M.anifest. Image provided by the artist.

Interview: M.anifest Rolls the Dice On His New EP 'The Gamble'

The Ghanaian rapper talks to us about seamlessly blending afrobeats & hip-hop in The Gamble and working with the likes of Burna Boy, Simi and more.

M.anifest needs no introduction.

Over a decade strong in the industry, the West African artist, who began his career in the United States, wields a discography that could go toe-to-toe with some of the brightest MCs in the world. Arguably the most creative rapper in the Ghanaian music space, M.anifest has never pulled any punches when it comes to his art, steadily delivering music filled with relevant and conscious themes—whether he's playing the lover-boy role or boasting about his mic skills he's always thorough, technical, and deliberate with his craft.

The rapper's last project, Nowhere Cool, which was dropped in 2016 set a new precedent for hip-hop albums in the Ghanaian scene, with very few contemporary hip-hop albums matching up to its caliber. It's now been 3 years since M.anifest last released a body of work, much to the anxiety of the rapper's highly-enthusiastic fanbase, the 'M.anifans,' who he calms down from time to time with the occasional standalone single or throwaway freebie.

M.anifest. Image provided by the artist.

This time around, the rapper has finally set out to make good on his promise, presenting the release of his new 7-track EP, The Gamble. Two singles from the EP have been shared already, "Big Mad" featuring Nigerian singer Simi, and most recently "Tomorrow", featuring afrobeats' biggest star of 2019, Burna Boy, both accompanied with pristine visuals. In "Big Mad" the rapper narrates the story of a relationship turned sour, assisted by floaty melodies in Simi's silky soprano. "Tomorrow" is the rapper's profession of love over a bouncy afrobeats backdrop. It serves as the return leg of his standout feature on Burna's African Giant album cut "Another Story".

With additional features by Bayku, Kojey Radical, Worlasi, Moelogo, and B4Bonah—and production by Drvmroll, Rvdical The Kid, MikeMillzOnEm and more—The Gamble is a short-but-sweet project that presents a more lighthearted version of M.anifest. It's a clear contrast to Nowhere Cool, which was marked by claims of rap dominance, sober social commentary, and introspective personal stories. The Gamble drops the air of seriousness and adopts a more laid-back atmosphere, chock full of feel-good blends of afrobeats and hip-hop that set the stage for carefree raps about life and love. This is definitely a version of the god MC that we could get used to.

We spoke to M.anifest about The Gamble and the story surrounding the new EP below.

M.anifest - Tomorrow ft. Burna Boy

What's the theme behind The Gamble?

The Gamble is a reflection on the chances we take in love and life. It was a chance for me to muse on numerous encounters with love and risks in a vulnerable but vibe-y way.

Why did it take three years for you to release a new project? Was the wait intentional?

I was quite clear I wanted to scale up significantly after Nowhere Cool. I've done the critical acclaim thing but that's not enough. The next frontier is to be a real force in the larger music world. And that requires a lot of strategic moves and partnerships to achieve. So as much as I had been recording so much, it didn't make sense to drop projects the same way as before. I had to get my ducks in a row—and that takes time sometimes.

How did you choose the features for the project?

It was very organic to be honest. I've never been cagey about the people whose work I dig. So often when we meet it's rarely the case where people are sizing each other up and making calculations. We just flow and the universe does the rest.

M.anifest. Image provided by the artist.

Who are the producers who worked with you on the project?

I worked with Drvmroll (Ghana), MikeMillzOnEm (Ghana), Rvdical The Kid (Ghana/Benin), Adiktive (U.K/Ghana) and Mike Kwa6i (Ghana). These are all producers, aside from Adiktive, I had previously worked with. The difference sonically is the creative direction chosen for The Gamble.

What's your favorite song on the project?

As obvious as it sounds currently it's "Tomorrow" featuring Burna Boy. The revenge of the big baritone voices! It feels like we turned winter into summer. The sentiment is also very urgent, raw, imperfect, but instantly beautiful. But then again, yesterday when I woke up it was "I Dey For You." So I suppose it's a good problem that the favorites can change depending on the moment.

The Gamble has a lot of feel-good music in it. Is this the beginning of a new sound direction for M.anifest?

No. It's what The Gamble was meant to sound like. That seamless vibe between hip-hop and afrobeats. Sonically it fit the concept of the album. I want to keep pushing forward. The idea of being stagnant or stale creatively terrifies me. At the same expect more vibes that hit your body and spirit in the future releases.

M.anifest - Big Mad ft. Simi

Do you feel like in recent times you've been experiencing new heights in your career that you haven't before?

Of course. Funny enough it began happening at a time my fans wanted to crucify me for releasing less and less music. The lesson here is it counts to show up and show out when it matters. I am more self-assured as a human and an artist as I go along the journey and have developed more of a 'do it big or nothing at all' creative GPS. Whether it's an appearance on African Giant, a Tim Westwood freestyle, a feature for Tiggs Da Author, or an interview on a popular platform, 'beastmode' is the approach. But most importantly it's the work rate people don't see behind the scenes.

Why do M.anifans have no chill?

[Laughs] Why should they have chill chale? I think they really believe in the music and are proud of what our movement represents: quality, excellence, vibes, forward thinking, authentic, different... So, in turn, 'no chill until we're at the apex of the pyramid' is the vibe they have. I love it. It's also because to be honest it has always felt like many in the Ghana industry wanted to willfully ignore or put me in a box. So M.anifans take it upon themselves to change the outcome and narrative by force! And 'small by small' it's working.

What's next?

Next is my year-end concert turned festival, M.anifestivities on December 22. It was a unanimous sentiment that we had the best one last year in Ghana. We are definitely working harder to make sure that that sentiment remains. I will also be unveiling a very powerful collaboration on the entrepreneurship side when the pop up shop for The Gamble opens in Accra. Also look out for 2020 shows to be announced.

'The Gamble' is available now.

Photo courtesy of Afro Nation.

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This year, Afro Nation will touch down in Puerto Rico for the first time over spring break—from the 18th to the 21st of March—on the beach of Balneario de Carolina. Headliners will include Burna Boy, Chronixx, Davido, 2Baba, Naira Marley and many more.

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This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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The big winner of the night was none other than Burna Boy, who took home the award for African Artiste of the Year for the second time, the first time being in 2018 in which his mother, Bose Ogulu gave us that memorable acceptance speech warning us "to expect more madness." He also won Song of the Year for "Killin Dem," as well as Best Male MVP.

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The 13-track album features the likes of Burna Boy, who joins the artist on the upbeat track "Play Play," as well as buzzing Jamaican artist Koffee who appears on the track "Repeat," one of the album's clear standouts.

It also features a new artist by the name of iceè tgm on three tracks. Some fans have speculated that the mysterious artist is J Hus' sister. The album includes the previously released single 'Must Be,' which he dropped in November of last year.

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