12 for 2020: OTIS MENSAH

Otis Mensah is one of the UK’s most exciting rap-poets of the moment, captivating audiences with his contemporary take on hip-hop music and spoken word poetry. 

As a teenager growing up in Sheffield, he found an outlet for his increasing creativity by writing lyrics on the back of school books and putting them into practice on the schoolyard. Fast forward a decade or so and the rising artist was appointed Sheffield’s first poet laureate by the then Lord Mayor, Majid Majid, a man also known for pushing boundaries.

Mensah credits his initial interest in poetry down to his love of grime music and says the likes of Kano, Ghetts and Boy Better Know inspired him to start writing lyrics. The young rap-poet hopes to break down the typical whitewashed elitist stereotypes often associated with poetry and is exploring rap as an intellectual art form.

Otis has performed live with the likes of Arrested Development, The Sugarhill Gang, Killah Priest, Oddisee, Illa J, Mahalia, Lowkey, Abstract Orchestra, Open Mike Eagle, Milo, Homeboy Sandman, P.O.S, The Mouse Outfit, Cosmo Sheldrake and as tour-support for Brother Ali and Chali 2na. 

He toured his debut EP Mum’s House Philosopher around the UK & Europe, playing on stages at Hip Hop Kemp Festival (Czech Republic), Garden Wonder (Budapest), University of the Underground (Amsterdam), Conne Island (Leipzig), Poetry Meets Hip Hop (Berlin) and Glastonbury Music Festival (UK).

His latest EP Rap Poetics contains six tracks of pure and raw poetry. The EP aims to demolish the idea that rap is unintelligent and expendable. In today’s era, it’s all about breaking down stereotypical imagery and standardized ways of thinking and Mensah’s attitude towards this genre of music is refreshing and much needed.

KEY TRACK: Grand Finale Funeral Show

FOR FANS OF: Aesop Rock, Open Mike Eagle, Mos Def

Photo Credit: GRIT Multimedia