Comprising of Nokana ‘Dodo’ Mojapelo and Hakim Malema; Mansa Musa was formed in 2016, back when the duo needed a name to house their debut, ‘post break up fashion EP’ Booty Call. “The idea of the distribution of mental wealth and Mansa Musa as a [historical figure], the wealthiest person in human history, a black man. It made for a very compelling idea”, Hakim says of how the name was chosen. The album’s title itself also refers to Mansa Musa, with 1325 referencing the year in which Mansa Musa undertook a pilgrimage to Mecca during which he passed through the Egyptian capital and gave away so much of his own gold that he disrupted the local economy. Hakim explains that this “is a reference to what we want to talk about. Distributing wealth so that people can empower themselves. So they can implement some kind of permanent change. So they aren’t so sufficient on systems that are created for them.”
The project features a number of collaborations including Espiquet, Thando Simelane and Chang Cello, who were all selected as collaborators due to the similar wavelengths they ride and a long-held desire to work together. “I’d always wanted to do something with Espiquet. I had hit him up saying we should do a session and sent through a few things and told him what the plan was, he was game and quick” Hakim details, continuing that “with Chang (Cello), he’s more of an elusive character, so it took a while to get that out of him but I think the beat that I gave him and also the freedom was compelling to him and he did his thing and it was fire! With Thando, I liked his flow so much on “Egoli” and “Rudeboy” and I wanted that energy in this project.” While a number of themes such as difficulty, water and gaming appear throughout the album, one that stands out is that of mental wealth and taking care of oneself in order to reach one’s peak. Says Hakim, “it’s important to me to talk about the things I do that help me improve my life. The way I live my life…Doing a little bit more than everyone else every day can create an exponential difference much [further] down the line. It’s irresponsible for me to just talk about substance abuse even though everyone is on something, the point is not to dwell on that. How can we create conversations around better living habits and normalising that? That’s what the mission is.”
Featuring a high energy sound with influences that range from new age kwaito to grime and jungle to hard rap, the project is a sonically dynamic package. “From a musical perspective, we wanted to capture something that’s energetic, something that encourages you to do stuff.” It was also important for Hakim that the music wasn’t just a continuation of everything else. “Sonically, we wanted to challenge what’s out there. That was a pillar of this thing. It was a need to change everything because we’re stuck in this monotony.” While the current situation limits their ability to promote the album, Hakim is happy to see the project released. “It was important to put this out and have it be of a certain quality.” Having reached that quality, it is clear that they have successfully created a counterpoint to the monotonous sounds of the status quo.