How does an artiste navigate the realm of social media in this 21st century when the expression of feelings by fans happens in real time? Unlike the days before social media where the badgering of artistes were done by journalists and through fan mails, lately, the outpouring of emotion is done right in the artistes face.
M.anifest has tasted the upside and downside of fan inquest regarding the release of a new project, one he has been assuring his fans to expect. The barrage of ‘harassment’ by some fans is, to an extent, reasonable. The rapper has not released any new body of work since 2016’s ‘’Nowhere Cool’’. Again, the month of December is upon us and fans need new music to rock with as the countdown to ‘’Manifestivities’’, his annual December concert approaches.
If M.anifest had to ward off torrents of questions about the album, imagine what his manager, Fui Tsikata had to endure. One could clearly gauge his frustrations when fans come inquiring about the album under tweets with no relation to music. It goes without saying that fans can be too loyal and that loyalty could be problematic for an artiste, especially when fans expect them to dance to their rhythm by satisfying their requests.
The voracious demands of fans could not be satisfied by M.anifest through guest verses on records like Burna Boy’s recounts of the Nigerian condition on ‘’Another Story’’, off his highly acclaimed, Grammy nominated ‘’African Giant’’ album. In the midst of the calls for a new album, M.anifest attempted to appease his fans with a single – “Big Mad” featuring the sensational Nigerian songstress Simi. That worked for a while. He followed up with the Burna Boy assisted ‘’Tomorrow’’, the second single off the project. This led to heightened anticipation for ‘’The Gamble’’.
On the stroke of midnight on November 28, ‘’The Gamble’’, a seven-track EP was officially released. The release of the project was heralded by an album listening session held at Urban Grill (Stanbic Heights) where a select few from the music industry, friends and fans were exclusively offered a run across all the songs along with performances and backstories on the making of some of the songs by M.anifest.
The previously released lead singles – “Big Mad” and “Tomorrow” – offered a clear indication in respect of the themes and direction of ‘’The Gamble’’. Love and life serve as the anchor of the project and M.anifest made sure he had the right mix of personnel and lyrics to measure up to his previous albums. ‘’The Gamble’’ might not be on the scale of ‘’Nowhere Cool’’ in terms of scope, subject matter and production work. This EP, however, stands on its own strengths as well.
Recruiting familiar producers – MikeMillzOnEm, Rvdical The Kid, ProdByMikeKwa6i, Drvmroll to shaped the sonic direction of ‘’The Gamble’’ meant working with people who understood his palettes in terms of sound. I must indicate how M.anifest project the talents of young artistes through collaborations. On the features side, he had Worlasi, Burna Boy, Simi, Bayku, Moelogo, B4Bonah, Kojey Radical and an uncredited Sekyerewaa on the project.
“The Gamble” featuring Bayku is the EP’s opener. The afropop leaning song presents the realities of love from the perspective of the guy. Bayku served a very scintillating hook. His vocals were as fresh as baked cake. ‘’Look what we started, we gambled on love, what’s meant to be will be’’, attests to how he feels about love; a worthless venture. For many, this would be their first introduction to Bayku. But, those who have been keen observers of the rap scene in Ghana from the early 90s would remember him as a member of The Talking Drums; pioneers of rap in Ghana before its christening by Reggie Rockstone.
‘’Tomorrow’’ and ‘’Big Mad’’ present a two-sided perspective on love. Whereas M.anifest confesses his love to his partner despite the pit holes on the road of love (‘I think about you on a daily/How I found myself in a maze amazes me’’), on “Tomorrow”, the pleasantries change on the up-tempo ‘’Big Mad’’, where his commitment is questioned; treating the love on hand with a sense of flippancy (‘’You found a rubber in my pants/At least I was being safe/ Can I get another chance?).
The highlife tinged “Ohemaa” featuring Moelogo carries this lingering sweetness thanks to Moelogo’s delivery. He sings with conviction about how he desires his lover. I doubt any girl would turn down a man who expresses his affection for her with these words: “Put me on your skin/ Let me know how you feel/ I’ll take it all in/Deep is what I’m in’’. M.anifest, over two verses conveys his feelings towards his long distance lover, begging her to wait for him whiles disclosing how he keeps up with her absence (‘’Looking on insta to see what the stories tell’’). On ‘’From A Distance’’ featuring B4Bonah, M.anifest is on a shoot-your-shot roll, ready to give his heart to a girl he has been keeping an eye, though he is ambivalent on the outcome. B4bonah delivered one of his best performances thus far on the hook, leaving you wondering where his pen and his voice were while recording his forgettable album ‘’B4Begining’’
A song that would become an instant hit could be felt on the first listen. That was the case at the album listening at Urban Grill when ‘’Cucaracha’’ featuring Worlasi was played. The fast- tempo afropop tune received a very resounding response from the gathered audience. The beauty of the record had more to do with the hook by Worlasi and the riveting production. The beat is catchy and commandeers you to move your body.
The song had M.anifest and Kojey Radical run commentary on how they have scaled the obstacles of life (in respect of their musical career); comparing their tenacity to that of cockroach. The image that this song drew the first time I heard it (some weeks before its release) was a scene from the Netflix series Narcos Season 1. In the first episode, there was a scene where the Chilean army ransacked a cocaine manufacturing lab, killing everyone except the manager of the place called Cockroach whom the bullet missed.
Wrapping the EP is ‘’I Dey For You’’, an Afropop tune wrapped in hip hop aesthetics. M.anifest rendered a TEDx style insight about the music industry with an emphasis on his own life. ‘’Getting recognized at places I don’t live in/Is a privilege I don’t take for a given/I dey walk on an unknown street I’m on a mission’. While appreciating the perks of fame and success, he is also quick to emphasize the importance of self-belief and running the race on your own terms. ‘’I Dey For U’’ is his curtain call; an acknowledgement of his loyal fans and their unflinching support. Sekyerewa made an appearance, sprinkling some soulful vibes on the record.
‘’The Gamble’’ explored the dynamics between love and life – the uncertainties that comes and how to endure its effects. It also confirms M.anifest’s love for concept albums as well as his continuous reflection of the Ghanaian/african sound. (Check out his previous albums). The featured artists also brought their A-game to the project, leaving memorable marks on the EP. The criticism of M.anifest and his love for corny rap lines was not conspiciously present on this project. His use of skits to foreshadow the songs made it a fun listen. (If the EP was a play, the skits would be the Mmoguo). The Gamble has received great reception – over 100K plays on Apple music and 57K plays on Boomplay in less than a week of release is very impressive.
Despite the high applauds from music lovers and satisfying the demands of his fans, there are others who are still asking for more. A couple of days ago, I saw a tweet from a fan inquiring when his full length album ‘’Ghana Man Time (GMT)’’ will be released. This got me thinking: What the hell do fans want?