As the holidays approach, many of us brim with excitmement, preparing to see family that we haven’t seen in a long time. Then there are those who have a much tougher time during the holiday season because they have family or friends that they won’t ever see again in this life. How we deal with the loss of a love one is part of each of our individual journeys, teaching us lessons that we need to learn in order to progress to the next stage of our terrestrial tour. In the last qtr of 2023,  Harlem NY’s MANDELLA ESKIA is honoring the memory of his late Father, and using the lessons he has learned through years of mourning and processing, to catapult him to the next level of his campaign in Hip Hop on his lates personal and pen heavy lp, “BABA”.


MRLN Records
Elombe Brath
Elombe Brath Baba 2

The word BABA means Father in many South African languages. A term of endearment and respect to the Elder Gentlemen of our society. If ESKIA’s Baba, ELOMBE BRATH, was anything, he was highly respected in his community. An organizer and widely recognized Pan African Activist, the Brooklyn born ELOMBE BRATH is known for founding the PATRICE LUMUMBA COALITION, and co-founding the AFRICAN JAZZ-ART SOCIETY & STUDIOS, and WADU, the WORLD AFRICAN DIASPORA UNION to advocate for the unification of the African Diaspora politicaly, culturally, and economically with Africa.  An outspoken opposer of the use of the word “NEGRO”, ELOMBE BRATH launched the GRANDASSA MODELS, a group of African American Models who sported Afros during Afrocentric Fashion Shows promoting the BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL movement. To say the least, MANDELLA ESKIA BRATH, son of ELOMBE, was left with a mighty big pair of loafers to fill.  To which he replies, hold my cup of green juice.

