual chaos of nine years spent in refugee camps in Kenya and Uganda, to land on Australian shores as a wide-eyed teenager with dreams that couldn’t possibly be fulfilled. And yet that’s what he’s doing. Song by song, rhyme by rhyme, Mantist is slowly injecting himself into the Australian rap scene, his tales of pain and suff ering, hope then redemption, turning heads and winning fans. “When I came here, there was just a crazy amount of access to everything, workshops and the like,” says Mantist. “Poetry was my first love. I was just crazy – I could describe almost anything. All that time in Africa I grew up without a father, and really the only way to talk to myself was with a pen and piece of paper.” The refugee camps had been a hive of back-handed commerce. Budding entrepreneurs crammed customers into their tents to watch DVDs on clapped out televisions, and before the film started they’d pump American music through tiny stereos. It was here Mantist first encountered hip-hop. “They weren’t playing Tupac or Biggie or any of those good artists. It was more commercial. Guys talking about getting the nice ladies and driving cars, and as a kid you think, ‘Man, I wanna live this way!’” he laughs.
So when Mantist made it to local shores, and when an underground label rep who’d witnessed his poetry convinced him he had a story to tell, the recently minted Australian knew what he had to do. The result was Mantist’s debut album, Out of Poverty, Into the Glory . A dark, emotional and cathartic listen, the record caught Mantist in an honest moment as he opened the door to a furnace of emotions that had been burning since his childhood. “I just wanted to get what was inside out. I didn’t worry about the detailing of it or that sort of thing. And I’m really happy with it. If you listen to the record, I had a much stronger accent back then, because I’d only lived in Australia for a few years. But I needed to make that album then; if I didn’t bring it out, I would have lost that spirit.” With an album under his belt and his demons exorcised, Mantist is now looking at the next stage in his career. Australia has grown on the 22-year-old, and he has in turn grown into being an Australian. No longer is his music just about the pain. On the cuts being corralled for his forthcoming LP, The World Must Know Mantist , there are what the man himself describes himself as “stories about life.” “The album is positive,” he explains, with a fire in his eyes that cuts through the twilight. “It’s about life: happiness, sadness, partying and solitude. All of those things and everything else in-between.” “Australian hip-hop crews like Bliss n Eso and Hilltop Hoods: I like the way that they tell the truth and keep it real. That’s what I aim to do with my music, although sonically I look for something a little diff erent. At the end of the day I’ll always have a story to tell. My past is linked to whatever I’m going to face in the future. My type of hiphop – that’s what sets me aside. It’s diff erent to just being inspired by Australia or what’s coming out of America. I linger in that space between, with my accent and my background and my stories. That’s what sets me aside.” Mantist’s is a one-in-a-million story, and it’s made him a one-in-a-million artist. He’s getting busy, because there’s plenty left to be done. The world must know Mantist. The world will know Mantist.