We should be grateful the roll deep roundabout slowed down for long enough in 2014 to allow Manga (as he was known then) to jump off and go it alone in an attempt to carve out his own lane and gave us differing variations of grime in the process. Although our reluctant adventurer has been in a founding grime crew for 10 + years, he has never garnered the attention or mass praise like some of its others members, making Manga somewhat an outsider looking in and choosing to express his observations on THE most authentic grime album I have heard this year ‘Outbursts from the outskirts.’ Manga’s 10 year inclusion and his success with ‘Roll deep’, juxtaposed with his current position as an underrated and overlooked solo artist; makes for one of the most curious and complex situations I have witnessed within the grime scene.
‘Outbursts from the Outskirts’ marks the second time Manga has worked with producer Lewi B, the first being on the 7 track EP ‘White jean suit confidence.’ What struck me about Lewi B’s productions on ‘Outbursts..’ is that no two tracks sound alike, even though he is the only producer on the entire album. Lewi B manages to bring freshness to each beat whether it be the creeping death / slasher horror film feel of tracks ‘En Dehors’ and ‘Outsiderism; the ‘running from Freddy Kruger’ feel of ‘Shell’; the greazy production of tracks ‘Never Been’, ‘Far away’ and ‘Slew’, or presenting the emotional core of tracks ‘Young’ and ‘Outbursts 1-4’, Lewi B SMASHES IT. Every single track on this album is straight banger, no filler and Lewi B has brought the gully back to Grime I have been missing this year. I’m guessing the B in Lewi B’s name stands for bangers? And if not then why not! Large up Lewi B.
The musical magician that is Manga has expanded upon the themes he began to explore with Lewi B on ‘White jean suit confidence’ but rather than the artistic Avant garde, experimental style Manga released over the past few years, ‘Outbursts..’ marks a return to his raw Grime roots. The spoken word intro of ‘En Dehors’ (which is French for ‘Outside’) by rapper Mikill Pane asks “So why does my shit rarely get any spins or any plays” a sentiment shared by Manga himself and his fans alike; this intro conceptualises the theme of the album perfectly. On the track ‘Outsiderism’ I thought Manga himself was going to burst through my earphones – he is ferocious, no-nonsense and delivers his bars in a scatter shot staccato style as he sprays “Outburst from the outskirts, I ain’t ever got on the riddim and been out versed, since ’04 I’ve been out ‘ere, up first, outsider goin’ in..” (his opening bars spun me so hard I had to stop my gym sesh and sit down in the changing rooms to chill, as I wasn’t ready) he shouts out his crew ‘Roll deep’ pays homage to Dizzee Rascal “I’m articulate far, from an idiot’ and cleverly salute’s D double E with the infamous soundbite “Bu du bap bap” on the lyric “I lost money but made money back, now I just double it up”
On the track ‘Never Be’ Manga warns with prickly confidence that he doesn’t buy into all the fakery that road life can bring and that haters should think twice before sending for his bwoys, Izzie Gibbs, Snowy or Maxsta. Blazin bar: “Dem man a J-PEGS just silent still, its best you stay silent still.” JME and President T deliver strong features on ‘Different Pattern’ remix as all three artists’ divulge what makes them unique compared to their peers over a slow tempo convoluted electronic instrumental. With Manga being an extremely intellectual and poetic MC, the most interesting track on the album for me is ‘My one/God save the queens’ for the simple fact it’s rare to hear a male grime artist dedicate a whole track to celebrating the nurturing qualities of his woman and all women. Manga instils women everywhere with confidence giving words of praise “Your more than breasts, more than your thigh, more than your face, more than a like…Ayyy f*ck these skets, god save the queens.” Manga sends a powerful message of appreciation to the intellect of a woman as well as the obvious aesthetics. (Notable quirk: Chun Li and Ryu /Ken are beefing in the background!!)
Elsewhere on the album Manga rides the skippy riddim of ‘far away’ with dextrous certainty as he prays pagans and bandwagon jumpers leave him alone in order to preserve his clean hearted aura. Grim Stickers shows up to help Manga ‘shell’ and P.Money and Jamakabi help Manga to ‘slew’ both tracks are crud on toast, which is just how I like my grime; Manga’s flow like on much of the album is hectic, punchy and energetic and will set your yard alight in seconds if played too loudly. Manga and Jammz explore the regrets of past relationships on the album’s penultimate track and conclude they were too ‘young’ to appreciate what they had. Both MC’s approach the track with heartfelt honesty and give voice to a common scenario.
Linking these tracks together are ‘Outbursts’ in the form of 2 minute skits by Manga’s closest peers, Izzie Gibbs, Snowy, fellow roll deep member Maxsta, Manga himself and the soulful J Grrey. Each artist literally bursts forth with their deepest fears, vulnerabilities, hopes and dreams. The Outbursts are SO raw and profound, I found myself having to pause or stop the album altogether after each outburst to fully deep how personal they are. In particular Snowy and Manga’s outbursts moved me to tears with its pure emotion and sorrow. Izzie Gibbs talks of battling his demons and hopes one day he’ll be able to buy his mumsy a house by the ocean. Nottingham’s Snowy delivers one of the most painfully honest truths I have EVER heard. Snowy digs deep to admit he is not normal and reveals why he has to go to counselling and the horrific things his mum once told him which led him to spiral further into his darkest thoughts. Maxsta reveals he’s an “Outcast like Andre”, how he has stared death in the face on numerous occasions and ends his truth by stating he will be roll deep forever despite the group’s bond weakening over time.
Manga unleashes his startling outburst detailing how he doesn’t fit in anywhere and how he was more concerned with creps than his parents struggles to make ends meet. As Manga digs even deeper into his soul, his voice cracks and breaks with the pain of reminiscing about his difficult past and the emotions Manga had to revisit to provide the most honest piece of work I have heard all year. Manga poignantly admits “Grime nearly killed me and Grime saved my life, grime gave me an in and grime kept me outside” (book ending the theme of the album.) I found it a type of poetic justice how Manga delivers his final bars on the outburst skit with a message for other outsiders and underdogs, as he stresses himself he often puts others before himself; Manga defiantly closes this masterpiece album by stating “To anyone who feels like they’re unheard, to anyone who feels like they ain’t seen, don’t let your big heart get disheartened, don’t ever discard your dreams. To all my overlooked outsiders, all the talented kings and queens don’t let the fact you were once lost make you scared to take the lead.”
The album ends how it starts, with a spoken word heartfelt prose – this time by the spiritual J. Grrey, she reassures that it is ok to be a loner in life rather than accept negativity. Her words are wise beyond her years as she expresses social media allows us to talk too much without stopping to listen. After biggin up females earlier in the album I was pleased to hear the album brought to its close by the soothingly feminine voice of J Grrey advising us to have a spring clean of people in your life who drain your energy. Manga’s decision to end his project with a female voice also illustrates the ‘En Dehors’ (outsider) quality of the album, as women in grime are sometimes overlooked and are still very much outsiders on the outskirts looking in.
Manga and Lewi B have a monster album on their hands, it remains faithful to the edgy grime of the ‘Boy in the corner’ era, whilst sounding modern. It’s visceral yet emotive, it’s abrasive yet sentimental, it’s deep yet is a madness for the skankers and b-line worshippers like myself, but most importantly it is the TRUTH and the reason why ‘Outburst from the outskirts’ doesn’t just get an honourable mention it also gets my album of the year, 2017
Watch the emotive ‘Outbursts 001-004’ video below: