SAFE METAMORPHOSIS
by Otis Mensah and Miroslav Kiss

Otis Mensah is one of the most prolific and exciting new artists in Sheffield.

Occupying a space often referred to as ‘alternative hip hop’, or conscious hip hop, Otis’ music is heavily influenced by both a spoken word culture and hip hop.

Poetry and hip hop are long-time close bed fellows. Early poetry and music crossover acts like The Last Poets and Gil Scott Heron created the groundwork for the emergence of hip hop as a new genre. Historically in the UK, other acts such as Linton Kwesi Johnson, and more recently Kate Tempest, Disraeli and Benin City, have been occupying spaces with one foot in poetry and another in music, including other genres like dub. The name of this very section in Now Then Magazine and its wider literature project also comes from a phrase often used in hip hop. ‘Word Life’ is generally used to mean a phrase akin to ‘word on my life’, or ‘I swear what I’m telling you is true.’

Otis Mensah is an artist emerging into this space, or arguably has already emerged and is in full swing, with major support slots for hip hop acts in Sheffield under his belt and at festivals across the UK, including Glastonbury. Our online issue felt like the perfect way to showcase a new set of work he has created called ‘Safe Metamorphosis’.

One of the defining currents running through Otis’ work is vulnerability. This work is primarily motivated by exploring his own identity, tracing the effects of both external and internal factors, such as materialism or depression, on his own self consciousness. All three of these music videos have been directed by GRIT Multimedia’s Miroslav Kiss and are perfect accompaniments to the tracks, as they show a subtlety and lightness of touch not often seen in music videos which matches the understated tone of some of Otis’ music.

It’s clear from this body of work that Otis Mensah is an artist to watch. Hip hop culture has been less visible in programming across Sheffield’s key venues and festivals for years, yet with Otis’ star on the rise, the future looks bright for Sheffield’s homegrown scene.

Joe Kriss