Having just released the heavy LP 'Live In Protest', we thought it right to find out more about the New Cross artist that they call Manage. He talked about the album, performing and the UK scene.
First up, tell us where you're from and what you do.
Im from New Cross, South East London… I'm a Emcee.
How did you come up with the artist name and what other aliases have you used over the years?
The name Manage started when I was like, 15. I started taggin' Mr Manage around my children's home 'n' shit… I just liked the letters.. Then it stuck. Everyone just called me Manage. Before that, I was known as Heavy.
Run us through the key releases you've put out or been a part of so far.
OK. Started in '99 with the 'I Realise' single on Defcon Records. Ya know, I really wasn't ready for having anything put out back then. It seemed right at the time but now when I look back, I wish I waited until I polished up my skills a bit more ya know? But still, you gotta live for each day innit.
Shortly after that came a mini album called 'Early Life Crisis' then I went quiet for a while after that, featuring on a few mix CDs and compilations until I hooked up with Chemo and we did 'Rise Up'. Then it all picked up again. We released the 'Rise Up' single, then me an' Syanyde released 'Riot' on a small family based label called Konshus Soundz. Up until the album 'Live In Protest' that is hitting the shops right now. Erm, featured on a whole load of mixtapes etc.
For those that hasn't heard you, how'd you describe your style of rapping and music?
Gritty, raw, rugged, real, emotional, heart felt, inspiring, powerfull, a representation of the struggle I face throughout life, non-jiggy, no bling, underground and slept on!
What first got you into rapping and who would you say are your biggest musical influences and inspirations?
School… it was in school when everyone was spittin', break dancing, beatboxing, the whole lot really. I was in boarding school so we had to keep ourself occupied in the night times and one of the olders loaned me his stereo and it had a tape in it. One side was Public Enemy, the other side was N.W.A. and well, that was me… All I listened to was that tape. I knew it word for word, then I started diggin' into more diferent hiphop. De La Soul was out then, Audio 2, Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap and then I really got into UK rap… Heads like Demon Boyz, Gunshot, Hijack, Katch 22, Overlord X and Blade.
Blade was from where I'm from so that was a big inspiration, that you can be from a run down area like mine with fuck all in life and still make something happen. Then when I linked up with Blade some years later after I started spittin myself, he showed me about how he got his music out there and the many different ways. that showed me if you really wanna get your shit out there, then nothing can stop you. If you're determined enough you can do anything.
As far as my musical influences, I really don't know. It comes from everywhere really… I love shit from jazz fusion to prog rock, deep blues to thrash metal, drum n bass, jungle… But the music I listen to most is reggae… I wouldn't say it inspired me to make hiphop. I'm not about to do a uk version of Snow, don't worry!
Tell us about your new album. What's it called and what can people expect from the tracks?
It's called '(Live) In Protest'. You can expect the unexpected I guess. It's something for everyone. Expect some raw battle type shit… Expect some political shit, street shit, consious shit. Maybe even a lil comedy here 'n' there. Expect to hear a vast amout of UK emcee's with all different styles. Expect sick beats 'n' ill rhymes. Expect no mercy!
What producers have you used and what do you look for when you're shopping for new beats?
On the album is mostly Chemo and Beat Butcha but there's a track by Last Skeptic which is possibly my favourite track on the album, and Danny B blessed us with the banger for the 'Speaker's Corner' track… When I'm shopping for beats it varies. It's just whatever hits me at the second. I'm not into skippy drums 'n' stuff. I guess I'm stuck in the boom bap shit. Big crunchy kicks and snares, deep basslines, piano, guitar, whatever. Melodic shit. Stuff that's easy to flow on. I hate beats that make it difficult for you to ride with.
What label's the release coming out on and how did that relationship come about?
It's being released on Merciless Records. Merciless Records is the bastard son of a 3 way rape by Speakers Corner, HQ Records and Killamangiro. It's the first release on the label but look for big things from them, trust, just as to be expected from the Speakers Corner family anyway. The relationship came about through a hunger for good UK hiphop to get represented out here in the scene, 'cause lets face it. A lot of these labels are being too safe. They're scared to touch an artist like myself, so they stick with certain people they know will bring a little fanbase already and not say anything too bad. I can honestly say, Merciless Records have never gave a fuck about safety. There's hunger and determination within' the fam'. This will stand strong when all else crumble.
The artwork is really tight. Who handled that?
Hahaha This is a fucked question 'cause basically it's a mystery to me. All I know is it's someone Chemo knows. I have never met the person. I don't even know their name… Maybe it's Chemo's alter ego. Honestly, I don't know who done it. But yeh, I agree… It's very good. If you're reading this mystery artist, thanks. I owe you a drink or suttin!
How do you feel about the current state of UK hiphop and what artists are you particularly enjoying right now?
I'm mixed about how I feel about the state of UK hiphop. Like, one moment I feel it's real positive 'n' growing then the other I go to a show where there's like, 30 people and realise it's still fuckin' shit. When you strugglin' to sell 500 records of a quality product it does kinda make you think, where is the scene? But heads I'm feeling is peeps like Kashmere, Anti-Hereos, Sunken Headz, Stig Of The Dump, Kraftsmen, Parkie n Dubble Edge, Verb T, Blind Alphabetz, Elite Team, The I.R.S., Rup, Dr Syntax, my crew Chain Of Command.
