Manga Saint Hilare

Selected by: Blessing Borode
Photography: Adam Horton

Name: Manga Saint Hilare

Where He’s From: South London

When He Started: 2003

File Next To: P Money, Scorcher, Jammer

Sounds Like: “Grime. Just grime.”

First Music That Inspired Him: “It wasn’t a song: it was a Flirta D set at Bigga Fish. I was definitely inspired by seeing grime sets. All the girls liked the MCs so I said ‘let’s go’, which is a dickhead ting, really, but that’s my honest answer. Songs just seemed so far away back then. How did you make a song?”

During grime’s early days, anyone could be an MC but not many could stand the test of time. Among those who did, however, is Manga Saint Hilare, with his own brand of emotive bars and forward-thinking beats. London’s eclectic environment—from garage to dubstep and the exchange between African and Caribbean cultures within UK music—filled Manga with enough drive to kickstart his own trajectory in grime music. Since 2017, he’s released a project every year and is currently on his fifth collection titled Run For Your Life.

Instead of dodging the inevitable, Manga battles life’s complications bar-for-bar across 17 invigorating tracks. It follows themes of introspection, accountability and forward motion, and marks another pivotal moment in his personal life and career. Dating back to his troublesome days as a youth, Manga has always had a natural affinity for storytelling and remembers his first ever track about “getting stopped by police, jumping barriers and girls parring me” titled “Thursday”. Life has handed him a different set of experiences to pull from but a few things about Manga remain unchanged by the passage of time, particularly his reverence for grime general Wiley.

While there isn’t a particular song that Manga can pinpoint as a source of inspiration, if he’s to settle on one moment, it would be his Sidewinder Bonus CD set with Dizzee Rascal and Slimzee. His observations of Wiley shelling his at various clashes back in the day was encouraging, too. “I was more in awe as he made me think, ‘Oh, I can do this!’” he says, “plus he was telling me that I could, which helped a lot and kept me inspired.”

Growing up, Manga’s father was a DJ who had an extensive collection of compilations and records across R&B, dancehall, jungle and reggae. He tells TRENCH that powerhouse voices like Whitney Houston, Jodeci and Blackstreet filled his household but his mind lingers a little longer on dancehall and its direct influence on grime MCs. “Grime is dancehall,” he states. “The idea of running one riddim and everyone MCing over it, that’s dancehall. When I joined Roll Deep, most people there were Caribbean so they understood that. When I speak to my African bredrins and they talk about Fela Kuti and that type of style, it’s a different thing but it’s all Black music. There’s different elements and you can see where people get things from.”

Manga Saint Hilare doesn’t pay much attention to algorithms and statistics but fixes his gaze solely on bettering his skills and building more connections with those who resonate with his music. To accompany his yearly projects, he usually curates a live headline show that always leaves him at a loss for words when witnessing people sing back his lyrics in packed-out venues. As Run For Your Life suggests, he’s only focused on bigger and better things and hopes to go on tour in the future. Perhaps it’s a wish soon fulfilled, as he continues hammering out the details of his next album.

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Posted on January 27, 2023