Elombe Brath's Grandassa Models Black Is Beautiful Movement
Elombe Brath's Grandassa Models Black Is Beautiful Movement
Throughout 12 tracks curated by New York City’s EXQUISITE DOPE RECORDS, Harlem’s BLACK ZEUSX allows us a look at the multiple angles of his FACE, the only one he wears, which looks almost Identical to that of the tree he fell from. No wonder he refuses to wear any masks, as he makes clear on the album opener FACE, where he warns of the honesty that he can’t keep from showing on his continence, and the harm that you might bring on yourself and those around you wearing a mask to make yourself look tougher.
     ESKIA’s natural knack for word play is on full display on every track of BABA. I talked to him about his love for word manipulation and the conversation went somewhere I never expected. I asked him,
WVCC – “I love the Word Play you utilize on tracks like “WAIT” creating the double entendre of Weight Shame/ Wait Shame. Who are some of your favorite Word Players?
   M.E – “Probably comedians but if we’re talking MC’s. Probably old school Cam’ron, Jay Z, Eminem.”
WVCC – “Hold Up Hold Up, I never heard that reply before. Comedians? Like who?”
     M.E –  “Well, I think comedians are clever. And they find interesting angles. As far as who is my favorite Comedic Word Player, I dont know if I can Answer that question. I know a lot of them personally.”
     Mandella not only flexes his pen prowess, but he also rocks a natural self assurance that can easily be confused with conceitedness, but he could care less. I asked him,
WVCC – “On joints like FACE, WAIT, MOODY, LIKE YOURSELF, HUSH & FOZZY, you exude a natural self-confidence. How much of a hand would you say your BABA had in shaping that in you?
M.E – “A lot.
When I was crafting those songs I imagined the confidence he had to have to stand behind his beliefs. Like when I think of those songs I think of this photo”
(See Photo below of ELOMBE BRATH dressed like a Pan African 007. Photo taken by Kwame Brathwaite, Mandella’s late uncle.) Elombe Brath (Photo by Kwame Brathwaite)
WVCC- “Man, he was a sharp dressed dude. Is that where you get your flare for fashion from?”
M.E. -“Honestly, yes but that’s new. Recently I’ve had a thing for linens and that’s the kinda stuff he used to wear.”
     ESKIA is on a relentless quest for success and is dressing accordingly.  As he states on “WAIT”, “My taste change. I become a connoisseur of fine decor/ If you don’t match the ambience then I ignore/ put my hands together and homie thought I might applaud/ But I was just to throw a Fireball cuz Im a God.”. The level is elevated over here. If you ain’t talking them “KENNEDY FRIED HUNNITS” MANDELLA ain’t really entertaining the convo. He makes that clear over another banger produced by Miami’s Motivational Beat GOAT, TEV95. ESKIA glides around on the Arab flavored bop, flying over the heads of rappers who “swear they dropping science, but that science is lobotomy/”. He capitalizes on the opportunity and drops some gems of his own like “I swear solemnly to always do better, No Apologies/ Don’t buy Bottles, Buy Property/” #LifeBars.  Only to remind you on the next cut, “COUNTRY CLUB”, produced by Japan’s UNDOLLASUN, that growing into the next tax bracket comes with it’s own slew of trials and tribulations. The song asks, “what’s the real reason they are treating us so nice?”. “Are you a Brand or a Branded Cattle?” Asks ESKIA on a joint where his pen and delivery can easily be compared to the likes of LUPE FIASCO as he weaves social commentary, bragadocio wit, and knowledge of self and surroundings all into a wonderful bluesy vibe.  He even feels the spirit and sings on the Hook.
      On an album graced by producers from all over the globe, ESKIA only invites 3 special guest to add their touch to this ultra personal record. Local Music Festival Organizer, KERRY BLU, lends a verse on the ETHAN MOON produced MOODY, Boogie Down BX DJ/Emcee DOMOSXCRAZY rides shotgun as ZEUSX & he take you on a tour of “CRAZY TOWN”, and sister MERC THE BIG BODY BENZ drops a heart wrenching verse on “YO TURN”, where she makes brutally clear over the Brazilian Producer, ISACNOBEAT‘s smooth flute infused banger, that we all have the potential to be that person that we hate, so don’t be so quick to point fingers. She starts her verse with shocking transparency, “We all play to win, I’ve been the Main, I’ve been the Side, and I’ve been the Cheater/ I’ve been ILL, Been the Curse, and the cause of the Fever/ I’ve Embarrased Him, and stayed when he was embarrasing/ What’s good for the Goose is good for the Gander/ Even when the Goose can’t fathom it/” (#BARRR). She slaps my eyes open when she says “Everything you hate in them exists wihtin you”. (Damn she ain’t lying). Then I nearly threw my phone out the window when she rhymes, “Lets be clear, The Goddess is an ancient Seer/ Even Jesus knew Judas was Judas and kept him near/”. A song about forgiveness and not judging others, unless we first honestly judge ourselves, only to find we deserve whatever we get in life.
Mandela Eskia in Miami Art Basel 2023
Mandela Eskia
Mandela Eskia Baba Cap
Mandela Eskia Pic 2
Whatever the parenting technique that was employed, it is evident in the last 2 years I have had the pleasure of knowing and building with MANDELLA ESKIA, that he is not only top tier Lyricist, Performer, and creative mind, but that he is also a world citizen, concerned with leaving this place better than he found it. A lesson I am sure he learned from seeing his BABA live the example day in and day out.  He is a man on a mission to succeed at whatever he puts his mind to, and he is not taking NO for an answer. He does not claim to be perfect or flawless, rather he wears all his faults on his sleeve throughout the LP, unapologetically. As he says on the album closer, “I gotta do it for me, Dawg I cannot be your savior/ My BABA did what he wanted. Quitting Is not in my nature/ That’s on BABA”
As the year comes to an end, if there is someone you miss dearly, who you may not be able to pick up the phone and just say Happy Holidays to, my heart mourns with you. I lost my father 12 years ago, and am about to spend the first christmas in 8 Years without my kids after a recent breakup. I know this time of year isn’t all Joy for everyone. My prayer as I write this is that maybe playing this album will inspire you to find strength and joy in all the lessons you learned from them while they were on this earth, and to use the season as a chance to honor your loved ones Memory by being the better you they always knew you could be. That would be a gift they could enjoy wherever they are, watching down on us….and That’s on BABA.

Written by 8ch2Owens

Founder of Vice City Cypher, WVCC Radio, & PROFRESH Publicty. With over 20 Years in South Florida’s Hip Hop Scene 8ch2Owens has carved his name into the Miami Hip Hop history books, and now uses his talents to promote the best in South Florida Indie Hip Hop and Underground Hip Hop from around the globe.

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