“I'm very, very proud of it,” says Manga Saint Hilare of his upcoming album Everything Is Under Control, to be released on the 16th of February. Produced entirely by MoreNight, the project sees the Grime OG step into new ground by showcasing his talents across a range of genres including amapiano, garage, jungle, and the 140 bpm where he made his name. Listen to the new single “Alarm Bells,” featuring JME and P Money, here.
What song reminds you most of your childhood?
There’s a song on the album called “All for One” where I’m literally talking about that, growing up with my brother and my sister and sticking together. I always like speaking about family in my music. KS is my cousin as well, and he’s on the track, and my dad is also on there at the end. My brother and my other cousins were in the studio when we recorded it. I usually just record by myself, so it was a good moment to actually have them hear it live.
My dad was a DJ, so he played everything when I was growing up - music was in the house constantly. My mum played Whitney Houston, R&B, and my dad used to play jungle, reggae and dance, all that type of thing. He used to DJ pubs as well, so I would understand what goes into playing for different types of people. Obviously I grew up mostly around black people really, and then you go to pubs and it's like a different world, but then I understood what music works there too. My dad would have to find everything; all the pop songs, all them Irish folk songs they’re singing in the pub and all that. I was like, “this is mad. I don't know any of this.” Growing up, I was quite lucky to be around a lot of different music.
What was the first physical record you remember buying?
I feel like it was Jungle Hits Volume One or something like that. Yeah, that’s quite respectable. Again, I'm quite lucky because my dad bought everything, so I don't have to say like, “oh, I bought the Spice Girls single,” because he would have already had it. The Spice Girls are hard anyway, but I'm just trying to say he bought everything. I think another big personal one, one of my first things I bought with my own money when I was a bit older was the La Cosa Nostra tape pack, Heartless Crew, things like that. That was my own thing, nothing to do with my dad.That was one of the first ones that I bought myself, from Woolworths in Edgware.
What song is the best representation of your hometown?
This is an eediat answer, but the answer is Boy in Da Corner as a whole. I always say Boy in Da Corner is the sound of London as a young black boy in 2003. There's not a scenario in there that he don't talk about, it has the sound, the slang, every single thing. That's really it. If I was to pinpoint a track, it would be “Do It!” where he's just talking about ends and growing up. So I’ll say “Do it!” but if you allow me an album for this answer, it would be Boy in Da Corner.
What song reminds you of traveling to a specific place?
This happens to me all the time. One of the songs I love that has a strong memory is a Nipsey Hussle song, “Don’t Take Days Off.” I was going to Toronto for the first time, and it just made me feel very expensive when I was listening to it. Wiley had brought me to Toronto for a show, and I had it on repeat on the plane the whole time. I remember feeling like I walked off that plane in slow motion, even though I had about £6 in my account. When I landed, my phone weren't working, I couldn't get hold of Wiley, I got lost, and I had to stay in McDonalds overnight. But because of that song, I felt rich.
What song do you wish you had written?
Oh, there’s loads. Loads! OK, let me put it like this; there are lots of songs that I love by Skepta, but I know that's not my life experiences, do you know what I'm saying? But when I hear a JME or a Novelist song, I think, oh, “I could have said this, but I didn't say it.” And I think that gets on my nerves more, I'll be honest with you! And there’s a song called “Only” by Sampha, but I can't sing so I wouldn’t be able to perform it. I love Sampha with all my soul. See how people get when they see Beyonce, freaking out? That would be me if I ever met Sampha; I'd cry, a million percent. I'd embarrass myself, snot, everything. He'd be like, this guy is a weirdo, but I wouldn't care. I love him.
What’s the best song to play at a house party?
Well, who's at the house party? If it's one of my family parties, the best song to play is Whitney Houston, “It's Not Right But It’s Okay.” Play that tune there, and our family parties will stomp through the floor. Listen. Bare reloads. My mum's singing, my dad's singing, everyone. It’s a crazy song.
But if I'm in a dance, if it's a house party and it's a mixed group, I feel that you can't go wrong with garage or house. Let me think… I'd like to hear “Gabriel” by Roy Davis Jr. I think that would always work, regardless of where you are. Or “Superman” by Black Coffee because to get a house party onside, you need the galdem to get involved, and I think that one's a go.
What song would you want played at your funeral?
Oh, I know this one. Again, it’s “Gabriel” by Roy Davis Jr. I definitely know that's my song for my funeral. I've said that for years. If they don't do it, I'm going to come back and haunt the fuck out of everyone. I’ve thought about it a lot, because I don't really eat that well and my cholesterol is probably very high, so I have to think about this stuff.
You’re abducted by aliens, and when you wake up on the spaceship, they pass you the aux. What is the song you’re playing to convince them not to destroy Earth?
There's a song called “Optimistic” by Sounds of Blackness. I think if they hear that, they're going to think we're really nice people and they’ll decide against blowing us up. They're going to leave us alone. Or Wiley, “Nightbus Dubplate,” but then we're going to have to go to war.