The Mith born Tom Mayanja – describes the album as his “most focused project” to date. Released in collaboration with Samurae and Koz-N-Effekt, the 16-track effort features predominantly poetic raps that center around love and his admiration for Uganda.
Veteran Ugandan rapper The Mith hasn’t released an album since 2104’s Destination Africa, which makes the timing for his first album in five years puzzling. The album was released September 24, but the creative process started some two years ago, While he acknowledges 2020 has been hectic for everyone due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic that has more or less crippled society as we know it. He believes the timing of the album’s release is somewhat perfect because more people are stuck indoors, which allows ample opportunities for fans to enjoy the music away from the usual distractions.
I think its the most focused project I have done. I worked with 1 producer, Koz-N-Effekt and 1 engineer Samurae, so that allowed me to put out a project that is cohesive and….focused.
He continued, “This was a proper collaborative process. From beat selection to samples, to featured artists. Everything was super collaborative. Koz-N-Effekt and I would work on the beats and song ideas, then Samurae and I would work on the recording side, getting artists in and all. Pretty dope sessions.”
The album cover features a young The Mith being carried by his grandmother, who he says “played such an important piece for me growing up.” The conversations he had with his grandmother during the recording process inspired the song Power, one of the standouts on the new album. “She’s always asking me to do more.,” he says. “Yes you pray, but you must do more”, she always tells me.”
With nearly two decades in UG’s music scene, including his time with legendary Ugandan rap group Klear Kut, Tom Mayanja is regarded as one of East Africa’s pioneering and most prominent emcees. The Mith has managed to stay grounded with a larger-than-life personality that mirrors some of his music and cultural influences. He exudes confidence when talking about his music and his artistic dexterity makes for an easy conversation. We recently caught up with the Ugandan superhero to talk about the new project and the creative process behind some of the tracks on The Ugandan.
Our full interview lightly edited for content and clarity can be read below.
Creative: How has the response been so far?
The Mith: The response has been absolutely surprising. It’s been amazing to see which songs people are vibing to. And they’re vibing to damn near every record, which is just Amazing…
This is your first album in 5 years, why did it take you this long to release your third album and why did you choose to release it during a pandemic year?
-I had fallen away from music, well from recording…there were things I wanted to get rolling away from the spotlight. But the “itch” became undeniable, so it went from recording the occasional single, to working on a full on album. About the timing, I think, while it has been hectic for everyone, it allowed people to enjoy the music, minus the distractions.
Are fans going to have to wait a similar time frame for your next album?
-No. The fans won’t have to wait long, there’s a lot of music that is backed up. People will get some great music soon.
When did you begin working on “The Ugandan?”
-We, that’s myself, Koz-N-Effekt & Samurae, locked in and started working on this album 2 years ago.
How does it differ from your last two albums?
-I think its the most focused project I have done. I worked with 1 producer, Koz-N-Effekt, and 1 engineer Samurae, so that allowed me to put out a project that is cohesive and….focused.
What was the creative process for ‘The Ugandan’ like?
-This was a proper collaborative process. From beat selection to samples, to featured artists. Everything was super collaborative. Koz-N-Effekt and I would work on the beats and song ideas, then Samurae and I would work on the recording side, getting artists in and all. Pretty dope sessions.
Can you tell us what inspired the album’s intro?
-Nothing inspired it….I just realized that the intros on my previous projects were all done by me, but this time I felt like this album needed a different voice. A female voice. A powerful voice. Maritza has that voice. I needed her to be heard. And she delivered, and then some.
The album cover is a photo of you being carried by your grandmother. What role did she play in your childhood?
-Ayyyiiii she was such an important piece for me growing up….but so was everyone in my family. The picture is there because of the conversations I had with her during the recording process.
Describe the process behind “The Ugandan’s” creation and some of your favorite songs on the album.
-Like I said, the whole album was a collaborative process…so even the studio sessions were that way. Favorite songs to record were “Welcome2UG” with Giovanni Kiyingi, coz he taught me A LOT. He always does. “Serenade At Serena” with Evon. “I Give Her Love” with Herbert Ssensamba. Eishhh, honestly every session was Epic….and every song is a favorite.
You’re very knowledgeable when it comes to hip hop music in Uganda and Africa in general. Do you feel like the game owes you anything?
