By Catherine Kane ’26 / Photo by Runchen Liu ’26

It was in Turck Hall in 2003 that Kwame Ametepee Tsikata ’05 recorded a song for the first time, with none other than present-day Bon Iver band manager Nate Vernon ’07.

This April, Tsikata—now a preeminent Ghanaian rapper and record producer professionally known as M.anifest—came back to campus to perform at the Program Board’s annual Springfest. A day before the performance, he sat down with a dozen students in an intimate Q&A moderated by Ariel McGuire ’26 to discuss his college experience, creative process, and global rise.

After graduating with an economics degree, Tsikata stuck around the Twin Cities making records and connections.

“I thought I left college, but I entered another one,” he says of his time learning the ropes of the music industry.

He first got the attention of record labels when a song he recorded was used in a Pepsi commercial, and the royalties gave him the financial freedom to pursue music full time. After a few years in the Twin Cities, he moved back to Ghana, and began to build his network again.

“My entire career has been a series of intentional accidents,” he says.

Tsikata became obsessed with the music-making process: watching YouTube tutorials, collaborating with more established artists, and even visiting the factories that were making his records. An independent artist, Tsikata doesn’t have a large marketing budget, but that isn’t an issue: “What you lack in marketing budget, you can make up for in creativity.”

A UNICEF ambassador, Tsikata advocates for adolescent girls on issues like child marriage and gender-based violence. He also supports the arts through various projects and funds in Minneapolis and Ghana.

“An education and music are not separate,” he says.

He encouraged students to pursue music if it’s their passion, even inviting a student during the Q&A to freestyle a few lines for him.

“Art should be fearless.”

July 17 2023

Back to top