Everyone's got an opinion on where they want Uk hiphop to go from here. What'd you like to see improve or happen?
The support… If there's heads you feeling, then go and support them. Go to their shows, buy their CD, otherwise they gone fade away like many before. Promoters of hiphop nights, get some fresh blood in there. Stop booking the same old peoples. Magazines like HHC, stop chargin' peeps to get into ya magazine. That's not what fanzines and magazines are all about and you're acting like capitalists on the people who make you worth a read. It's stupid. How can you get people to support your music if you have to pay over the odds prices to get a feature in a popular hiphop magazine from the UK? Think about it HHC. I got love for the magazine and have read it for years, but show some love back to the people who show you love!
Are you into the more contemporary forms of rap music like grime, and would you fancy making some of that stuff?
It's cool when it's done good. Lets face it. most grime emcees could really do with simple lessons on spitting, flows, wordplay, rhyme schemes etc but for what it lacks in skills, it makes up for in energy. Like I said, when it's done good, it's fire!
Overseas now, what artists are you really into and who'd you most like the chance to collaborate with?
Jedi Mind Tricks. Anyone from Army Of The Pharoe's, Tragedi Khadafi, Sabac Red… There's so much talented spitters out there it would take too long really to list everyone.
You've been pretty political on record in the past. Who are some of your favourite 'concious' artists?
Bob Marley, Sizzla, Capleton, Morgan Heritage, Rage Against The Machine , Immortal Technique, Poor Righteous Teachers, KRS One, Public Enemy.
Why do you think there's been such a decline in politically orientated hiphop music?
Has there? I'm not sure there has been a decline in it, but then again I'm in a position with Speakers Corner being a politically themed hiphop night to hear a lot of political rap. I suppose in the mainstream there's no political rap but I'm not sure its in decline, especially with current climate. Most emcees I know are droppin' politics in their rhymes. There's a lot of angry youth out here that pretty much all they spittin' is politics but if you're seeing a decline, maybe it's down to what I was speaking about earlier… Labels are shook to pick up emcee's who talk a lot of shit like that.
Do you think the few politically expressive UK rappers should put more effort into acting upon their word?
Most definately… You know, I gotta give props to the crew Full'e'Blunt here 'cause they are probably the realest crew I have seen as far as being about what they say. These lot attend so many protests etc, involved in campaigns. That's real. There's a select few of others like Sunken Headz 'n' my lot Chain Of Command. Basically anyone whose down with Speakers Corner. You know, we set up a mic 'n' little sound system outside Stockwell tube station on the day a year after Jean Charles De Menenzes got shot dead by the police and only a few heads turned up. We had spitters, poets, speakers etc… but fuck all members of the supposed UK hiphop community…
There's a lot of shit talking rappers out there. In their lyrics they say they would do this 'n' do that, fight the system, but the reality is they write all this in the comfort of their home and then do fuck all about anything. I give them props 'cause even though they don't actively fight the power, they still give inspiration to some heads that do via their rhymes. I've said this before in other interviews, but when we was going up to the G8 in Scotland last year we was trying to organise travel for the UK hiphop heads to come up and represent. You know, we had a big stage up there set up, place to stay and shit… but it just seemed like we was calling on death ears. No one was intrested. Kinda opened my eyes to how a lot of people act and what they're about.
How often are you out performing live and what goes down at a typical set of yours?
Pretty much most weekends we're out somewhere doing something. A set of mine is usually high energy. I try not to let the crowd get bored. I don't usually do full tracks 'cause I've been to shows 'n' stood in the crowd and it's been the third verse on someone's track and the people just look bored… So I try to keep it moving… In and out of tracks, high energy, but ya know, I'm still learning myself.
How do you find the performance side of things and what dates or nights are people likely to see you at?
I love performing. It's a heavy release… It's inspirational in itself. You can always catch me at Speakers Corner, 1st thursday of the month at Jamm, Brixton Road, Brixton… Free entry nah meeeaaan?
Break Speakers Corner down for people still none the wiser.
It's about hiphop. It's about community. It's about love. Basically, Speakers Corner is a free hiphop event that goes down in Brixton. We always have a good line up. Underground crews as well as popular crews performing. There's always an open mic. There's a room 2 with reggae n bashment. The vibe is real. It's second to none. We put on different types of heads… If you looking for a show then hit up Myspace.com/speakerscorner
If someone wants to book you or get in touch generally, how should they go about it?
Have you got anything you wanna say to round this up on, be it a shout out, put down or some words of wisdom?
Yeah. Big ups to all my fam.. Speakers Corner, Chain Of Command, Merciless Records, HQ Records, Chemo, Butcha… All the heads who featured on the album, all the heads who have supported 'n' bought the album… Generally all the real hiphop heads 'n' movers in the scene who make it worth while… Fuck the haters. Peace.