Listen to Wondaland Record’s DJ Nana Kwabena’s Electric Global Mix

Within the first few moments of our meeting, Grammy-nominated producer and songwriter, Nana Kwabena, is inventing medical conditions — perhaps a remnant of his time at University of Pennsylvania studying Biology before settling on Public Health. “I had motion dyslexia as child,” he tells me, deadpan in the face of my quizzical expression. “Just kidding, ” he breaks into a toothy grin after a moment, “that doesn’t exist.”

Nana recently interviewed both of his parents, who are Ghanaian, to get a better understanding of what it was like coming to the United States and raising children in a foreign country. One of the stories that spawned from the interview also gave an early hint that Nana would be both musically inclined and unable to keep still from “motion dyslexia,” if you will.

“When I was a baby my grandmother used to watch us. While she was over she’d watch a lot of General Hospital, and what I would do is stop, drop and roll to the TV, pull myself up and turn the TV off. After that, I’d stop, drop and roll to the turntable but I couldn’t put a record on because I was too small, so whatever record was on the turntable I’d push ‘play.’ Then, I would stop, drop and roll to the kitchen and empty out all of the cabinets and make a drum circle of pots around me, and I would play the drums to whatever music was playing in the other room. After about forty-five minutes I’d get tired so I’d crawl into the cabinet and take a nap. Apparently I did this every day.”

Years later after finishing his undergraduate studies and being accepted into George Washington University’s Public Health program, Nana decided to defer further schooling and revisit his drum circle days of childhood. He moved to New York where he promptly tapped into his Penn network to land production work with John Legend, a fellow Penn alumni. During that time he also reconnected with Wondaland Records singer Jidenna Mobisson, with whom he went on to help found Fear & Fancy, a social club and hub for activism.

“Jidenna and I actually met over ten years ago at Penn,” Nana explains. “I used to DJ parties and one of my bandmates at the time grew up with Jidenna. He would have Jidenna, who went to Stanford, come through to Penn for our parties. I remember meeting him back then and chilling with him. When I came to New York and then he moved here [New York City] we reconnected and realized there were just so many parallels in our lives. His father was a chief in Nigeria, my grandfather, who I’m named after, was a chief in Ghana. We just had a lot of similarities in terms of our theories on life, our theories on music, our theories on manhood.

At that point we decided to kind of forgo trying to chase all of these people in the industry and build our own thing. We spent two or three years building our own sound, our own style. He had a relationship with Wondaland back when he was in college, he was one of the first people to bring Janelle Monae to campus. Back in the day, Jidenna brought her [Janelle Monae] to Stanford, and she opened for him. It was that early. They stayed in contact by virtue of that, time went by and we all got connected. We used to travel down to their studio in Atlanta where we worked on The Eephus, our first collaborative project. At that point I could just tell I was in the right place because the spirit of everybody was so organic. We were all on a mission, and all the missions were aligned.”

Yet another of Nana’s missions is to spread knowledge about sickle-cell disease, something both he and his late brother were born with. In 2012, following his brother’s passing from sickle-cell related complications, he founded AllOneBlood, a non-profit dedicated to educating more people about the disease. “Changing the narrative is the biggest thing to me,” Nana explains, “the biggest narrative that needs to change is that it’s a black disease. When you open up the lens on a global perspective you realize that sickle-cell effects basically anybody near the equator who have developed this genetic mutation that tried to protect them from malaria.”

Take a listen to Nana’s mix and follow along with the track list below.

01. Drake – With You ft. PARTYNEXTDOOR
02. Beyonce – Sorry (Mash Up International Afrobeat Remix)
03. Rae Sremmurd – By Chance
04. Chance The Rapper – No Problem ft. Lil Wayne & 2 Chainz
05. Travis Scott – Pick Up The Phone ft. Young Thug & Quavo
06. Chris Brown x WizKid x Hoody Baby x Section Boyz – Shabba
07. D.R.A.M. – Broccoli ft. Lil Yachty
08. Kent Jones – Don’t Mind ft. Mr. Vegas (Dom Da Bomb Remix)
09. Krept x Konan x Jeremih x Wizkid x Davido x Ice Prince x Fuse ODG – Freak of the Week (Afrobeat Remix)
10. AKA – Baddest ft. Burna Boy, Khuli Chana & Yanga
11. Alkaline – City
12. Vybz Kartel – Fever
13. Beyonce – Ring Off
14. Jidenna – Little Bit More
15. DJ Henry – Like This ft. WizKid
16. Buena Boy – Don Gorgon
17. Mr Eazi x Juls x Efya – Skin Tight
18. Kuvie x Moe x Ayat – K3 Ke Mi
19. Timaya – Sanko Remix ft. Destra
20. Knottiness – Bruk Off Mi Back
21. Popcorn – Ova Dweet
22. Future Fambo – Bloodclaute
23. Buena Boy – Yawa Dey
24. Maleek Berry – The Matter ft. WizKid
25. Drake – One Dance (Culture Clash Dubplate)
26. Eugy x Mr Eazi – Dance For Me
27. Kanye West – Fade ft. Ty Dolla Sign
28. Maleek Berry – Kontrol
29. Drake – Too Good ft. Rihanna
30. Juls – Teef Teef ft. Mr. Eazi, Eugy & Sarkodie
31. Davido – Aye
32. Eddy Kenzo – Sitya Loss
33. Ayo Jay – Your Number One Remix ft. Fetty Wap
34. WizKid – Show You The Money
35. Young Thug – Digits (Meith e Dj André Sousa Afro-Mix)
36. Tenno – Dance
37. Bisa Kdei – Brother Brother
38. Rae Sremmurd – Look Alive
39. Drake x Makonnen x Venice – Tuesday (TriFecta Afrohouse Edit)
40. Staff Paulo – Sapeleme ft. Gaia Beat & Dj Ricardo Orange
41. Sidiki Diabate – C’est Bon ft. Iba One & Niska
42. Drake – Still Here

via Highsnobiety