This website uses cookies. Read more about our cookie/privacy policy.

Accept and Close

The Sheffield culture guide written by in-the-know locals

#OtisMensahExists

Sheffield poet laureate and hip-hop hero Otis Mensah presents a new project combining music, animation and international collaboration. #OtisMensahExists is an ongoing series of songs, accompanied by original animations by Sheffield illustrator Jim Spendlove.

There'll be ten songs released in total, split into two seasons, with one song released every three weeks starting on 26 May. First up is the song Breath of Life, an international collaboration with Hemlock Ernst of the US-based band Future Islands.

See below for each video in the series as they're released, along with introductory words from Otis.

Get to know Otis in our Meet the Locals interview.

1. Breath of Life
"Being the first Hip-Hop artist in the UK to be titled poet laureate, I wanted to create a series of songs that stand testament to my poetic influence. Peculiar for an artist in the north of England, growing up I gravitated towards Aesop Rock, The Roots, Blu & Exile and, later, Open Mike Eagle, Quelle Chris and Billy Woods. I felt a unifying and powerful community was created by engaging with art transcending borders through its vulnerability, social commentary and nuance. These artists not only became my favourite poets but urged me to create music that could represent vulnerable and philosophical lyricism in Europe.

Honoured by a guest verse from one of my favourite artists, Hemlock Ernst, this track explores themes such as anxiety, fear and claustrophobia on a backdrop of soulful, mellow instrumentation painted with aesthetic language and zestful flow."

2. Internet Cafe
"The song takes journey into a feeling of disconnection and millennial malaise, on a backdrop of mellow and minimalist instrumentation. Inspired by the 2013 documentary Web Junkie, a film about internet gaming addiction and a rehabilitation centre in Beijing, China, claiming to treat it, the narrative poetry that runs throughout acts as a critique to the constant pathologizing of young people living their lives online."

3. No Record Store Day
"No Record Store Day was written at the start of this global pandemic and delves into a feeling of cabin fever; irritability and restlessness. Record Store Day was postponed but our deeper sense of disquietude was not, we all feel the turbulence. This is an ode to that internal power struggle between ego and self-worth. Embracing the power of the loop; some psychedelic instrumentation from my long-time friend/collaborator the intern."

4. The Thinks
"The Thinks encompasses some of my most intimate poetic contemplations yet. Centred around 'a fear of impending doom' juxtaposed by a mellow backdrop of Nujabes, Dilla esque instrumentation, flowery imagery and a dreamy vocal delivery, The Thinks takes a journey inwards... An ode to the overthinker."

You might also like...

What We Are Made Of

Untold stories of British Asian refugees of the African diasporas. Based on journalist/playwright Wersha Bharadwa’s interviews with women largely marginalised in history – their accounts of love, loss, courage and the effects of the British Empire.

Celebrating Your Videogame Collection

The National Videogame Museum is rightly pretty proud of its collection of videogames and videogamey stuff. But they want to hear about yours too! Get thinking about your own collection of videogames with these downloadable activity sheets.

Peter Martin

Peter Martin is an artist and S1 Artspace studio holder. As well as his own video-based art practice, he is involved in a number of projects in Sheffield – each connected by the desire to do good through creativity.

Paul Evans

A background in philosophy and archeology and a love of climbing inform Paul's art practice.