Everyone has a “type." For me it’s either drama-free brunette girls with big eyes and a good waist-hip ratio, seven foot tall Nigerian men, or nothing. Luckily, my editor is a keen matchmaker and had the acuity to put me on a first date with rising popstar and already-risen producer MNEK. While most people were busy masturbating to the beat of Good Charlotte’s “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,” 14-year-old Uzoechi Emenike had already landed a publishing deal from his basement in Lewisham, south London. If you're from the UK you might remember that song “All Fired Up” by girl groupThe Saturdays. Well, he wrote that. When he was sixteen.
You’ll recognise him as the voice on that Gorgon City track that’s been mixed into every deep house Boiler Room set since Christmas. Oh, and he’s also the guy going “mmmmMMmmmmMMMMM” in the background of "Need U (100%)," another summer staple in London. Everything he touches is big, colorful, forward-thinking (with one foot firmly planted in the 90s), and filled to the brim with dank-ass hooks.
Now MNEK is embarking on his own project, and the singles we’ve heard so far have not disappointed. At his request we ate at Meat Mission, in east London, which from his perspective was the perfect first date location because all the staff knew and loved him, but from my perspective was the worst first date location because eating a giant chilli cheese dog is the most unsexy but also sexual thing you can do in front of another person.
Our date went so well that MNEK also gave us an exclusive TIEKS remix of his new track "Wrote A Song About You." It's at the bottom of this post.
Noisey: So… do you come here often?
MNEK: Well my studio is actually next door to this place, so I come here a lot.
You used to mainly work behind the scenes, but now you’re releasing your own tracks. Are you trying to move away from production and into the limelight?
Definitely. I mean, being a writer and producer will never die, as in I’ll always be working on projects and doing stuff on the side, but I think my main focus is my project.
Would you ever want to be famous?
I don’t know. Define famous?
Like would you ever want to be paparazzi-following-you-outside-the-club-famous?
No, fuck no.
It’s not ideal, it’s never ideal to lack that privacy but it comes with what I do. That’s one sacrifice that I know I have to make to get to where I want to go.
By the way it's pronounced MNEK, right? Because my friend was like, "You’re going on a first date with Mmmnek?"
Oh God! I’m a new artist trying to get my shit out and nobody knows how to pronounce my name yet. I had to put a pronunciation guide in my logo because it was getting out of hand! I don’t want them to play my stuff on the radio and them be like, "This is a new song by Mmmnek or EmNek…" Someone on Twitter said, "Mnek, mback…"
… lick my pussy and my crack?
Yeah… But at the same time I wouldn’t want a boring name.
What’s your real name?
My real name is Uzoechi Emenike.
Cool name. It sounds kind of Japanese.
It does you know, I get that quite a lot. It’s Nigerian.
So the whole point of MNEK is actually…
Yeah so it’s basically my surname in phonetic form.
Oh I see. So you’re Nigerian?
Yes I am.
Where do you think I’m from?
No, Boston. I was born in London, lived in Boston and then moved back to London about four years ago.
It’s a cocktail of an accent! Speaking of cocktails, I’m going to order a Donkey Punch.
What is a donkey punch?
I’m not getting into it.
No, I actually don’t know!
It’s, um… [to the waitress] Define donkey punch.
Waitress: The drink or the act?
MNEK: The act.
Miriam (the Waitress): It’s harsh. OK, I’ll just be brief. A donkey punch is when a guy is fucking a girl from behind and just as he’s about to come he’ll punch her in the back of the head so she clenches up and apparently it’s better for his orgasm.
Ohhh OK! Shit. That kind of brought the vibe down.
Miriam: It’s not named after that, though! It’s named after one of the owners who goes to Burning Man every year and there was a man there who made punch and would dress up as a donkey.
MNEK: Miriam is one of my best friends because my studio is next door and she’s here. If you want like a nice greasy burger, this is a good place to come to.
It’s not a good place for healthy people then?
Well, because Miriam is my friend, she’s going to create a special dish for me tonight because I’m dieting. I’m trying to do low carbs.
Did you used to be really fat?
Oh OK. Well congratulations on no longer being fat.
Thanks, man. I mean, I’m still curvaceous but I want to look hot by September.
So your music seems to be really influenced by 90s and 80s music. When were you born?
Fuck off. Are you even old enough to drink?
Shut up! I’m old enough here.
So what, are you 19?
How old would you say I was if you had to guess?
Good guess. This Donkey Punch is pretty good.
Yeah it’s the only drink I drink here. When it comes to me and alcohol, I have special drinks everywhere. I’m not really into beer, but I like tequila shots.
Oh yeah, I mean if you’re not into tequila shots then you can just fuck off though.
Really? I agree.
So is alcohol your poison; is that your tipple?
I mean I do get drunk and I turn up every now and again with my friends but I handle myself pretty well. There have been very few nights when I’m trashed and unaware. The last time I was really unaware was my eighteenth birthday.
I remember me falling, and I remember vomiting in the bed. and I remember trying to kiss someone. I get horny when I’m drunk.
Shit man. So you blacked out?
Yeah I blacked out.
I wish at the end of our lives we got videos of everything we ever did when we were blackout drunk.
Isn’t that what Google Glass is going to do?
I don’t know, they do all kinds of shit! You can see someone in the street and you can mother-fucking see their Facebook profile!
Yeah, it’s a bit like Terminator I suppose, in that sense.
That’s so fucked up! What the hell! I don’t want that much power. I kind of like the curiosity.
Don’t worry, Google Glass will never be cool. Speaking of cool, is your hair a direct reference to Kid ‘n Play?
