Three-piece hip-hop outfit from South London, The Manor, discuss their unorthodox background and “wicked” first tour of the UK.
Despite releasing their first album in 2015, the group have been together since 2007 after meeting in an unusual way whilst going to Beckenham College. MC Danny Graft explained, “Johnny was just getting some Haribo at the corner shop – “I was a fat toger” Johnny interrupted – I asked him for some sweets and he said no so we had a bit of a row and then we sorted it out over a rap battle.” As for the third member, “Scotty was a bit of a wrong’un. He sold us a draw in Year 7.”
After a sweet and marijuana fuelled introductory to each other at college, the boys went on to university. “We were doing an economics degree and as we were doing that there was the banking crisis so they stopped hiring banking people,” Graft explained, “so we thought, look, we’ve always done rapping for a little bit of a laugh but we can rap our way out of this recession.” The group came together and formed the rap group The Manor. Graft smiled and said, “Now the recession is done and we’re rappers. Everyone is a winner.” With a slightly different and somewhat less inspiring version of events, fellow MC Johnny Dutch announced:
“We just didn’t want to get real jobs to cut a long story short.”
As a collection of young working-class lads, The Manor delve into issues of social injustice and inequality. Dutch explains, “For me it’s like a working man’s club. There are none left in Britain so they have regressed into rap groups. You’re going to talk about all the bollocks of the day, probably your Mrs, someone bringing everyone down.” Graft cuts in with, “Brexit. Fucking Brexit.” Although this is an important part of their lyrics, they also have another side to their music.
Their hit song ‘Hacienda’ illustrates this perfectly with the lyrics going ‘Caj for the doorman I’m in, now I can relax and let my jaw swing’… ‘mangled absolutely loving it I’m rushin’ Spadlangled come give us a cuddle girl I’m buzzin’. Dutch turns to me with a smile and says, “At the end of the day the whole mission of it is to get fucked.”
A huge part of the groups “essence” is their South London origin. “Most of our early stuff was written in building sites in South London and in trucks driving around the South Circular. It is born and bred in South London,” Dutch explained. The capital city provides music inspiration for any genre but it is particularly known, especially recently, for the Grime/UK Hip Hop scene. Dutch touches on his influence saying, “Skinnyman, Black Twang, Rodney P (Dub Pistols). These people were the original UK Hip Hop fore fathers, these were the people that started what we do. Along with the Wiley’s and the Skepta’s and the Kano’s.”
The Manor aren’t just a rap group though. They have Garage and House integrated into their music which found itself in the group’s lives before The Manor started. “The thing about us is nostalgia,” Graft explained, “We listened to everything growing up. Before we worked with producers we’d just go on YouTube and find an instrumental to rap over. We started finding instrumentals of garage and then we found garage producers.”
Yanaku, The Manor’s producer, worked on tracks such as Don’t Like Going Places and Creps in the Rave introducing a South London new era garage sound to the groups. “It was a match made in heaven for us. We saw him at a rave and he liked what we do. We knew a bit about him and I had a song written to one of his SoundCloud instrumentals and so we just got cracking.” Since the pairing between Yanaku and The Manor, they have continued to produce a garage sound that has resulted in them selling out venues around the UK.
Before The Manor released their album in 2015 the group released three free mixtapes. “The only reason why we were releasing them for free was because we didn’t know how to sell them,” Graft joked. “I remember we released Full English on Christmas day when I had no money for Christmas presents so I thought to myself ‘this is a liberty, I’ve spent 6 months on this mixtape, we’re releasing it at Christmas and my Nan aint getting a Christmas present.’ But we still released it on SoundCloud and it helped because people had access to it and they enjoyed it so then we could sell it and we ended up going number 2 in the iTunes charts.” As a group starting from nothing Graft believes this was the best way to do it, “You’ve got to start like that, let people get to know you then eventually you make money of it, it’s one of those games.”
They eventually got their record deal and the pay cheque it came with it, “First record deal you get, you do spunk it. We did it all in Vegas. I was going to the mini bar battered and we had the record deal so I deliberately opened bottles and had one sip out of them then put them back. It was $150 for a fucking bottle of Jägermeister! Just throwing parties and spending for the sake of spending.” Dutch said whilst looking into the distance with the memories of a heavy night in his head.
The reception around the country for the underground group was described by Danny Graft as “sick!” referring specifically to Bristol, “I didn’t really think we’d have anyone there. It’s a lot more edgy and hipster but it’s fucking wicked. Dutch cut in saying “There was a fucking lot of girls there.” Graft then said, “The geezers always bring the good energy and the support but at the end of the day I’d still give a thousand geezers for one good looking girl.” Much to Dutch’s disapproval.
Football is a big part of The Manor’s lyrics, with two of them being Arsenal fans and one of them Crystal Palace, they reference both teams throughout their album ‘Don’t Do What We Did’ which can cause a lot of aggravation amongst audiences at shows – you only need to go to a Courteeners gig to experience that. “We’ve never had beef. If you come to The Manor you come to have a good time. I aint having no one turn up and fight but if it does we’ll get in the crowd and have it with them ourselves.” Dutch joked.