Manga Saint Hilare Talks "Make It Out Alive", Grime & More
Grime innovator Manga Saint Hilare, known for his compelling wordsmith, storytelling, attention to detail and all-round phenomenal talent has proved himself time and time again as one of the best MC’s to emerge from the UK. Having recently dropped his latest album “Make It Out Alive” the emcee continues to underline his reputation as one of the most naturally gifted in the city of London. Journeying back to 2017, to the release of his album “Outbursts From The Outskirts” or even further back to the days of Roll Deep, Manga has been building what’s now a boast worthy catalogue of sound.
Back with his brand new body of work "Make It Out Alive", 16 tracks of constant quality and featuring the likes of P Money, Novelist, Jammer, Murkage Dave, Capo Lee and more I caught up with Manga and asked him a few questions... Before we get into “Make It Out Alive”, I just wanted to take it back to the start of your career. What inspired you to become an MC and create your own music? I wanted to be a DJ at first, then I realised that vinyls were £7 each and decks were around £800. So that plan went out the window pretty quick. Being an emcee was free, so that was the better option for me. When I started I just tried a ting really, there wasn’t much of a plan - now look we’re here! Being apart of Roll Deep from a young age must’ve really helped to sharpen not only your skills as an MC but also your knowledge on the industry? I think the main thing being in Roll Deep was the being on point factor. I was representing something bigger than me, it was a legacy. I couldn’t slack, there was always someone making a new song or had just wrote a sick bar. I never wanted to be the weak link. So I tried to sharpen my skills as much as I could. I didn’t really get much knowledge of the industry, that wasn’t the focus. I learnt more in the later years of my career. In comparison to your previous bodies off work, in what ways do you think “Make It Out Alive” is different? This is the most clear. I feel like its the most clear message from all my projects. “Make It Out Alive” is about getting through what you’re going through. I feel like I’ve found my words on this project. I haven’t gone for the most complex rhyme schemes or metaphors, I just tried to get across the feelings. It’s still a continuation of my previous projects, which I’m very I’m proud of. How long did it take to complete the album? Around a year! I really try to take time write and record. I don’t have extra tracks or features I wanted to get, I plan it out in detail before and work towards it. The longest part was getting everyone on there and sounding how I wanted. I start with the title so I know what themes and stories I’ll be telling, then work my way from there. I write the intro first them go track for track until I’m finished. Lyrically, you are known for your use of story-telling, substance and really being able to capture the listener - which arguably is becoming less frequent especially where ‘mainstream’ music is concerned. How important is it for you to grasp this element of music within your artistry? It’s my strength, so I try to work towards that. I enjoy having conversations so I try and make my music from topics I’ve had or feelings I’ve felt. If I could just make a club banger about ‘bottles & gal dem’ I would, thats not my reality right now so I’m going to try keep it honest as I can. It’s important to be yourself in this ting. So people after you can see there isn’t just ONE way to be, that’s the main thing for me. You’ve previously spoken about narratives in Grime, expressing the lack of or rarity touching on certain subjects. As an MC you are someone who pushes narratives and strong messages, what were the main messages you wanted to get across in this album? The main thing is survival. Making sure you remain yourself through everything you go through. Obviously peoples down and low points will differ but we all tend to feel the same when they come. So this is just some advice on how to cope, I think in our genre we’ve been told that we can only talk about certain topics - I want to show that isn’t the case. I’ve noticed that a lot of people comment on the quality of music you make and praise the time you take to make an album like this, in comparison to other artists who put quantity over quality. Is this something you have always believed in? Yeah I’m not one of those people who can create music really quickly, so I have to make it the best quality as possible. So I try focus on that, if I can make my music last longer with the people rather than having to keep getting their attention each time, then I feel like it’s a win. One stand-out track from the album “Thoughts & Prayers” featuring Novelist really weighs in on the idea of self love, consciousness and strength - ultimately creating an empowering and motivating anthem. How was your journey in finding self love? It just from making mistakes and being honest with myself. Admitting to yourself that everything isn’t ‘cool’ and then seeking what does actually makes you happy. It sounds simple, but that's it really! The work kinda starts once you really realise who you are and not just the idea of you, if that makes sense.
Throughout this album, the sounds varied a lot from track to track for example you have “Trample” which is full of energy whereas on a track like “Sorry for Your Sorrows” it’s slightly more laid back. What was your intention sonically when creating this album? I tried to create a journey with the sound of the album, I’ve made the mistake in the path of having lots of different styles and tempos on a project. That really throws the listening experience all over the place. So I try to record in order as much as possible, that really helps so I can always track how it will flow. When you were making this album was there one track in particular you found more difficult to put down whether it was sonically or lyrically? If so, why? Just the intro really, it’s always hard to know how to set the tone. It’s like starting a conversation, the first thing you say sets the mood to how the message will be received. I changed the beat on "Escape Plan" three times that was the only one, apart from that if it felt difficult, I just let it go. You have a lot of features on the album from Jammer to Capo Lee to P Money! How did these come about? There’s a lot of big names from Grime on there! They're just people I know I’m lucky enough to have been doing this for so many years, I’ve come into contact and formed relationships with many talented people that I respect. So I just send the song with the space free and more time I get a verse back! Over the last year or so there have been a lot of conversations and debates regarding the current landscape of Grime. What’s your take on all of this? Grime just needs to stay in the future and not get drunk of nostalgia. Theres a lot of new great Grime music out the people complaining need to open their eyes. This also applies to the artists - don’t get distracted by the past while creating. What do you think about the emerging Grime artists, is there anyone we should look out for? Razor, SBK, Jafro, Kish, Kibo, Oblig, Chamber 45 and Rahiem - that’s just a few of newer names that you might not be aware of! What else can we expect to see from you this coming year? “Make It Out Alive” - that's it. Keep up to date with all things Manga Saint Hilare via his Instagram here.