Manga Saint Hilare is a grime lifer. His entry into the game – like many emcees of a certain generation – came courtesy of Wiley, who after hearing the young Manga spit over a voicemail, inducted him into Roll Deep without seeing him in the flesh. It stands to reason that red carpets and notoriety would come next, but it didn’t work out so quickly for Manga. By his own admission, his lack of proximity to East London and his inability to see the bigger picture at the time meant he couldn’t make the impact he wanted. In this interview, he details how losing his phone meant he was unable to make Roll Deep’s now-famous photo shoot on top of an ice-cream van.

He continued to make music on the underground but changed his approach five years ago, adding the Saint Hilare suffix and presenting the music with focused artwork and less straight forward beats. The new approach paid dividends, as he’s been able to build a dedicated fan base with his themed projects, merchandise and a streamlined approach to marketing his music. He’s avoided the relegation of his music to the minds of hardcore fans and old grime sets by trying new things and making music relevant to the present and his supporters.

And so we come to“Make It Out Alive”, a record that documents Manga’s path to finding himself. He traverses through his head-space, each subject matter – fixing relationships, the moments in life where he went wrong, becoming comfortable with himself and unlearning detrimental traits – becoming their own mini-planet; a place for him to explore, analyse and transmit his findings into song form. ‘Escape Plan’ finds Manga noting the futility of waiting in thrall for the moment, rather than being able to take charge of situations. He raps about being stuck, the weight of his thoughts piling on top of him as he struggles to keep face in public. ‘Fools Gold’ sees Manga rap like a trusted friend or calming inner voice, recounting his life lessons with self-esteem and giving his listeners the assertive mantra of “You don’t have to try so hard to be cool.”

On “Sorry For Your Sorrows” Manga pens an ode to a former partner. He recalls the times where he caused pain on his loved one due to his baggage. The track extends out to a variety of family members, a universal apology letter for the relationships he couldn’t mend. Here Manga admits to doing wrong, mourning time spent listening to his ego rather than taking heed of advice from others. Some emcees take stock in excess and extol their hype, but Manga isn’t afraid to reckon with the times where his behaviour has led him to be down on his luck. The track as a whole paints a picture of a man that has ridden the peaks, mids and troughs of life, now learning from the past and applying those lessons to make sure he gets it right in the present. The hook from Jafro is a crisp melody, amplifying the message of the track: staying grounded is a struggle, but ultimately we can come out of the other side with renewed focus.

The Sir Spyro produced ‘Face Myself’ details an inner battle: oil-thick rationale versus the lit match of invasive thoughts. He tells his personal war stories about being comfortable with his feelings, documenting the effects that not knowing himself has had on others. The beat, all high-tension strings and dark melodies provide a stirring backdrop for the lyrics.

Among the self searchers, there are several unadulterated bangers across the record. The two aren’t separate, though. As Manga flexes his lyrical talent while letting the introspection bleed through, the two elements make up equal parts of a whole track. Gods Gift, Irah and Jammer join Manga and the four come together on a weapons-grade grime track. The beat leads with a speaker-piercing riff, Gods Gift’s hook ensuring the song lives up to the name ‘Trample’. Duhhmb’ brings together two generations of grime. SBK spits out a lucid opening hook and Manga plays off his last few lines, speeding head-first into a verse of his own. Snowy takes the last verse, a barrage of lyrics that aims at dream-sellers. The three rap lyrics over a metronomic instrumental that’s decorated with hard bass, featuring plenty of space for them to do their dirt. ‘Turning In My Grave’ is a track about keeping your enemies close, the beat dealing in dark melodies and featuring a robust hook from Blay Vision. ‘Safety In Numbers’ features eski-samples that squelch away, placed in a subtle enough position to give the track its gliding quality.

The record ends with ‘All’s Well That Ends Well’. Here Manga raps about the virtues of waiting for the moment, reckoning with his perceived underdog status among grime fans. He knows he’ll get to where he’s meant to be, and taking a measured approach will benefit him in the long run because he will have done so for his family. The beat is a perfect foil to his lyrics: breezy synths that unfurl into gorgeous melody lines.

After the music from “Make It Out Alive” has finished and processed through the subconscious, a glow of optimism remains. You get the feeling that Manga’s journey isn’t a finality, he will continue to re-assess and try to improve. But he wants us to know that while the road to equilibrium is a tough one, we can conquer the hardships that life throws our way. As he has, we can all make it out alive by finding what makes us unique and never looking back.

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Posted by:Ryan Moss

I'm the sole founder, editor and writer for The Art Of Grime. I love grime and want to push all the sick artists doing things at the moment.

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