In the local hip-hop scene, a few names stand out in the positive light of hard work and artistic ambition. While there certainly is no short supply of MCs, DJs, and producers in our community, it is the sense of family and a staunch South Florida identity that separates this scene from others.
There's a true sense of collaborative and healthy competition here that has been forged by brotherly association too.
A local standout is Manifesto, an even-throated MC who's guested on plenty of works, most notably with Serum. But he broke out with his first solo effort, The Secret Strain, which dropped to increasing acclaim this past spring. We recently caught up with the MC and found him ambitious as ever with upcoming work but also tempered by genuine humbleness.
Manifesto - "Behold"
New Times: You're a hard-working guy, and we've seen plenty of your work in the past, especially with Serum. I like your delivery and inflection. How did you get started in hip-hop?
Manifesto: Well for me, it started on the basketball courts where b-boys and MCs would hang out after pickup games. I witnessed a couple of older dudes' free styling against each other, and it blew my mind. You could say I fell in love with the art of MC'ing right there and then. I tried my hand at DJ'ing and breaking, as well, but becoming an MC soon became the only goal.
Back in February, when we ran the blurb on the "Behold" video, our interest certainly turned to the Secret Strain album. How long have you been prepping for it, and why is the time right for it now?
I would say it took about a year getting it all together before finally releasing it. I like to try to pick very original beats to work with. I find that the right sounds excite me and make me want to really go in on the writing, even though no matter how good it all works out, I feel I could always step it up on the next project. I think the sound was just right to release. I don't like to keep new things down for too long, because before you know it, the music doesn't seem so new anymore.
I like the samples you pepper in the album; what's your approach to sampling and instrumentation on a track?
Basically, I like things that make a statement whether big or small; I think that this approach works great for sampling. Nice clear sounds without too much distortion, you know, let everything breathe and have its place.
I get a sense that you must have a pretty good record collection. What are your most treasured pieces and why?
The records I treasure the most are ones from the golden era of hip-hop. You know, Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap, Steady B, Cool C, KRS ONE, Cash Money & Marvelous, the Divine Styler. I could keep rolling with this, but I'm sure you get the picture.
Do you find that with the advent of internet technology and ease of use that it helps getting your music out? Any cons to that effect?
Well sure, it's a lot easier to put out music these days because of the internet and all it brings. I remember when word of mouth was the only way to get things out; other than that, you had to have some type of cash for even the slightest exposure. That being said, to compete with organizations at the industry level, you still need a ton of cash; the industry spends millions on promoting alone. If anything, the internet at least introduces the basic format for promoting.
What's your lyrical approach? How do you build your songs?
I find just ripping good tracks is the best way to come across, no matter what you might be speaking on. There is no excuse for lack of skill or imagination when it comes to building songs.
Serum & Manifesto - "Persuasion"
What's next for you? This album is pretty tight, no filler; I imagine that you've raised your bar pretty high and the next one will continue to raise it!
I will be revisiting The S&M Project with Serum pretty soon, as well as working on a series of EPs called The Understash that will be building up to the next solo project, yet to be titled. Oh yeah, I am also hoping to get things jumping on a project named Warlord Elite, which will be totally done by local producers/MCs. I want to show the world our styles of hip-hop and how to keep hip-hop strong and in charge, even more than its strongest point in the past.
Manifesto's 12-track debut solo effort, The Secret Strain, an ambitious album, exalted with good productions and melodious intentions, can be picked up here.
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