MOBO UnSung 2023: Exclusive Interviews

Hiba Hassan

By Hiba Hassan

Hiba Hassan

17 Jul 2023

Mobo Unsung is back with their class of 2023! Featuring 10 outstanding independent, emerging artists from across the country, that all encapsulate an undeniable talent. Alumni include the likes of Tiana Major 9 and Tion Wayne, these artists have been hand-picked by the Mobo’s, other industry tastemakers and in partnership with SoundOn, Marshall and PRS Foundation.

The programme takes all 10 artists through a journey emerging them in studio sessions, talks and so much more, leaving them with all the tools to continue their success after the 12-month programme is over.

Meet the Mobo UnSung class of 2023:


You moved from Birmingham to London to take your career to the next level, do you think areas outside of London don’t project their artists as well?

I think they try. I think talent and their surrounding areas do what they can. They make noise. I can’t speak for all areas but Birmingham’s always had the talent. Jaykae, Jacob Banks. Jamilia, Jorja Smith. But London? London will always be louder. London simply has the stronger infrastructure hence we artists eventually run here!

You started making music at 14, do you remember your mindset towards music back then and how it is now?

I’m so happy to say I still have the same obsessive love for music that I did back then. It’s probably deeper now! It honestly has to be. There are so many “no’s” thrown at you. Especially in the beginning. You have to, in some words, prove yourself to the industry and listeners. You have to want and need this life otherwise you lose momentum, drive and fun very quickly!

What do you know now that you wish you knew starting and what advice would you give to those starting out?

As difficult as some lessons have been hard to learn and live through, I don’t think I’d change anything. That’s the journey. People ask me how my stage performance is so strong, for example, and I answer, “By f***ing up”. I’ve written terrible songs, I’ve trusted the wrong people, I’ve put on below-average shows and I’ve learnt from it all!

What has been your career highlight so far?

This one’s easy – headlining my first festival event! It was yesterday’s Cambridge Pride and it’s only gone and made me even more hungry for that Glastonbury headline slot. 2024…?

What’s next for you?

This year is all about getting my bangers out to my listeners, continuing to turn industry heads and getting bigger shows. I’ve never been so hopeful and excited.

TikTok: @dejadejadejaaa, Instagram: @dejadejadejaaa, Twitter: @dejadejaaaa 

Ace Clvrk

You started out in music by taking part in Grime cyphers, so it’s fair to say that your sound has completely developed. What was that journey like in finding your sound?

I think it was just the most interesting and fun way to do it. Because I wasn’t shying away from any genre, started out in Grime, I also used to listen to a lot of Rock, R&B, Jazz, and Soul, I just feel like I’m a lover of music in general. It was the best way to give myself more inspiration by experimenting.

What was it like to actually go through that journey, mentally and physically? 

It was pretty simple; I was surrounded by people who loved music. When I got into the professional environment of making music like going to the studio, I was still surrounded by those people, so it was easy. The hardest part was building up the courage to sing, growing up I felt like it was really cool to rap not to sing. 

How did you find that confidence?

It took time, I had to put myself in uncomfortable situations, going to open mic nights and forcing myself to sing in public. I had to create the music that my soul wanted and stop thinking about what other people would think. And as soon as you stop thinking about other people then you’re ready to go.

Where do you draw your inspiration from when you write your songs?

I have a massively scattered brain, I could be walking, shopping doing something completely normal and I could have a whole concept in that one millisecond. I can hear how the drums sound, and how the backing vocals are, and I’ll be obsessed with that song until it’s completed. I feel like the songs write themselves, I get inspiration from everywhere. 

TikTok: @aceclvrk, Instagram: @aceclvrk, Twitter: @Duvalw

Bea Anderson

Mobo Unsung
What was your entrance to music and when did you know that this was the career for you?

I went to the Brits School, so I don’t think I had too many other options at other careers. I think as well being in that environment you’re exposed to full-time creativity; you have to always obtain what you want to do. But before that, I had been singing forever, very stereotypical upbringing, sang in Church and in Secondary school I was always in the music department.

Church and Gospel music were integral parts of your upbringing, what role does faith in your life?

It plays a massive part in everything, it’s a bit tricky because I’m not a gospel singer so it can be a bit tekky. But you’ll know my faith and everything I stand for.

You’ve received a lot of recognition across the industry, what does that mean for you especially being independent?

It was really overwhelming at first, and I didn’t expect anyone to take it in and suddenly you’re having meetings with all these different DSPs. At the same time, there’s an even bigger weight because you don’t want to be too independent and portray you don’t need any help when you do. I don’t have a manager or anything, so I really do it on my own, it Is a bit of a catch-22.

What does success mean to you?

I just want to do music full-time. Make my music and gig and fly the flag of independence.

TikTok: @itsbeaanderson, Instagram: @itsbeaanderson, Twitter: @itsbeaanderson

Josh Barry

How did your love for music first come about and to now make this your career?

I think it was when I realised, I couldn’t really do anything else. But as a kid, I think it was dancing at weddings, you know THAT kid at weddings. I started dancing at the Soul Theatre School and my teacher, Alexia Mcavoy, found out I could sing through my mum and she made me sing in classes from then on. and that overtook dancing.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

I would say mainly a lot of classic music, but I like all sorts of genres. Indie, Rock, soul, old-school blues, funk, literally everything.

If you could collaborate with anyone who would it be and why?

I would say Quincy Jones just because I think he would draw a lot out of me or Pharrell, not setting my sights too high, am I?

What does success mean to you?

Originally it used to be a bucket list of places I’ve played and those sorts of things. But I think now it’s shifted into something else and it’s not a measurable thing like when I come off stage and someone’s like I listen to your song every day for this reason, it’s to get that. Emotional reaction with my audience. That’s a good base level for my success.

What’s one bit of advice that you wish you knew when getting into this industry?

Don’t listen too much to everyone else, obviously take advice but there is a fine line. There were so many things in my life where I didn’t follow my gut or treated my own instincts as second and everyone now and then just shut off the outside noise.

TikTok: @joshbarrymusic, Instagram: @joshbarrymusic, Twitter: @joshbarrymusic


Mobo UnSung
You describe your Blackbox freestyle as the thing that changed your life, what was the inspiration behind that?

I wrote the freestyle prior to even knowing I was going to do a Blackbox, then I did the freestyle and at the time it did well and got the attention of Krept and Konan and that’s where Blackbox contacted me to do one. But to be honest that freestyle, I wanted it to be a Mad About Bars and I kept trying to tell Kenny, but it still worked out.

And what have you learnt from then and doing that freestyle to now?  

When you get a viral moment, strike when the fire is hot and don’t wait. After that moment I waited too long to release, you have to be consistent.

You have a lot of support from all corners of the industry, how important is your network to you?

Your network is your networth. Without it your journey doesn’t mean too much, you have to get your talents in the right spaces, your networking for every corner of your career.

How does your Ghanaian background inspire your music?

It gives me the vibes, with the rhythms and the 20 million flows I use, it all comes from that background. And I’m so stubborn as well, especially in my music. I believe in myself a lot.

TikTok: @kanivaoh, Instagram: @kanivaoh, Twitter: @KanivaOH

Young Athena

Mobo UnSung
How did you start out in music?

I’ve been in music all my life, my mum was a choir singer and my dad was a rapper, so all my life I’ve been surrounded by Grime, Oprah, Rap and RnB, a bit of everything. So that started my understanding of music. My mum then put me into classical cello lessons when I was six years old and started learning classical music from then. When I was 11, I started to write my own music and then in 2020 I went to the Brit School and graduated last year. So, I’ve always been in music.

You love to pay homage to legends in music, who has inspired your career?

My biggest inspiration has to be Beyoncé, the Queen Bey. She represents so much grace and strength and empowers so many women globally.

What do you hope to leave behind with your music?

I want to leave behind something that is just happy that makes a positive difference. Whether it be a support mechanism or just evoke happiness.

What’s next for you?

I’m also working with Mastercard, as a part of their artist accelerator programme and they have their live showcase soon. I also have a lot of music I’ve been working on that I can’t wait to release.

TikTok: @young_athena, Instagram: @young_athena, Twitter: @young_athena_

Neone The Wonderer

Mobo UnSung
You have a Wikipedia page that describes you as ‘a dream wanderer, dedicated to self-exploration through an electric fusion of musical genres.’ Tell me more about that…

Firstly, I didn’t even know I had a Wikipedia page. For me I place a lot of importance on music being about exploration, when I think of the greats that have almost established the rules of music, they were just guessing. So, the more you can just go somewhere just to see where it can lead you, the more you can become a pioneer of something. And you’ll get more of a result from something that hasn’t been explored before. There is so much music out there and therefore so many expectations to fill, but there is a need to surprise people and let them experience something new.

