It’s often said that music is created by perception- as you are a product of your experiences, your music is a product of you. This is easy to believe, and if you buy it at all, then it’s with this thought in mind that you should listen to Immigrant Chronicles: Coming to America, the most recent, sophomore release by African bred rapper M.anifest.
If you intend to play this album somewhere in the background of your daily routine, you will see that it can be enjoyed on aesthetics alone- the songs collectively operate with a smoothness that is not always seen in rap albums. As M.anifest prides himself on the idea that his music is raw in the worldly truths that it tells, it becomes apparent that this smoothness was not created by superficial gloss, but instead with a confidence that demands a level of inspiring cool.
If you sit down and listen to this album from its first to last second, you are forced to appreciate M.anifest’s position, as the album is straddled between creative elements taken from both his native Ghana, and current residence, Minnesota’s Twin Cities. Melodically and from a production standpoint, the album seems to draw more from Western influences with its energetic cosmopolitan feel, and exhibiting the meter and cadence seen in many East Coast style rap albums. Still, although most songs are accompanied with a Western beat, many of his songs are laced with African rhythms and percussion instruments. Lyrically, the situation becomes more complex. As he is multilingual, his lyrics navigate through English, Twi and Pidgin English with ease, standing as a testament to his own cultural synergy.
The diversity of M.anifest’s cultural influences may, in part, be a result of his familial stock, as his grandfather is J.H. Nketia, a highly esteemed ethnomusicologist and composer in Ghana. It was through his grandfather’s research tapes that M.anifest became exposed (sometimes unknowingly) to musical sounds from all corners of the African continent. It is perhaps due to this exposure that M.anifest is able to not only present himself as a Ghanaian musician living in America, but as a musical ambassador in support of all African culture.
A list of track highlights from the album would include his two singles “Coming to America” and “Suffer,” both fast paced tributes to the struggles of a culture that has, historically, had it tough. In “Coming to America,” you get the feeling that for an immigrant, life in America still carries its share of hardships, while “Suffer” reminds us that pain is an evil necessary for the appreciation of joy. Another notable track is “Asa,” which begins the album and sets the tone for what is to come, as he raps in both Twi and English. “Motherland,” also stands out as a star track; a tribute to the African continent through the exhibition of pan-African themes, this song is one of many that make Immigrant Chronicles less of a personal triumph for Ghana, than it does for Africa in its entirety.
At the end of songs like “Asa,” “Fiyah” and “Token Love Song,” there are a few seconds of spoken interjections, where M.anifest talks about his musical and cultural upbringing as well as his personality, giving us valuable insight into the man that made the music. These additions only strengthen the depth of an already intricate album, and decorate the stage on which M.anifest presents himself.
Throughout his career M.anifest has accumulated his share of acclaim, sharing the stage with the likes of Amadou and Mariam, Femi Kuti and the Gorillaz’ Damon Albarn. Immigrant Chronicles may not be what puts M.anifest on the musical map, but with a European tour scheduled in response to his new album, it has certainly helped accentuate the pin that marks his place.