Do yourself a favor and go listen to Richmond rapper Mani Draper’s debut album, The Last Marauder. To call it a hip-hop album would be a disservice to the record, which is infused with an array of live instrumentation, jazzy undertones, and R&B smoothness. Draper’s gruff, low-pitched voice vacillates between singing and rapping, and it’s tempered every now and then by guest female vocalists, like Jane Handcock and Kate Lamont.
The subject matter of The Last Marauder is a combination of autobiographical stories, real-life voice recordings of his friends and grandmother, and ruminations about our current socio-political climate. At times, it can get rather heavy, but fortunately, the production is so sweeping and beautiful that it distracts you from the dour subject matter.
Draper got into music when he attended college at Southern Oregon University and became the head DJ at the city’s most popular music venue, The Vinyl Club. For years, he was content to just DJ until one fateful night when he met a reggae artist who invited him to a cypher that literally forced him to try his hand at rapping.
He started making his own music, but kept it to himself until one of his basketball teammates discovered some of his work and shared it with the rest of the team. Because of the positive response Draper received from them, he was emboldened to share his music with the world, ultimately releasing his first project, The Unauthorized Biography of Ella Mae. Though the entire album was electronically-produced, when it came time to perform it at its release show, Draper assembled a five-piece band, which opened his eyes to the beauty of live production.
“It was a real eye opener,” he says. “Once you get a taste of the live music version, you can’t go back to machines anymore.”
With The Last Marauder, Draper did just that, assembling another a four-person band to play live instruments, and enlisting Iamsu! and Ian McKee for production. He estimates that the album is about 50 percent live production and 50 percent electronic production.
Catch Mani Draper at his album release show tonight, Friday, Dec. 16, from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., at Pink Dolphin, 1431 Haight St.