Manga is a grime artist that has been in the game longer than most. Handpicked to join Roll Deep in 2004 by Wiley himself, Manga has been putting in work both as a member of the collective as well as a solo artist in more recent years. Outsiders Live Forever is his most recent project, dropping on 17th August 2018 and featuring nine tracks with appearances from Breeze, Murkage Dave, PK, JME, Frisco, Maxsta, 140aks and Noname Disciple.
With renowned producer Sir Hiss also on the buttons, Outsiders Live Forever is an extremely impressive project. Containing the right mix of hype and smooth sounding tracks; you can enjoy this album whether you’re enjoying a smoke with friends, doing your daily run or for the more energized tracks party to. It covers a palette of grime flavours - probably owing to the fact that Manga has been doing it for a long time and has always had people high up in the tiers of the genre seeing his worth and place.
The first two tracks Never Die and Reflect demonstrate versatility within the project. The beats are both very similar but are tackled in much different ways; the former being slightly faster, shorter and used to hype the audience up for the project. It succeeds. Reflect tackles the stresses of society and the incessant spending that takes place for many people who lack maintaining their personal development and taking care of their soul. Never Die grabs your attention and Reflect gets you thinking - a winning formula for instantly connecting to a project.
Do my Ting, Men are Trash and Lyrical Thuggery continue the mixture of vibes. Do my Ting and Lyrical Thuggery are the more high-paced, grime-anthem sort of songs whereas Men are Trash, featuring the talented Murkage Dave is a cynical look at how women can paint every man with the same brush and overgeneralise - affecting the chance of future, positive relationships. Do my Ting is one of the projects’ best, with Manga providing a simple yet compelling flow and smooth, self-assured bravado, with lines like “I don’t watch face, I watch figures.” demonstrating his blunt but concise views on his worth. Both Do my Ting and Men are Trash are great tracks in very different ways; though Manga and PK’s track Lyrical Thuggery is by no means bad, I feel it gets overshadowed by the rest of the project which is simply much better.
True to Me and Stack and Count contain the peak of the project’s business owing to the features from JME and Frisco on the former with Maxsta and 140aks on the latter. Manga, Frisco and JME all provide impressive verses on True to Me. While JME cannot be beaten (at least for me) on his flow on any song he shows up in, Manga topped it for wordplay. Stack and Count makes well with the subject matter of earning money; both Maxsta and 140aks provide great verses for the project and help to bring a different edge than Manga. While it had little wrong with it objectively, it wasn’t a track that “spoke” to me and so was one of the more forgettable ones of the project.
Outside Interlude is an interlude with Noname Disciple featuring on it only in terms of vocals. The beat is nice and though Noname Disciple does well with it, the interlude didn’t resonate with me because it didn’t really seem to have a place in Outsiders Live Forever. Halfway through the project it may have made more sense, perhaps as a break from the male-dominated vocals throughout; but with one more track to go I couldn’t really see why Manga wasn’t in on the interlude and what relevance to the project it had. Though again, objectively there wasn’t much wrong with it; I just think I’d have preferred to see what the artist himself could do with the well-produced instrumental.
We Fall is the climatic track which begins with music and ends with a voice note. The track is more akin to Reflect and Men are Trash tonally, much more smoother, less-busy production with Manga waxing lyrical about more important subject matter than covered on tracks like Do my Ting or Stack and Count.
Production on OLF throughout was nice however, a lot of the beats seem to use very similar sounds which helps to give a feeling of consistency within the project. It wasn’t afraid to be out there at times, songs like True to Me, Do my Ting and Stack and Count had quite unique, interesting sounds that competed for the listeners’ attention over the vocals from the MC. More laid-back tracks like Reflect and We Fall sees the production take a backseat to aid the listening in homing in on exactly what the musician is trying to say.
The project only continues to impress in terms of its depth, emotional resonance and overall importance into the artist itself. Following most of the tracks, listening to the subject matter and different tones in all the songs the only question left was ‘What is this project actually trying to say though?’ since more and more artists these days are working with a conceptual theme in mind. What ended this project was no vocals, no drums, no backing beat - just the voice note of a close person in Manga’s life commenting on the birthday celebrations she was part of for him (while recording the note) and explaining how he’s not an outsider.
“This is just a voice note to remind you that as much as you may feel like an outsider; I can see that actually - you’ve got everything you need.”
To hear another voice on the project coming at it with a thoughtful, meaningful and crucially personal message to the artist behind the project was lovely. For me it helped me to invest into Manga as not only an artist I enjoy listening to but a person. Of course the message would have meant nothing had the tracks not been enjoyable; but coming after an impressive tracklist was the cherry on top to make Outsiders Live Forever perhaps one of the most impressive, if not the impressive grime project of 2018 so far. Perhaps that is a bold claim; but for me the shit worked well in every aspect of what you want when listening to the album.
Overall; Outsiders Live Forever brings a whole bunch of different vibes in its songs, addresses both relaxed and more deeper subject matters while also helping to connect the audience with Manga Saint Hilare as not only a musician but as a person. If nothing else; it demonstrates Manga’s versatility, confidence and experience on the mic as well as maintaining the quality seen on Manga’s prior project Outbursts from the Outskirts. It was a solid listen that has set the bar high for grime releases over the final six months of 2018.