Yeah. It’s that reference, that era.
Are you ever going to get it to Kid ‘n Play length?
I did at one point, but I just cut it. It’s so much maintenance. I’m going to stick with this hairstyle for a couple of years. I need to really get sick of it before it goes.
Maybe you’ll have a rebirth like David Bowie. You’ll have a whole new identity. So when is your album coming out?
Later on in the year. It’s finished, and I’m really proud of it. I worked with Snakehips and I’ve got a duet with Moko.
Miriam: Are you guys ready to order?
MNEK: I almost considered the chilli challenge but thought maybe not for a date. I did it once with a producer named TIEKS.
Why is every London musician doing the capital letter name thing these days?
It’s exotic! Get over it! How boring if it was like "Jake" or "Michael." We want to express ourselves via our actual names. He’s a man of African descent also—from Ghana. I did it with him in this very booth. The triple chilli challenge is a chilli hotdog, chilli burger, and chilli cheese fries. You have to finish all of that in 10 minutes.
So in "Every Little Word" (below) you repeatedly ask "Do you fuck to this shit?"
Yeah! Are you down with it, do you love it? Are you into this, do you fuck to this? Or do you have sex to this? Personally I’ve never had sex to music.
I can’t do it! I have this intense fear that one of my songs will come on when I have sex or one of my friend’s songs. And I’d be like, "Hey man! Banger!" Yeah and also because I’m a producer, I’m always critical. So I’m having sex and thinking, “Hmm that high hat is not right!" I can’t do it, I can’t do it.
I once tried to have sex to "Something About You" by Daft Punk, but I couldn’t stop laughing.
Well it’s Daft Punk so I can’t really sing it without the robot voice.
Hold your nose. That’s how I do the MNEK voice!
I’m not going to sing it.
Not everyone has as good a voice as you, MNEK.
Oh don’t! You’re trying to chat me up! I think anyone can actually sing. It’s the mindset. Singing is imitation.
The thing with ordering food like this on a date is that you cannot look good eating a hot dog.
Well that’s why I didn’t get one! You can always look sexy eating a chicken salad.
I guess the other option is to overly sexualize the eating process.
Uh, OK. Sure if you feel that is the best way to express yourself I say go for it. It’s only awkward if you make it awkward.
I can make things awkward, yeah.
Try and make something awkward.
Fine what’s your favourite sex position?
AWWWKWAAARD. This is a good drink.
It is a good drink. Change the subject.
Or you can stay on the subject, sorry.
OK wow… I think my favourite position is active.
Cool! Good first date chat.
I don’t discriminate.
How tall are you?
5 ft 10 inches and a half.
I’m 6 ft 4 inches.
How does it feel to be the tallest person here?
It’s OK, worse things have happened!
So do you play any instruments or just sing?
I used to play the tuba. I was dope. I was really good.
So this all makes sense now. Was that in high school?
I can easily imagine you as an awkward kid bumbling around with a tuba.
Yeah I was the fat kid with the tuba.
So are you going to make a return to the tuba? Maybe lay it on some deep house Disclosurey-vibe beats?
Nah, those days are long gone, too many bad memories. My tuba got stolen. I was outside the chicken shop and I went to get my chicken and chips and by the time I got back it had gone. You’re handsome, by the way.
Thank you. That’s definitely a good compliment for a first date. So have you been doing many interviews?
No I haven’t. I’ve been selective actually. I’m only starting to do it now. I enjoy it, when it’s an interview that’s not asking the same shit and that’s asking to go deep in.
Did you just say you want an interview that goes "deep in"?
I wanna go deep.
So where do you like to go out around here?
I love to go to Your Mum’s House at the Nest.
Your Mum’s House?
Yeah the night. Not YOUR mum’s house!
You can come to my mum’s house if you want, I guess.
Is it fun?
Yeah it’s in America though so it’s quite far.
Does she cook chicken?
Yeah she cooks chicken—she’s a mum!
OK I’ll fly out.
Sweet. But then I get to go to Nigeria, right?
I don’t live there!
But you must have some family there though, right?
Yeah but, you know, they might kill you. [MNEK chokes on his drink]. I swallowed too fast.
I feel like there’s a lot of innuendo in the things you say.
Because you were like, "I like it deep" and now you’re saying "I swallowed fast." I dunno, maybe it’s just me.
I don’t mean to be sexual. Just let me be me man! Get off my dick man!
So that hat you wear—is it a Nigerian hat or a fashion hat?
Both, really. It’s based on an African kufi hat.
Everyone’s gotta have a thing I guess, like Nelly’s Band-Aid.
Yeah the Band-aid is cool but with that it’s like… why is there a bandage there? Is there a scar? A bite?
Yeah, take that Band-Aid off, Nelly. It’s not that badass; that’s a small wound.
It’s the smallest bandage in the world! I think it was a pimple that didn’t want to go away.
I hope he changes it regularly. Shit’s unhygienic.
I presume he did. What if he ran out one day? And just used tape and was like, no one will know, or Tippex! Do you have any tattoos or piercings?
I used to have an eyebrow piercing.
That’s really gay!
I had no idea. I got rid of it like three years ago. Do you have any weird piercings? Do you have both nipples?
No… I don’t like my boobs.
You should feel comfortable with your boobs.
As a special treat we also have an exclusive mix of MNEK's "Wrote A Song About You" done by TIEKS (the one he did the chilli challenge with):
Matt's on Twitter. If you're a seven foot Nigerian man, maybe you should follow him - @Matt_A_Shea