Grime artist on his new album, the art of collaboration, and his intense creative process...

Manga Saint Hilaire is now a veteran in the grime scene, but his music sounds fresher than ever. In a scene that's boisterous and boastful. the artist has broken down barriers through his refreshingly honest lyrics. His new album, ‘Make It Out Alive’ is an example of an artist flourishing and enjoying what they’re creating. 15 tracks of full throttle grime with features from the older heads and new.

Manga was still waking up when we had a zoom call with him but was still full on energy. “I was up late; I’m working on a stream I’m doing on Sunday and learning how to make beats as well”.

The artist is hosting a stream on his website full of remixes from his album that dropped last month. “I’ve set up remixes from bare people, the likes of Sir Spyro, Teddy Bruckshot, and I’m doing some myself. After the stream has gone live it’s not going to be heard again. So, people are going to enjoy it and that’s it, and yeah let’s have some fun”.

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Before asking more about his recent work, we touched on the current Nosignal Radio clashes. A radio show that set up DJs to play two artists best tracks back to back. The shows have been gaining popularity online “Yeah, it’s amazing, Nosignal is bringing people together, showing how passionate people can get about music. Making the shows, selecting it, letting artists take control of the music without radio’s getting involved”. During the Vybz Cartel and WizKid clash, the website stopped working due to the high traffic; “I love the fact the website crashed, and we all had to scramble to YouTube. It just shows the power of the audience”.

Manga has been busy the past six months, along with his most recent album, he teamed up with Murkage Dave in December for the record ‘We Need To Look After Us’. Speaking about the busy period, he says: “I’m tired now man, you know what’s mad. This is the most organised I’ve been. Make It Out Alive was finished way before the album with Murkage Dave, that was more of a spur of the moment thing. Me and Murkage Dave always spoke about having a project together and we literally got it all done in about two and half weeks”.

Manga starts laughing about the situation, then adds: “It was very hectic to be fair. The Listening party was on the Wednesday and we finished the whole project on the Tuesday. We were only listening to it mastered and ready for the first time at the listening party. It was a rushed job, but it came out amazing. With ‘Make It Out Alive’ I had everything. I just had to sort out all the content”.

Manga and Murkage Dave work well together, their styles blend in. “Murkage is my bredrin. You know when you meet someone and just get along?” Manga explains the connection: “You’re just like man basically, but you sing a bit and I don’t. That’s why it was good making the album there was no compromise we had lots to say and think similar”.

For ‘Make It Out Alive’, the artwork for the singles and the album cover all have a racing theme. But why was that his choice? “’Make It Out Alive’ represents going what you’re going through and just remaining yourself. So, the themes are based around that. A motorcycle helmet is something you can use every day. You’ve still got to move but it’s protection. Also, when I was younger, I drove peds a lot. So that’s why we brought in the ped theme and expanded to the race theme”.

Grown grime has become more prominent as the scene grows itself. Artists like Manga have been pivotal to this by showing more emotions and breaking barriers down. The rapper doesn’t recognise his influence “I don’t think people watch me like that, they’re all going to have their own journey. As long as I keep upping what I’m doing every time”. He moves on, commenting: “It’s a grime album, it doesn’t have to be constraints of what people think it might be. I want it to be known as a grime album”.

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Each year, Manga shows progression perfecting his craft. On ‘Black Man Timing’ the rapper mentions he’s ‘getting better every year’ - when we relay this line back to him he breaks out into laugher. “Ooh yeah I did say that! I’ve been saying stuff. After I’m done with a project I’m just done. That’s why it’s sick when I see people messaging me about the tracks.”

Clash wonders whether he can see the growth himself. “Yeah definitely!” he says. “It’s more that I’m able to tell the message better, it’s clearer. With all my favourite albums you can hear what they’re talking about. I know that sounds stupid, but you know when you’re having a conversation and the person is going on tangents and mumbling, you kind of miss the point”.

Manga continues: “Before I was doing that and missing the point, because I didn’t have a clear vision of what I’m trying to say. Hopefully for the next one I can be even more clear and try to up the sounds”.

We move on to any future projects, and whether he has an eye on the next piece of work already. “No, not at all,” he demurs. “Unless it comes to me. For now, I’m just pushing this to make sure it’s heard”.

“It’s very draining and it takes a lot for me to do it,” he says of the creative process. “I can’t just make riddims. I have to make a project as a whole - that’s where my strengths lie and how my brain works”.

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'Make It Out Alive' is out now.

Words: Joe Hale

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