Mwuana smoking. All photos by Emil Nordin (unless otherwise stated)
Part-time-poet-part-time-sinner Mwuana is making his way to Sweden’s hip-hop frontline with the ever so popular auto tuned trap sound. He's the guy who balances the flavour of ghetto music with an approachable party sound. “Natural Born Killers,” for example, ends with an up-tempo house-influenced beat. While “Faded,” a sexy slow-tempo R&B song, shows off Mwuana’s soft side.
In Sweden, where Silvana Imam’s political battle and Lorentz’s ultra-soft cloud rap have gained huge popularity, Mwuana’s worldview is relatively refreshing. His mixture of hard and soft attitudes alongside his Swedish-English wordplay (“Det är back to basic / uppe i min bag är faded / jag har mitt eget matrix / så fuck vad dom tror om allt / som en jävel made it / gör mina fans till haters / men jag är dedicated / så fuck vad dom tror om allt”) is about to secure his place as a top influencer within the local scene. However, some of his lines could be interpreted as man-chauvinistic: “Och lägg dig inte i det här / om gäris saknar ägare” ["Don’t get involved with this / if the bitches ain’t got no owners”].
Mwuana has already released two EPs, with a third on its way – all part of a trilogy ahead of a potential fourth EP and an album later this year. While many of his peers stick to sounds that mark their identities, Mwuana experiments with different producers on each one of his releases. The first EP, 1: Spiridon, is produced by Spiridon from Stockholm suburb Fisksätra. It exhibits a hard fist-in-your-face sound with “Du Vet Att Jag Säljer” and “Parranoia.” The second, 2: Collén & Chords, is produced by – you guessed it – Collén and Chords. It features Mwuana’s soft sides with the likes of “Faded” and “D Går Bra Nu.” The third will be produced by Nibla from Gothenburg. It’s still unknown what side of the Mwuana coin 3: Nibla will pull out from underneath, but from what I’ve heard it’s going to be pretty dark. Mwuana's career has skyrocketed in less than six months since the release of his first track “Du Vet Att Jag Säljer.” So when I found out his first-ever official gig was going to take place at the Skankaloss Festival in Gagnef, Sweden, I grabbed the opportunity to get to know him.
NOISEY: So what’s the story about Mwuana?
Mwuana: The story behind the name is from a trip I did to Uganda when I was 17, 18 years old. I travelled there with a friend who grew up there. I stayed for four months. [Mwuana] became my nickname, but it was like everybody’s nickname – Mwuana means something like a bully.
Like a douche or something?
No, more like Dennis the Menace, if you know what I mean?
Sure. Like a hellion?
Yeah, like a rapscallion and that’s exactly what I’ve been. You were a Muzungu first, you know. It means white, wealthy man or white man. But after a while, they noticed that I was kind of loco.
How was it for you to get into a crew over there?
I've always been good at getting connections, whether it's in that community or when I was in Portugal, you know. I’ve always managed to get top contacts and friends, so it doesn’t get to that level where you don’t get anything for nothing, you know? You have to know people for a while before you stir shit up, are you with me?
You know, “Du Vet Att Jag Säljer” was the starting point of all this. It's recorded during a mental period of my life. I crashed at my mum's place and stashed all my stuff there. She wanted to kick me out all the time. I was too old for that shit you know. I was seriously losing it. I don’t think that track is controversial in any way. Not if you look what state the world is in.
Talking about controversial shit – what do you mean with “Don’t get involved with this / if the bitches ain’t got no owners”? It’s pretty odd to spit that line in Sweden in 2015.
What I mean with “Don’t get involved if the bitches ain't got no owners” is actually pretty basic. As long as I don’t mess around with somebody’s girl, don’t fuck with my shit. I think it’s a pro-feminist line: that girls are allowed to socialise with whomever they want. But I’m not somebody with barriers, I got my own viewpoints about stuff, but they’re not anti-feminist; they’re rather in line with the feminist ideals. I often express that I’m an Alpha male and that’s nothing I’m trying to hide you know. You know I’m a guy – we’re born like that. We are made to have the biggest hole in the sandbox. It’s the same with women – they shouldn’t hide who they are. I’ve had relationships where the girl wants the guy to take on a dominant role, and other times when the girl is dominant – you know, it’s all about that balance.
