"As he searches for his own promised land, Manchildblack might be on the road to delivering us all." - Jason King (Freelance writer for Vibe Magazine & Village Voice).
A proponent of what he calls ‘global soul- an amalgamation of soulful melodies over dance rhythms from Africa, Brazil and the Caribbean, Manchildblack brings to the music world uplifting and socially conscious lyrics, a bohemian sense of style and a warm and inviting spirit that illuminates every stage he graces. Like his idols Stevie, Donny, Marvin and Gil, Manchildblack is on a mission to heal, educate and elevate audiences through inspirational songs of life, love and self-discovery.
The name Manchild may conjure up memories of Claude Brown's searing novel, Manchild in the Promised Land, but it has quite a different history for the man himself. "I was born Derek Deeocie Gentry," Manchild confesses "but a Rastaman I knew during my time in D.C. would call me 'Manchild.' He never explained why, but when I started doing music I decided the name fits who I am musically and epitomized what I was singing about. For me, the name represents the three constants in my life - I will always be a man, I will always be a child of God and I will always be black. Everything else about me may change but those aspects will always remain."
Although the name (all one word) has no immediate relationship to Claude Brown's book, the similarities are there. The classic 1965 novel offered truthful evidence of what it meant to survive as a black man in a complex, troubling society. In the same vein, many of Manchildblack's original songs, most of which are co-written by guitarist Shelton Garner, also comment on the plight of African-Americans and shed new light on problems of self-esteem, masculinity and racism among other topics.
A native New Yorker, Manchildblack didn't just emerge as a recording artist overnight. Fed on a steadfast diet of his parent's music, including the songs of Otis Redding, Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke, Manchild always knew he was destined to be a performer. "I never wanted to do anything else", he professes, "I was a shy and quiet kid so writing and performing was my outlet." After briefly attending Howard University in Washington D.C. as a drama major, Manchild purchased a one-way Greyhound ticket back to NYC to "do it on a bigger scale." In the Big Apple, he began to build his acting resume, appearing in shows like the world premiere of the Richard Adler and Bill C. Davis musical Off-Key at the George Street Playhouse and even on the now defunct crime series on the A&E Network, 100 Centre Street. More recently, he received critical raves as Racine in Carl Hancock Rux's Asphalt which featured music by Toshi Reagon and DJ Spooky.
Although much of Manchild's artistic work had occurred in the theater, the unexpected passing of his father several years ago caused him to change direction and make a more decided move toward first love, music. Just as the neo-soul movement was starting to take baby steps, Manchild launched the band Urban Folklore along with writing and performing partner Nzinga. Tuned into the same philosophical frequency, the soulful duo co-wrote and performed Hip-Hop Soul music for eager audiences generating a cult following around the city. While gigging at popular local venues like SOB's and CB's Gallery alongside other emerging artists like John Legend and Res, Urban Folklore attempted to get signed and went though a rough phase of management deals. After a few years, the duo disbanded and Manchild left Urban Folklore for greener pastures. "I was beginning to write material that was more introspective and not necessarily appropriate for the group," he explains.
The audience reaction to his solo debut a month later convinced him that he had made the right decision.
"That night I knew that I was finally doing what I was supposed to be doing and reaching people the way I knew I should be reaching them," Manchild states. "I felt like I was home."
As time moved on, Manchild found himself perfecting his incredible live stage persona all over NYC. He performed to packed audiences at such notable venues as Blue Note, BAM Cafe, Joe's Pub, Ashford and Simpson's Sugar Bar, Symphony Space and even Central Park Summerstage, where he shared the stage with Vernon Reid, Corey Glover, Caron Wheeler and the Black Rock Coalition.
In 2006, Manchildblack was signed to legendary record label West End Records, releasing the critically acclaimed Awake in a Dream EP. Included on the release was the melodic ode to his father To the Sky. The video for the song received frequent airplay on the BET J/Centric network introducing Manchild's music and style to the masses. Also on the EP was the dance floor filler "Rain", which found itself on the play lists of such internationally respected DJs as Louie Vega, Gilles Peterson, Danny Krivit and Bobbito Garcia. His journey into the dance music realm inspired him to become instrumental in producing two notable New York nightlife events. ALMA NYC, the monthly neo-Brazilian fusion party, has been widely praised for its high energy and percussive grooves. He later teamed with Global Soul DJ/producer Ian Friday to create the bi-weekly event, Libation. The party has become a hugely popular destination for all lovers of soulful dance music and is instrumental in burgeoning the global soul musical movement, featuring guest DJs and performers including Osunlade, Peven Everett, Spinna, Karizma, Ron Trent, King Britt, Boddhi Satva, Stephanie McKay and Kindred-The Family Soul. Libation hosted the official after party for FELA! The Off-Broadway Musical and co-produced FELABRATION in honor of the birthday of musical icon Fela Kuti. Manchildblack says, “I love producing events just as much as creating music. The music played and vibe created is meant to make people feel good - and that's the same reason I do music."
In recent years Manchildblack has kept extremely busy with new events, record releases and has even launched a t-shirt line and opened up a venue. 2008 saw the start of his company Hype Life Music which gave birth to the aptly titled Sol Ascension. Held at NYC's legendary S.O.B.'s the event is one part live concert and one part dance party that pairs some of the best underground DJ's with incredible live acts including: Rich Medina, Wunmi, Mark de Clive-Lowe, Lady Alma, Ursula Rucker and Daz-I-Kue of Bugz in the Attic. He released the Global Soul dance floor fillers "We Are", "Live 4 Love" and "Magic", as well as the eclectic My Mind's I EP. Manchildblack along with Monstah Black, paired up to launch the "Black Like Jesus" t-shirt line and in 2009 the duo opened up Drop Spot Loft. This intimate Brooklyn venue allows a nurturing environment for performing and visual artists to rehearse, perform & conduct classes. The spot is also used for "The Black's" exclusive invite only dance party that happen once a month.
As a singer, songwriter, recording artist, actor, global soul impresario, event producer, designer, tastemaker and entrepreneur, Manchildblack is this generation's true Renaissance man. His music and mission are both clear and powerful and resonating with audiences around the world. "This is about more than me, it's about a movement and I plan to be one of the leaders in the forefront of the change that's coming".