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The Power of Manifest

Updated: Aug 7, 2023

Manifest -1) Apparent, clear, obvious. 2) Display or show

This is an appropriate word that captures my personal revelation at the age of 15 when I first heard The Fugees; the Score album.  I placed the tape into my Walkman, pressed play and browsed the back of album cover for the shout outs.

My face was frozen, as I waited outside of Macy’s for my ride. In those days, it was the 55 bus that took me from the Cross County Mall in Westchester back home to Co-op City in the Bronx. Apparently, good music warms more than justyour soul because with each song, my ears got warmer. It was a typical February day in New York City (none of this 60-degree weather) so it was BRICK!  My lips were cracked from me biting them. I rapped the words to Ready or Not to stave off frostbite. Old white women looked at me disgustedly, probably thinking to themselves that I was exactly what was wrong with America - young, brown and

rapping. My friend, David T, was waiting next to me though he didn’t have his Walkman that day so he tried his best to engage me in conversation. Sorry, David. I was immersed by the perfect composition of brash production, humorous yet socially aware skits, the unbelievable lyricism from an angelic freedom fighter and (to a lesser extent) the worst emcee. Lauryn fought to free minds of the ignorant ideologies that I and other kids in the inner city were being raised to promote and espouse. She effectively communicated her observations and pain into a channel that I was all too familiar with. For me to call which she had ‘talent’ somehow felt like an under-appreciation of her ability. What she yielded was a gift.  And with every song I realized how enriched it really was. Each track was like a pendulum swing. Pras’ horrible voice and lyrics made the song almost void of talent. Then the moment of transition when Lauryn would swoop down like a policing superhero and make it a classic with her wit and wordplay. As I continued to listen to the album and ignore my pal, I started to wonder if I

demonstrated any of the concepts of the songs.

Do I wear a mask to project a certain image? MASKS….

Why do I admire the cowboys on my block? COWBOYS...

It was a journey made longer by my imagination as I instantly wanted to test the dude at the Chinese restaurant in Bay Plaza to see if he knew “Flying fists of Juddah”. 

And then the moment of clarity came. My lips now chapped from the arctic wind coming off the parkway and a bus that NEVER ran on time. Track 13 comes in with a loop; “before I manifest the rhyme” and some productional adlibs. Then the preacher’s son (Wyclef) takes you on a roller coaster of imagery in his animated depiction of Jesus’ betrayal, on Bergen Street in Newark. Good start. Then the definition of clarity comes in on the second verse. A verse so poignant and personal, the listener regardless of their race or gender had to acknowledge the pain conveyed. It was the type of demonstration that you feel guilty appreciating because the art seems to be so anchored in life that your humanity hopes that type of desperation is never felt by another. Yet you rewind it, again and again. And realize that her verse was more than sixteen bars, it was her deliverance. She purged all of her regret into an epiphany of melody. The mistakes accepted; the lessons cited but the hurt could not be denied so instead it was discussed. This one verse made a fifteen-year-old virgin understand the effects that malicious intent along with manipulation can have on

someone at their core. My soul opened up to her and I realized the true strength of that woman and of hip hop. No other artist since Marvin Gaye had spoken to me like she had. At that point in my life, I accepted the loss of artistry and was content with the products passed off as art. It was this cold evening, where I waited for a bus that was already 45 minutes late that I wouldn’t accept any more false prophets that tried to engage my ear.

When the bus came, Dave and I boarded and stayed true to Puerto Rican stereotypes by going to the back of the bus...and vandalizing it. Dave went first; he scratched ‘ALKI’ in the window. When he passed me the sharpening stone, I paused. My tag name, “Cash Son” was no longer adequate.  At the time, I used that name because I thought it sounded cool and baller-like. I tagged my name on the window and got off on Dyre Avenue as I always did. But when the bus passed us, it didn’t read “Cash Son”, instead it read “Manifest”.  For it became

apparent to me that I was more than the images I projected with my masks, instead I had the capacity to demonstrate all of the unique elements that I am comprised of.  If art truly imitates life, then verse two on track 13, Manifest; should truly be flattered. My only hope is for my life to have the integrity of the art that I've been imitating since the tender age of 15.

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