Welcome to Spotlight Series, a monthly feature shining a light on emerging local music makers in the stellar music community in Manitoba. Come back every month for a new interview!
By Cierra Bettens
Dela Awuyah, also known by his musical alias, Mooki, is a promising figure in the local hip hop scene. After releasing a full album and EP, it’s safe to say the singer/songwriter is making his mark.
Born in Winnipeg of Jamaican and Ghanaian heritage and raised in the city’s West End, Mooki spent 12 years as a breakdancer before turning to music. While he previously dabbled in writing and sound, Mooki’s introduction to the Winnipeg music scene officially took off about three years ago.
Mooki grew up listening to the Toronto-born artist, k-os, who, to this day, inspires him to explore sounds from many different genres. Though a hip hop artist by trade, Mooki says his influences range from the vocals of Jasmine Sullivan to the punk beats of the Dead Presidents and Sid Vicious.
“I’m influenced by everything. There’s really no type of music that I don’t take inspiration from,” he says.
Mooki’s latest album, BLACKSHEEP: eight trials, which was released in October, reflects on the experiences of his younger self. Lyrically, the artist wrestles with feeling like an outsider. For Mooki, the question guiding the album was whether to embrace or reject being the black sheep.
“[BLACKSHEEP] was a lot about expressing issues that I didn’t have a voice about in the past,” he says. “The storyline for BLACKSHEEP is a younger version of me essentially going through moments that had already happened in my life. Potentially, it could lead me in a different direction, or potentially, it could lead me to where I am today.”
“As far as how I look at collabs, it has to fit what the idea is. Especially for me to take a song seriously, we have to have an idea that makes sense. You can’t just force things to happen,” he says.
Listening to BLACKSHEEP feels a bit like travelling through the artist’s psyche. In tracks like “JUSTLIKEME”, the soundscape is so visceral you can almost imagine yourself being transported into it. The revving of a car engine is masterfully crafted into the song’s harmonies and melodies, adding to its stylistic depth. It’s as introspective as it is confessional.
While Winnipeg’s hip hop community is small compared to larger cities and tight-knit, and Mooki says it’s continually growing. With the help of fellow musicians and producers, he’s far from alone in navigating the scene.
For now, the singer/songwriter is gearing up to play at Real Love Winnipeg’s 10-year anniversary show on March 25 at The Good Will Social Club. Haviah Mighty and Super Duty Tough Work will also take the stage that night.
“It’s my first time having the opportunity to perform in front of that big of a crowd, so I’m just going to give it all I’ve got,” he says. “I’m preparing, practicing, and making sure I’m ready. I’m excited.”
Cierra Bettens is a writer, editor and student based in Treaty 1. She edits the arts and culture section of The Uniter.