With every rotation of the ‘Roll deep’ roundabout we have been introduced to a myriad of MCs and interchangeable line-ups who have spun our minds faster with each incarnation. This particular roundabout, home to Manga (hailing from North West London rather than Bow E3) has slowed to a steady cycle, but on it rolls and its originators (Wiley, Scratchy, Flowdan etc.) are still deep in the game; making Roll Deep an integral part of grime’s history and the scene today.
We should be grateful the Roll Deep roundabout slowed down long enough in 2014 to allow Manga to jump off and go it alone; in an attempt to carve out his own lane, giving us 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. Manga chooses to express his observations on THE most authentic grime album I have heard this year. Manga’s 10 year inclusion and success with ‘Roll deep’, juxtaposed with his current position as an underrated and overlooked solo artist; makes for one of the most compelling situations I have witnessed within the grime scene.
‘Outbursts from the Outskirts’ marks the second time Manga has worked with Lewi B; the first being on the EP ‘White jean suit confidence.’ What struck me about Lewi B’s productions on ‘Outbursts..’ is no two tracks sound alike. ; despite being the only producer on the entire album. Lewi B manages to bring freshness to each beat; whether it’s the creeping death 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. Lewi B has brought the gully back to Grime I have craved 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.’ Rather than the avante-garde, experimental style he 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 tone of the album perfectly.
On the track ‘Outsiderism’, I thought Manga himself was going to burst through my earphones. Manga 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.” He shouts out Roll deep, pays homage to Dizzee Rascal; “I’m articulate far, from an idiot’; and cleverly salute’s D double E with the infamous sound bite, “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 boys Izzie Gibbs, Snowy or Maxsta. “Dem man a J-PEGS just silent still, its best you stay silent still.” JME and Prezident 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.’ 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 Sickers shows up to help Manga ‘shell’, while P.Money and Jamakabi are also on hand to help Manga to ‘slew.’ Both tracks are crud on toast, just how I like my grime. Manga’s flow here like on much of the album is, hectic, punchy and energetic; with the power to 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, concluding 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 two minute skits by Manga’s closest peers; Izzie Gibbs, Snowy and Maxsta, Manga himself and the soulful J Grey. 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 soak in how personal they are. In particular Snowy and Manga’s outbursts moved me to tears with its pure emotion and sorrow.
Izzie’s outburst 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. He reveals the horrific things his mum once told him; leading him to spiral further into his darkest thoughts. Maxsta reveals he’s an “Outkast like Andre” and how he has stared death in the face on numerous occasions. He 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. Manga had to revisit an emotional past 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.”
I found it a type of poetic justice how Manga delivers his final bars on his 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. Grey as 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 how social media allows us to talk too much; without stopping to listen. After bigging up females earlier in the album, I was pleased to hear the album brought to its close by the soothingly feminine voice of J Grey; advising us to have a spring clean of people in our lives who drain our energies. 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 and sounds 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. 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