But it’s like that line, what do I say – “skiftar färgen som en hombre / där på mami som ligger och visar upp den / hon vet om det." It’s just a metaphor about changing the colour of your hair, there’s nothing more to it.
You mean that things can get misunderstood if they’re taken out of context?
That’s right. I could have a seminar about every damn line or text I’ve written. Even if things sound twisted, wrong, or man-chauvinistic – it’s always connected to the core of me and that’s my key thing. That’s why I do this. I don’t do this to get chicks to like me. I would have written other stuff if I’ve wanted that you know?
I hear you.
But it doesn’t mean I don’t write lyrics to women. But it’s easy that it gets in one of three boxes, you know: The love track, the hustle hard track, or the party track. Then there're a lot of different branches within those boxes.
Right. So, how did your label, ART:ERY, find you?
I’ve spent many years at Anders Bagge’s. He’s like family to me; my aunt was married to him. There was this guy at Bagge’s who worked in his studio. His name is Johan Kronlund. I had a band at the time with my little brother and our friend. The group was called Leo Brothers and Blen. We used to do a lot of soul-influenced house music. Johan helped us mix all that.
So your roots are in house music?
No, not at all. My roots are in hip-hop, but I like a lot of different styles of music. You know, music can be universal and that’s just how it is. You know, after a while – it’s a long story – but Johan and Bagge went separate ways and Johan ended up with Peter Swartling. I recorded an EP, which I produced myself. But it was never released. I brought that EP to Johan and he really liked it and wanted to show Swartling the tracks. A couple of months went by during which I met up with Spiridon and those guys and recorded 1: Spiridon. We’ve known each other for a while. So when Swartling was ready to see me for the old EP, I had all this new material to show him – it was on another level! I showed him “Parranoia,” “Du Vet Att Jag Säljer,” and “Här För Att Stanna.” We started this process and it went pretty fast.
So what’s the deal with having new producers on your EPs?
The whole deal with Chords and Collén is not new – I hope we're set for life until death do us part. Our relationship has become so deep. We released the second EP with them. It's not in chronological order though – I have like 30 tracks ready with them. But [releasing them all] would ruin us financially and people can’t take in that much so fast, you know.
The timing must be right, too.
True! 2: Collén & Chords, which we recently released, contains seven tracks, but I think it was 13 from the beginning. That would have been an album, which wasn't the idea from the beginning. So we stuck to the original plan and format.
Which producers stimulate and interest you the most?
Above all, Chords and Collén. I’m keeping it one hundred with them. Nibla, who's producing my next EP, is this young dude from Gothenburg who’s really awesome with a lot of dark trap influences. He’s from a progressive background.
How did you find him?
Via Dida at RMH [Respect My Hustle]. We grew up together and all that – we go way back.
Where did you guys grow up?
In Bromsten. It’s him and some other key people from the hood who started all this you know. He’s one of those who took it to another level. It’s always fun when we see each other. It's only love for that dude.
Considering that you have a background as a producer, artist, and music video maker, why don't you do everything yourself?
That’s the plan. I need to work with producers who really are producers, are you with me? People who have done this a long time and know what they’re doing. I’ve learned so much from just hanging in the studio with them.
You pick up stuff that they do?
Yep. To be honest, I have periods when I need to work by myself. I thrive on being the mad scientist, locking myself away and go mad you know?
Mwuana on stage at Skankaloss. Photo by Markus Hård
I’m with you. So Cherrie is in the front advancing Swedish lyricism. Do you feel that you evolve hip-hop in the same way?
Ouff – If we’re talking about lyricism – seriously, I have a hard time writing in Swedish even though Swedish is my mother tongue. And it’s not that I think Swedish words suck, it’s more that it’s hard to get syllables into my flow. There are plenty of consonants and it isn't easy to flow on Swedish consonants, you dig?
Is it because of that people say ansikt instead of ansikte [ansikte is Swedish for face]?
Maybe. I don’t use ansikt though.
Maybe I’d use ansikte ironically. But I bend other stuff – I swear I’m a pioneer with my own words, just like Cherrie.
What can we expect from your gig today?
I always give 100 percent. But I’m a bit sceptical towards myself so I can’t say anything until I’m done. You see, how I kick it, I’ve already smoked two blunts and I’m going to light my third.
Ey, who cares?
Hugo REALLY likes hamburgers. He's on Twitter.