Ronnie Dylan — the budding MC and collaborative partner with producer Jake Crocker (Black Umbrella, Raz Simone, Fatal Lucciauno) — probably couldn’t have picked a more loaded title for his new album: Manumission. In short, it means the act of a slave owner freeing his or her slaves. Rap music is full of superlatives, to be sure, but to adopt one with such baggage for what is only your second EP could be considered an exercise in imprudence and, quite honestly, bad taste.
Thankfully, Dylan brings a measured focus and an appropriately heavy hand to an album with such a title. The intent on Manumission is to subvert the traditionally held definition; to re-frame the act inside the context of how hip-hop music is crafted. For Dylan, that means with a transparent honesty which he feels is sorely lacking in the contemporary culture.
It’s difficult to imagine someone as young as Ronnie Dylan undergoing a spiritual hip-hop crisis like this, but it appears to be happening. Dylan is keen and sharp with the pen, one of his skills being the ability to write rhymes with nary a wasted word. He tackles real-world trials and tribulations like substance abuse, suburban ennui, absent parentage, and socioeconomic disparity with impressive poetic ease. The musical backdrops for Manumission‘s subject matter are all handled by Jake Crocker who lends his own gravitas, emotive touch and, when the mood calls for it, soulful exposition (see album highlight “A Day Like This”). Everything feels cohesive and natural between the producer and MC.
Manumission is certainly an overly-ambitious project, but impressively so. Through the act of overreaching, Ronnie Dylan captures the essence of his current relationship to hip-hop: he loves this shit, but he’s unhappy with much of it. Manumission is his own personal attempt to right the ship. If he happens to oversteer in the other direction, so be it. At least he’ll be known as an artist that took corrective action.
Stream Manumission below and download the album for free here.