-Owes ME anything? ..No… I’m still working, they’ll give me my flowers soon.
How would you rate Uganda’s hip-hop sector?
-It’s definitely Top tier, to me. We have done a lot for this industry, but again, we’re still working.
If you could change anything about the industry, what would it be?
-Support. I wish the corporations worked more with the artists. I wish the fans supported, even more, they support at like 70%….but 98% wouldn’t hurt.
What is the story behind your song Amen?
-“Amen” was actually a beat that was supposed to go to Mal-X. So while in the studio, Koz-N-Effekt played 2 beats, 1 for me and 1 for Mal-X. We didn’t like the beats they had chosen for us. We actually like the other person’s beat. So we switched the beats. I asked Mal-X to do the chorus on my song coz his voice….as in, who he speaks to. It came out perfect after that.
“Power” sounds like a religious anthem. Tell us about the song and how your faith in God has helped you evolve as an artist.
-“Power” is from my conversations with my Grandmother. She’s always asking me to do more. “Yes you pray, but you must do more”, she always tells me. Those conversations, also with the fact that I got out of the car accident alive just helped me focus…
Are we ever going to get a 100% Luganda album from you?
Are there any African rappers you would like to work with?
-Yes. I really like what Sampa The Great, LadiPoe, M.anifest, Stogie T, Ill Bliss, Wakazi, Kayvo, and Kapela are doing.
You have had management problems in the past. As an OG in the game with a shadow duty of safeguarding and mentoring upcoming Ugandan rappers. What measures are you taking to ensure upcoming rappers are not screwed over or taken advantage of?
-I have never had management problems….But we always tell the rappers out there to sign what benefits them…
Are you going into management full-time?
-We are setting up a few foundations for that….so you never know.
Would you recommend an artist remain independent or sign to a major label?
-Honestly that depends on the artist and their situation in life. But it’s important to know what 1 is signing…so the artists should read on and learn whatever they’re getting into.
If you could work with an artist from the US who would it be and why?
-Ummm, who am I listening to?!!!….. 6LACK.. Gotta get the ladies [Laughs]
What is the quickest way to offend a rapper?
-I actually don’t know….I know what offends Me…
Klear Kut was one of the greatest African hip-hop groups of all time and I mean that. I got put on to you from your KK days. Are we ever going to get another Klear Kut album?
-WAS???? IS 1 of the greatest African Hip-hop groups…. You will definitely be getting more KLEAR KUT music.
What’s your relationship with Navio and the other members of KK like today?
-Ah, that’s family. For the rest of our lives.
I said a few months ago that East Africans are coming up the ladder and are currently serving the best hip hop content on the African continent right now. I still stand by those assertions. Do you share these sentiments or do you think there’s still a lot to be done?
-We are definitely at the top of that ladder. There is always more work to do, and I am sure that work will happen more in the months to come.
What do you feel is the best song you have ever released and why?
-Eishhh, I was recently asked this. I say “FIRE” because it helped me kick the doors down. So yeah, “FIRE” is that song…for that reason.
What’s your take on rappers retiring and is this something you have considered?
-Everyone retires. I did a Jay-Z retirement, but yeah, I’m back now. I think I actually just needed time away from the whole scene for a bit.
Do you have an influence outside of hip hop?
-Lovers Rock. R&B. My influences are many things. Cartoons. Movies. Poetry. Traveling. There’s so much that influences me.
Where have you performed? What are your favorite and least favorite venues? Do you have any upcoming shows?
-Rwanda. Burundi. Kenya. Tanzania. South Africa. Benin. Belgium. India. Are some of the places I have performed at. Every place I have performed has been epic for me. Always dope learning how to rock a crowd. As far as upcoming shows, I hadn’t booked any, coz of the pandemic, but we are securing 2021 shows.
What is “Hustler’s Prayer” about?
-“A Hustler’s Prayer” is a song about the day-to-day struggle of someone stuck in this pandemic. What they go through and all. It was inspired by people contacting me in the lockdown we had in Uganda….as well as the conversations people were having online…
As the self-proclaimed UG ambassador. What advice would you give to anyone visiting Uganda for the first time?
Anyone coming over to Uganda needs to come ready to have a GREAT time.