Maniq has always struck me as one of the most interesting artists in the Chicago hip-hop scene. His demeanor is shy, but not timid. In fact, Maniq seems confident as f***. He blasts his SoundCloud track list as we speed towards his completely bare apartment, loud enough for everyone to hear. There’s good reason for his confidence; the tracks are of indisputable quality both sonically and in terms of content, which is highly focused on mental health, and surviving. The internet has also noticed this quality, and he has amassed over 10k followers on Instagram. His Instagram is paramount, and is actually a kind of a cult following. And it’s no wonder, it’s been just one banger drop after another for over a year.

UVC: What do you go by, and where do you live?

Maniq: I go by Maniq, and I live in Carol stream. But nobody knows where that is so I say Chicago.

UVC: Why did you start making music?

Maniq: I started making music because my brother made music, and I thought it was so cool that he could make something people could listen to. Music was always super important to me, so the idea of being able to create a listenable product made me feel whole.

UVC: What drew you to the underground SoundCloud scene?

Maniq: Lil Xan, honestly. That’s it. One night I was super super drunk having one of the worst nights ever sifting through music online, and something about what he looked like drew me in. When I listened to betrayed I understood exactly what I had to do; recreate a product that is as important is that was to me. Also I loved the local metal scene so it felt like home.

UVC: Can you talk a little bit about the metal scene and your involvement?

Maniq: The metal scene hahaha
I loved it for a long time, but it sort of ended up being all about ego. It became silly and there’s too much drama. I’m no longer involved with the metal scene really.

UVC: How is the scene in your hometown?

Maniq: The scene in Chicago is divided by ego. If you aren’t ‘cool’, then no one cares. Everyone is working against each other it seems. There are few artists who will work together. Lots of cliques.

UVC: What, as an artist, makes you unique?

Maniq: I think my way of thinking and ideologies are what make me unique. I don’t think my music is very unique besides my melodies, and how use my voice in hip-hop. I’d say people will love my person more than my music, my music is just a bonus of me. I do think it’s important to be unique, but I definitely think you can get away with not being unique.

UVC: What are your ideologies?

Maniq: My ideologies are kinda hard to talk about. Watch all 700 episodes of Naruto any you’ll understand every aspect of me as a person.

UVC: What are your biggest musical influences?

Maniq: Good Charlotte, vctms, Big Sean, Linkin Park, metalcore/hardcore in general. Lil Xan!

UVC: Most influential artist of all time? In the scene?

Maniq: I think Linkin Park is one of the most influential artists of all time. I’m still pulling so much from their music. Xxxtentacion, if he weren’t dead. Musically I think he had the biggest influence in the hip-hop scene.

UVC: Would you rather work with others or alone?

Maniq: I love working alone because I never seem pressured by time to build the product, but I also love working with people because they help bring the best out of me. And I love company when doing anything.

UVC: How have people reacted to your sound and aesthetic? You’re popping on instagram.

Maniq: People have seemed to love my music and my sound. I’ve been told it’s easy to listen to and has a therapeutic feeling. People have always fucked with my aesthetic. Most of my clout comes from simply my aesthetic and person.

UVC: What message are you trying to convey in your music?

Maniq: As of right now, each song has its own message, and some of the songs have no message at all. But I love to right about mental health. I love to write my brain into music so people with similar minds can relate easily. Right now there isn’t any set message, just a lot of emotion in each song.

UVC: I know your music heavily references mental health. Could you talk about that a little bit?

Maniq: I write all of my emotion into music most of the time. All music I’ve written ever is about mental health. It’s been ignored for too long, and it seems like the time is finally now for this new wave of not shaming people with bad mental health. I also want people to be able to relate to my music who feel the same as me.

UVC: What does your music/art mean to you? Why music?

Maniq: Music and art were always something that seemed like a dream to me. It was wild that people could create art, and have it be good. I could never get over that sort of power. And when I finally got my hands on it, it turned into a very personal relationship with how I could use that power for good. The ability to create art seems like a superpower to me. It’s something so strong it can bring people who despise each other together. I chose music cause I was bad at “art”. I always wanted to be able to draw and tried really hard but it was a no go. Just couldn’t make it work. Music I could make, which made me feel at peace with myself.

UVC: How do you feel about shows? Any interesting show antidotes or experiences?

Maniq: I love shows. I live for them. I live to be on stage. It’s one of the most indescribable feelings ever. The first time I got in front of a crowd there for me, it was like for the first time in my life I felt totally free of everything that weighs me down. The most interesting experience was definitely when I saw like 50 different people wearing my bands merch. But something more interesting would be this one vocalist was telling us about how sometimes you can’t even beat mental illness with music. That he’d played in front of thousands of people, but he was still just a drug addict living with his mom.

UVC: Do you have strong opinions on drugs, politics, culture, etc. you’d like to address? Do you think these opinions influence your music, and is this important to understand as an artist?

Maniq: I think I have strong opinions on literally everything. There’s no separation. But I definitely feel like my opinion of drugs and politics could affect or influence my music or my career. I definitely think that me swaying towards drugs has a huge influence on my music, and I’m really not afraid to admit to using.

UVC: Who are you listening to?

Maniq: I’ve been listening to a lot of vctms, Lil Xan, the new Fat Nick album, and every band I wanna see on warped tour hahaha.

UVC: What’s the future look like to you?

Maniq: My future is either brighter than the stars or darker than being underground in a casket. I don’t believe there has been much of a medium. I dream bigger than the universe because I feel like I am the universe so there’s no point in wasting that dream if it isn’t as large as possible. I see myself mapping chicago as a new LA. I want it to be a home for musicians, I want to make sure this city stops being the scariest place on Earth because it is way too beautiful.

UVC: What are you working towards?

Maniq: I’m working towards building a safe haven for people who love culture and ride waves that don’t have to feel like they’re clinging to whatever is new.

Instagram: @im_maniq