When you were younger you were often isolated by your peers, something that has made you a strong advocate for mental health. How challenging is it to look after your mental health in a career like music?

The importance of looking after your mental health is at the top, it is something we all have experience with its just a reference to health. People have different coping strategies and just try to push through it but it just makes those issues pile up. It’s never easy to deal with anything, but you become more knowledgeable in that area. 

What is the meaning behind your name?

It was during the time of my mental health being poor, that I realised identity was a big issue. And so many people held me to different ideas, and I didn’t hold myself to any of those. On top of that, being in a creative avenue I have to express it to the fullest instead of living up to anyone’s ideas of me.

TikTok: @neonewonderer, Instagram: @neone_wonderer, Twitter: @neone_wonderer 

Gabriel Sanches

Mobo Unsung
How would you describe your sound?

I think it goes through phases. Sometimes it’ll sound very Pop/ RnB, and then it’ll shift to Blues or old school Soul. It’s always transforming.

Does Anything inspire those phases?

I just love to sit on a piano and go through stuff. I think when I have an idea in my head, I’ll just let that guide it, which is a positive and negative because you don’t really have that cohesive alignment with a lot of things. But every song serves itself well.

How important are programmes like this to your journey?

The more programmes like this are happening and getting to work with people that have been on this journey before with other artists, it’s invaluable. It helps you get to where you need to go with fewer mishaps.

How does your background/culture influence your music? 

I think I have this weird situation; I feel like I don’t fully belong in the UK because of my accent and then I go back to where I’m from and I don’t sound or look like them. Which can be stressful but to me I feel like that inspires me to think, cool if I don’t belong anywhere and I kind of belong everywhere, if that makes sense. And it’s taken away that pressure to only do specific things. A lot of people where I’m from will only do Samba or Brazilian music, I have the freedom to explore.

TikTok: @thegabrielsanches, Instagram: @thegabrielsanches


Mobo UnSung
Your name means queen in Arabic, I think names are important, how do you think that’s inspired the trajectory of your life?

I’m from St. Lucia, it was taken from my mum’s name and I was initially going to be called Melissa, and my grandad didn’t really like the name he thought it was common and changed it to Melica. The funny thing is, when I came to this country no one said it properly and I struggled to like my name, and I only found out the meaning a few years back. An artist’s first name is so important and can stand alone.

What comes first for you, the lyrics or the production?

It depends, when I started making music I didn’t have beats or producers or anything like that, I would basically work backwards. But as I’ve evolved the beat comes first, and just gotten used to the concept, the lyrics and the melodies and all of that stuff.

How did you get into music?

I don’t come from a musical family, I come from a family of people who love and appreciate music. And that’s how my love came for it, and when I came to this country I did really struggle to transition from St Lucia to here. I didn’t have a lot of friends growing up and my parents brought me a karaoke machine which was the best present anyone could’ve gotten me. that’s how I really started.

TikTok: @iammelica_, Instagram: @iammelica_, Twitter: @iamMelica_

Shack Santima

Mobo UnSung
What were you listening to growing up?

A lot of Grime, Ghetts, I was listening to a lot of the Mixtape Madness freestyles.

Do you remember your first studio session?

I do remember my first studio session and I was so rubbish, I didn’t know what I was doing. It was at a youth club and I gave it a go but I was singing a whole bunch of nothing.

If you could collaborate with any artist who would it be and why?

Ghetts and Dave. Ghetts because just seeing his progression from being a gritty spitter to now being calm and collective, becoming so versatile with it. Dave because of his raw passion and talent in music.

Your faith is fundamental to your being, how easy it is to portray in your sound? It is something that is not seen too often.

My whole existence is grounded in my faith, from testimonies from things I’ve experienced personally that God has still allowed me to be here. And to even be in this space right now, for me it is important to include that in my music because the world is preaching a message and we have the negative that is already out there, so I’m trying to bring that light into this space.

What’s your creative process when making music?

I freestyle a lot, I just put a beat on and freestyle over it. I listen to instrumentals over and over again and then go for it, then make sure I clean it up.

TikTok: @congomedian, Instagram: @sauceyshacks