Not many students have released a second EP, been featured on the Today Show and opened for a hip-hop group in Texas all while still in college.
But freshman Blake Mankin has.
“I plan on continuing being an independent hip-hop artist simply because it’s possible,” Mankin, songwriting and entrepreneurship major, said. “I’ve already caught the dream.”
Mankin, or M.r. B., released his second mix tape, “What the Funk?” for free download on Feb. 15. The mix tape features 10 original hip-hop tracks, including the song “Wendy’s Drive Thru Rap” which was featured on Mankin’s YouTube channel.
With more than 400,000 views in just under a month, Mankin’s “Wendy’s Drive Thru Rap” earned him recognition not only around Belmont’s campus, but on the Today Show, as well.
Mankin, 19, said the video appeared on the morning segment of the Today Show “in less than 24 hours of me posting it on my Facebook page. So many people shared it overnight that it became trending.”
Without permission or notification, the Today Show aired the video, then posted it on its website for viewers to cast a “viral video vote.” Running against three other viral videos, Mankin won with 46 percent of the vote.
Laura Hostelley, close friend of Mankin, said he hasn’t changed much since the video went viral.
“He’s just so driven now and so determined.”
While Mankin said people around campus have jokingly called him “superstar,” “famous” or “celebrity,” he said the video offered him numerous professional opportunities.
“For my career, it’s opened up a lot more doors, and you know once you produce results, people will take you a lot more seriously.”
After the video was released and featured on the Today Show, in The Tennessean and on local news stations, Mankin received several offers, including offers to license the video for commercial use.
The only offer Mankin took was that of a friend’s father, a concert promoter for Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, a Grammy award-winning hip-hop group.
“He had an opening, and asked if I’d like to open up for them for three shows in Texas.”
Over spring break, Mankin did just that.
But Mankin said the purpose of the “Wendy’s Drive Thru Rap” video was mainly to get exposure. The video served as a promotional tool for the upcoming release of his new mix tape.
“This video was to promote my ‘What the Funk?’ mix tape and it kind of took on a life of its own, but it still—it did promote it.”
Released only nine months after his first mix tape “Life Out Loud,” Mankin collaborated with junior audio engineering technology major Patrick Anderson to record the mix tape in just three weeks.
While Mankin said the majority of the recording process took place 72 hours before it was released, Anderson said he was confident with the final product.
“It doesn’t flow like a normal album. He’s got a song on there that’s almost like a dance tune, and another one where the background is all beatboxing and it’s really dark. He spans the entire spectrum there.”
Anderson, Mankin’s mixer and Resident Assistant on the fifth floor of Maddox Hall, said he enjoyed working with Mankin on this project.
“He’s the most relaxed guy in the entire world, but at the same time he’s a musician and he’s an artist and he’s got one of the strongest wills I’ve ever seen.”
Hostelley echoed the same sentiment.
“He’ll get into these super spatial moods where he just gets inspired and he just writes. He’s always super into it.”
While Blake may be relaxed and humble, his alter-ego, M.r. B., is anything but.
M.r. B., or Blake Robert Mankin’s initials backwards, appears onstage as Blake when he’s rapping.
Mankin described M.r. B. as “a figment of my imagination. He is lawless. He does what he wants when he wants. When he has a microphone or if he’s asked to rap, that’s when M.r. B. comes out. Blake can perform too, but people like M.r. B. more.”
Both Mankin and M.r. B. performed a “partially written, mostly improvised” show Feb. 19 at the Curb Café along with Sean Sheetz.
Both “Life Out Loud” and “What the Funk?” are available for free download here.
His “Wendy’s Drive Thru Rap” video can be seen here.