The album starts off with a boastful tone on Platinum, “I just went platinum, the boy is on top ain’t catching him” goes the first verse on the first track. In case you had forgotten who you’re dealing with, he’ll remind you. This is typical rap braggadocio. Platinum is juxtaposed with I Try, an aspirational tale of loyalty, in a sense paying homage to his mom; sincere and melodic.
From the third track, Me and You featuring Nigerian songstress Tiwa Savage, through to track seven, All Night, the album is simply sensational. Me and You is a beautiful love song about longing for lost love, Tiwa is a perfect fit. The title track Manando, is a reflective, emotional and honest tribute to a personal hero, Emtee paints a vivid picture of the late Manando with a relatable narrative and repetitive hook. Plug sounds like Roll Up 2.0, typical good time “African Trap” vibe. Ghetto Hero, a moving love letter to his fans, is a stand-out record that displays his consciousness. African trap returns on All Night, a trappy club banger about the typical rap star lifestyle. Together with Plug, All Night is a potential summer hit.
Halfway through the album, the sound, flow and content start to feel monotonous. What he lacks in varied flow, he makes up for with melody, Pour Up, a feel-good Akon melody inspired record is the perfect example. With the exception of Bambelela, Corner Store, Pour Up, RIP Swati (featuring Saudi, Sjava & Njabulo) and Summertime (Featuring Saudi), the rest of the tracks could’ve been dropped.
Emtee is undoubtedly one of our best artists, but Manando’s biggest weakness is in its length. The album explores love, life, loyalty, aspiration and struggle, this narrative could’ve been balanced over fewer records. There are very strong records on here, but with one too many, Emtee missed a classic.