Trek Manifest comes full circle with ‘Everything’s Personal’

The rapper wrestles with grief and growth on his revealing new full-length, which releases on Tuesday, May 24

Andy Downing
Columbus Alive
Trek Manifest

Over the last couple of years, Trek Manifest has released a handful of increasingly personal projects shaped largely by the 2019 death of his mother, a world-shattering loss that caused the rapper to question everything from his personal relationships to his faith. But even these revealing recordings, which include 2020 full-length I Appreciate Your Patience and the For Now Pt. 1 EP, released last year, were just tilling the soil, in a sense, freeing Manifest up for the larger excavation that unfolds within new album Everything’s Personal.

“I felt like I was always able to sprinkle little things in here and there, but I was never able to put my full voice out there, talking about the things I do now, because I still wanted to prove I was good at rapping, and I felt I couldn’t do that while talking about my family life and my upbringing,” said Manifest, who will host a listening party for Everything’s Personal at Addella’s on Oak at 9 p.m. on Saturday, May 21, leading to the full digital release on Tuesday, May 24. “Losing my mother, I was trying to figure out how to channel that grief, and I was doing it in some of those [earlier] songs, but it wasn’t hitting. … With some of them it was like, OK, good, you got your feet wet. Now we gotta get in the mud.”

Manifest does just this on the staggering “Own,” narrating the moment he learned of his mother’s death on Oct. 4, 2019, which also happened to fall on his birthday. “Walked in the ER searching for answers/My heart racing faster than any vehicle NASCAR can handle,” he recites atop a muted beat. “They walked in, told me the news that my momma died/And for a good 10 minutes not a tear in my eye.”

The torrents arrive soon after, however, and haven’t really stopped, Manifest’s grief compounded by a pandemic that made it harder to find an outlet for his emotions, stripping away everything from in-person therapy sessions to the stage, with concerts temporarily shuttered by the coronavirus. “I tried to do the tele-therapy over the phone and the internet, but I didn’t feel like I could really share,” Manifest said. 

So instead, the rapper turned to recording, reteaming with producer Rare Komm — the beatmaker who helmed Manifest’s 2008 debut, TrekNique — and embracing the moment as an opportunity to dig more fully into his past. “In all honesty, [Komm’s] production was really my therapy session for that moment in time when I couldn’t sit in a room and chat with an actual therapist,” Manifest said. “He was sending me these beats, and they were all sounding so cinematic that I couldn’t just go ‘lyrical miracle’ through them. I had to talk about something. And to be honest, I didn’t think people wanted to hear all of that [flash]. They really wanted to see if I was OK.”

And yet, Everything’s Personal avoids easy answers. Album closer “I’m Gone,” for one, portrays the rapper as a work in progress, resisting the urge to send listeners off with a happy ending. Elsewhere, Manifest reminisces on a childhood where imagination served as a precursor to faith (“Take It Back”), reckons the person he is now with who he was coming up (“Youngg”) and, on “Family Tree,” recalls the sometimes-sticky family dynamics that have shaped him, for better or worse, describing himself within the track as “a patchwork of souls” both here and gone.

“It let me talk about my lineage, and the struggles of being in a blended family,” said Manifest, who has a complicated history with his birth father but long ago learned to let go of the anger he felt toward him as a younger man. “Sometimes you feel like you’re not wanted, and as a kid that’s how I felt. But I learned at an older age that some people just aren’t going to be your parents. Their role is like, hey, I’m going to make you and bail, which sounds [messed] up in the natural. But I feel like if my biological father raised me, I don’t know who I would be. Whereas my father who did raise me, he made me into who I am today: a person determined to use my gifts and talents to help others.”

Grief also hangs heavy throughout, Manifest confronting not just his mother’s passing, but the residual feelings her loss resurfaced in him tied to his sister’s 2005 death, which he breaks down on “Made It.”

“My mother, she was my nurturer, my everything, and I had already lost half of that with my sister, who was that other person for me,” Manifest said. “So, when my mother died, it brought that grief back, and it brought back Sheron, Nes Wordz, and it brought that grief back. And when I look at those three, the difference, I didn’t have [any responsibilities] when my sister passed, because I wasn’t married, and I didn’t have children. … Now, I have to think differently. I’m older. I’m a father, a husband. I have responsibilities. Everything rides on me. How I heal, how I move. I’m the pastor, the everything of my household. There are moments to cry, but nothing can affect my family in a way where it harms them, and that stands in contrast to how I handled things when my sister passed.”

While there’s no resolution on Everything’s Personal, there are absolutely moments when things come back around, where notes struck in the past find new resonance in the present, and where the rapper can view the blood of family history coursing through his own veins. 

In fact, Manifest is currently bracing for another of those moments when he takes the stage at Comfest this June, the same place his mother last watched him perform from the wings four years ago.

“She was standing on the side, jamming, all of that shit,” Manifest said. “The last time she was there watching me, I was killing it, and it was on one of the biggest stages in the city. ... Then you fast-forward to now and she’s gone, and I’m getting on that same stage, which is crazy, crazy, crazy, crazy. Having that happen, it just brings it all full circle.”