Shout out Mpho, I think this is set to smash-up the charts.
Yep, it's her time right now..
Here's my recent interview with Mpho for RWD. It this blog had the capabilities to do an 'after the jump', I would. But it doesn't, so you'll have to scrolllllllll!
It’s taken a little bit of time, but it looks like Mpho is finally about to pop off! We catch up with the singer to talk about patience, timing and a putting in the work…
You might know Mpho from the Bugz In The Attic single Booty La La. You might even remember her from ColdCut’s Sound Mirrors album. Some of you will have picked up her Documented EP, heard her recent The Art Of Pop mixtape, or seen her sing back-up for Ms. Dynamite and Natasha Bedingfield back in the day.
Yep, you name it, Mpho has been there and done it. Broken beat, R&B, neo-soul and hip hop, this South African born, Brixton raised singer has been involved in various forms of music in many, many ways. "I associated myself with different scenes, but I was never actually associated with any one in particular," says Mpho. herself, drinking a glass of good ole water on a warm Spring afternoon "I guess I was underground girl, until I stepped outside and started making my music. Now, it's my own sound."
Yep, against all odds, it’s her time. No more singing for other people, she’s ready to take pop music by the jugular and shake it till it chokes up a string of hit singles. “You know what, to be very honest I didn’t think it was going to happen for me at this point,” admits Mpho. “I had almost resigned myself to the idea of always being on the edge of the mainstream.”
Just six weeks ago, Mpho’s life took a 360˚ turn. She was getting serious acclaim for her excellent Art Of Pop mixtape (free to download, so go get that now), and had turned in her finished album, Pop Art to Wall of Sound owner Mark Jones. So far, so good; Mpho knew she had a strong record tucked in her back pocket, and was keen to know what everyone else might think. “Mark sat back and listened and he thought it was a bigger deal than anyone was expecting – including even myself really,” she says of the album’s potential for world domination. After a few conversations with a number of labels, EMI/ Parlophone won the war and signed Mpho to a five album (five – count ‘em) deal that means she’s still with Wall Of Sound, but with the backing of a major label behind her. “It was a bit nuts cos I didn’t really find out about it properly until two weeks before it all got signed,” she says of signing on the dotted and celebrating with champers and eight varieties of cake. “To have a major label turn round and get it and be prepared to spend money on the exact record I wanted it to be… for them to come on board and support that after all these years is like ‘Rah.’ I had a little tear,” the mum of two admits with a grin.
For too long, artists have fought to get out of the box that people (ok, journalists) put them in. Eminem being a rapper who was white or Skunk Anansie being a rocker who was black just had people scratching their heads. But thanks to the like of Em, Anansie, Sugababes, Sovereign, Santigold, Cockandbullkid, Bloc Party and many more, finally the barriers are being broken down. “It frustrated me for some time that whenever I walked into a meeting with an A&R or producer they’d think I sang R&B or neo-soul,” Mpho points out. “Yeah I can do that, but who said I wanted to.”
What she wanted to do was pure, straight-up pop. A fan of everything from bashment to Kate Bush, the champion cake maker (Banoffee is her favourite) has been waiting some time to be able to express herself musically in exactly the way she wanted to. “I couldn’t define myself via all the other genre options available; I’m not hip hop, rock or R&B, and I don’t make grime or garage or breakbeat. The only title that doesn’t define your music sonically is pop music. If I say pop, you don’t have a clue what it sounds like until you listen to it and that was exciting to me,” the James Cordon fan points out. “When you’re an artist, you want as many people as possible to hear what you do and have access to the thoughts that you put into you songs, and I guess pop music does that.”
Luckily, with the recent success of Lady GaGa, the Noisettes, N-Dubz, and even the likes of Kanye West and Wayne, pop no longer means manufactured and mass-produced; it just means great music that appeals to a lot of people. And, thanks to N_Dubz, Estelle and Tinchy, we're doing it over here too now. "Certain artists in the scene have started to bridge the gap by expanding a bit, and reaching more people. There was a time when if I’d said that, I would have been shouted down. But lets be real," Mpho points out, "we all have to eat and we all want to be saying something and not just to our bredrins that already know! It's being conscious of holding onto what made you in the first place without being ‘Low this I’m just gonna be in Girls Aloud!’ I'm having fun; not everything has to be serious and so deep."
And Pop Art promises to do be just that and a bag of chips; M.I.A producer Switch samples ‘80s classic Echo Beach on the amazing first single
Born in South Africa to a teacher mother and musician father, the Skeef family had to leave the country when her mother’s political views began to cause too much attention. Raised in Brixton, Mpho was “a Greenham Common kid”, taken to marches and protests by her socially-conscious mum. With music in the blood – her dad is ‘Hotstix’ Mabuse and her stepdad is percussionist Eugene Skeef – creating bridges, melodies and hooks was always going to be in Mpho’s make-up. After years of toiling around with her demo, Mpho worked with Bugz, and then signed to Urban Development, an east London organisation who actively support people in front of, and behind, the mic. “They signed me and we did the Documented EP and then they helped me move onto Wall Of Sound. If someone’s interested in getting into the music industry, there’s so many different options. U.D. helps facilitate people to see the bigger picture, with workshops, seminars and courses and all for free,” she says of the Stratford, London based set-up. A deal with record label PIAS - that became Wall Of Sound - was signed, and finally, after nearly a decade in the game, Mpho’s about to make it. She always had the (incredible) voice, the (charming) personality and the (edgy) look; now with a tight 12 tracks, she’s got the album too. Pop Art touches on all points of her life; from the good times of today, waking up after a great night out with the sun on your pillow, to the lows of a few years back, dating an drug addict. “This is my record and I love every single song, I love what it talks about and I love what it sounds like,” says the mum of two. “ Regardless of whatever background I come from or any of that, this record that I’ve made, I stand by it completely 100%.”
With EMI/Parlophone ready to back her all the way and Radio 1 excited by her sounds, the future looks poptastic for Mpho. “Bt I’m taking it a step at a time right now cos I’ve learnt if you, don’t you might stumble,” says the singer sagely. “Right now I’m enjoying every moment of it and that’s where I want to be in five years time; still thankful and still grateful to be doing what I love.”
The album Pop Art and the single Box N Locks are out in July. Check the MySpace and the blog for more...
Mpho’s Top 3 Artists
1. Banksy: “I love Banksy’s early work and the statement he was making and what he was saying. Now it’s become mainstream, it’s a bit naff in some ways, but his early work was incredible.”
2. JR: “He’s French photographer/ street artist and he goes into communities and takes these huge pictures of people and puts them up in the area, like on the walls of a favela for example. He’s bad, he’s so ridiculous! I really want him to do a project with me in South Africa. I love his work right now a lot.”
3. Dali: “I’m a Dali fan but only because he’s a nutter. I love when you look at his work, you see one thing, but when you look closer you see another. The way his mind must have worked to deliver that in all that detail? Proper nutter.”
Mpho’s Top 3 Pop Stars
1. Prince: “Purple Rain, the album, the film and the whole feeling of it. When he singsDarling Nikki and starts humping about? Too much! I used to think he was a bit of a punk and then I saw that film and realised I fancied him even though he had make-up and heels!”
2. Kate Bush: “It’s her voice and how quirky she is and how un-pop a pop artist she is. She’s weird, hippy, ethereal, just nuts. But she smashed it, she killed it. I love how heavy she is to have the audacity to do what she did.”
3. Andre 3000. “I love Michael Jackson and Madonna, but I