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Wes Manchild: The Clark Kent of Beats.

January 8, 2013

WesManchildSmallText by Ashley Coleman. Image by G.W. Miller III.

Although there is no telephone booth or disguise involved like in Superman’s double life, producer Wes Manchild definitely maintains two different personas.

He is Mr. Ames, the eighth grade teacher by day and a hip-hop producer by night.

Even though his role changes, his philosophies on the importance of history, beating the odds and making timeless music remain consistent.

Manchild, a North Philadelphia native, always had a flare for history, both socially and musically. Growing up in the 80s and 90s, when the hip-hop scene in Philadelphia was relatively small, Manchild became known as the “dude with the music” because of his frequent trips to New York to purchase exclusive mixtapes. He quickly garnered a reputation for having a great ear for music.

However, it was his sister who introduced him to the group that would become the single reason he wanted to produce.

“My older sister went to Delaware State and it was when A Tribe Called Quest’s first album, People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm, came out,” Manchild remembers. “She had the cassette and she kept playing ‘Bonita Applebum’ all the time and I got hooked.”

Music from that era has the strongest influence on his role as a producer. It was after he discovered A Tribe Called Quest that Manchild began listening for samples and reading credits to see who produced each of his favorite songs. He continued to immerse himself in music after heading down to Atlanta for college, where he met Philadelphia natives DJ Drama and DJ Sense.

“DJ Sense was my roommate and he was from Philly,” Manchild explains. “We would go to his mom’s house in the summer and she had all these old records. He had these old break beats so I would just use his Gemini eight second sampler and make beats with that.”

After he returned to Philadelphia and began teaching social studies, Manchild got a whiff of a program called Fruity Loops from producer 9th Wonder’s project The Listening with Little Brother. Once he learned that he could make tracks with the computer software, he really decided to dig in as a producer.

Manchild tries to keep his work as a teacher and producer separate. But his work with popular acts like Chill Moody, Philly SK and Antwan Davis make it difficult, especially with the older students he formerly taught at Hope Charter School.

“A couple of them would come over to me and say ‘Yo, you got some beats?’” he says with a chuckle.

He’s now teaching younger students at Wakisha Charter School in North Philly. Manchild often bites his tongue at times when he wants to give his opinion on the music they’re listening to. For Manchild, the most important thing when it comes to working with the students is imparting on them the reality that there is a bigger world than their neighborhood and their block.

“A lot of people don’t really know all Philly has to offer,” he says. “They stay in their little box.”

As a kid who grew up at 19th and Cumberland, Manchild shows his students what “making it out” means each day. He’s working toward major label placements, tribute projects and total world domination, and his newest project – comedy writing.

Although Manchild expresses that there aren’t too many similarities in working with artists and children, he seems to have found his stride in both. Continuing to incorporate history into his production and delicately educating students on the origin of the music they love, Manchild’s two worlds collide more often than noticed.

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