Rapper finally lets all sides show on 'This Should Hold You'

This Should Hold You, the latest album from rapper Trek Manifest, is bookended by a pair of tracks that find the MC delving deeper into his own backstory.

On “The Greatest,” Manifest digs into his biography, describing himself as “the son of a single mother 'til the age 4” (at which point his mom remarried) and exploring the deaths of two cousins, including one who was shot and killed by police and another who died by suicide. The track finds Manifest both mourning their loss and also marveling at his good fortune in avoiding a similar fate.

The album-closing, soul-kissed “My Love,” in contrast, traces Manifest's lifelong love affair with hip-hop, celebrating the artists who have shaped and inspired him, from the Christian rappers championed by his preacher stepfather to those less accepted in the family home (in one aside, Manifest recounts his stepfather hearing Jay Z's Blueprint blaring from his bedroom and subsequently snapping the CD in half).

“I came up at 5 years old in Christian rap … and then I evolved and started hearing different music. I'm hearing this Wu-Tang. I'm hearing this Cannabis. And I'm like, ‘That's kind of dope,' so then you start trying to merge the two,” said Manifest, born Devin Thomas, who just released This Should Hold You on digital platforms (visit trekmanifest.net for more information). “As I got older, it went from God rap to positive rap, and then from positive rap to, ‘Eh, we're just not going to cuss in our raps.' Now, if I feel like something is fucked up, I say it's fucked up. … At this point you just have to take me for what I am. I'm still Devin Michael Thomas. My mom raised me to be a good kid and a God-fearing man, and those morals, the beliefs, the values haven't changed. But now you're seeing other layers of me.”

Manifest started to show these other layers due in part to the encouragement of the late Sheron “Nes Wordz” Colbert, a fellow Magna Media Group artist who, prior to his 2017 death, pressed Manifest to continue to reveal more of himself on record.

“I let him listen to the project I released, Summer '17, before he passed and he was like, ‘You need more of these [personal details],'” Manifest said. “When he said that, it hit me. … If I'm going to make music, I want it to be more impactful than just bars and punchlines. … This project, I've done that. This is something I wanted to do years ago, but as an MC I wasn't ready. If I got these beats back then, I would have been more excited to not let the beat breathe; I'd have just kept rapping and rapping and going and going. [Nes] talking to me forced me to step back and to really write.”

This is advice Manifest has continued to let inform his own life. Where the rapper previously walled off aspects of his personality to suit the intended audience — “I'm a father right here, but now I'm around all these rappers, so I need to put my rapper role on, and now I'm an educator and I'm speaking in schools, so let me turn this on,” Manifest said — he now understands these complexities are what make him unique, and he's worked to invite people to view all facets of his personality.

“It was a little hard [to drop my guard] at first, but it felt necessary,” Manifest said. “It was like, fuck it. People already know those are the things I am. I don't have to have this on/off switch.”