When it comes to music out of Canada’s West Coast, very few artists encapsulate the sound of the region better than MANILA GREY. The duo consisting of vocalist Soliven and emcee Neeko is an absolute powerhouse, impeccable sonics paired with an international fanbase that has been waiting patiently for the release of their highly anticipated project No Saints on Knight Street. Their most recent album brings something for new and old fans alike, their signature sound has blossomed to something that feels like it could easily be the soundtrack to a dystopian action movie filled with neon lights, something out of Blade Runner. With their single “Backhouse Ballin” shooting up the charts in the Philippines, it’s only a matter for MANILA GREY to become a global phenomenon.
What MANILA GREY does exceptionally well is using a multitude of influences from both Eastern and Western cultures to make music appealing to people on either side of the Pacific Ocean. The childhood friends have always had a passion for sharing their unique perspective through music, over the years they have remained consistent with an output of incredible tracks but it seems like with this release they are at a point they could have only dreamed of a few years ago. Their success is no accident, the attention to detail they have brought to all of their releases has always impressed me as a listener.
One of the major reasons for the group is the man behind the boards azel north. Like many have come to know 40 as the architect of Drake’s sound, azel is the same type of figure for crafting the sonics of the group. The lowkey producer is truly what allows both Neeko and Soliven to go as hard as they can on each and every song. I know the group has been working on this project for the past few years, the level of detail they put into it is evident making it a worthwhile process. Their sound is always futuristic in build but the hazy beats always provide a beautiful pedestal for both artists to shine to their fullest extent.
If you’re from Vancouver then this group blowing up internationally comes as no surprise. Seeing their come up from small venues to being an act whose music is heard across the globe feels like a huge victory for the city. Their sonics have always been the most representative of what Vancouver as a city feels like, driving into the downtown core late at night with MANILA GREY on full volume just feels right. Maybe I’m biased as this article is being written steps away from Knight St, a connection to music from my home that I have never really been able to experience previously.
Some of the songs that really stand out, quickly becoming instant classics are “00 Luck (Freestyle)”, “Knight Street”, and a monster collaboration with Bay Area’s P-Lo titled “Zen Mode”. This project is a perfect amalgamation of all things that have cultivated their global fanbase. Futuristic production from azel, Neeko’s hard-hitting lyrical delivery, and Soliven’s velvety smooth vocals really come together in perfect unity as the tracklist plays out. With Summer on the precipice, I am already prepared to hear “Sometimes” blaring out of car windows well into October.
Fresh off their Juno Nomination (Canadian Grammy’s for my Americans), the group is really still in the early days in terms of their future global reach. These guys are some of the hardest working artists I’ve come across, their work ethic is second to none and they are beginning to see the fruits of their labor from the dedication to the craft. They have been teasing the releasing of No Saints on Knight Street for over a year and the wait was most certainly worth it. With their profile only continuing to rise, what the rest of the year will look like is sure to be incredible. When touring opens up, these guys are not a show you want to miss. Listen to this album in the sun or on a grey rainy day, it has a little something for all your moods.
Listen to No Saints on Knight Street on all platforms here!