Trek Manifest steps fully into his own on ‘The One Day I Arrived’

Working with longtime friend and producer Soop, the Columbus rapper emerges from a challenging personal stretch with a career-best album.
Trek Manifest (left) and Soop
Trek Manifest (left) and SoopThe Dreamcatchers

Trek Manifest has been holding on to the album title The One Day I Arrived since at least 2017, believing he had to fully grow into the name before he could put the concept to tape.

In the time since, the Columbus rapper has released a trio of full-lengths, plus assorted EPs and side projects (Carried by Six, anyone?), sharpening his lyrical skills while also continuing to grow as a husband, a father and a human being. This is particularly true of the years that followed the 2019 death of his mother, which Manifest unpacked on a pair of shattered albums, including Everything’s Personal, from 2022, on which he fully immersed himself in his all-consuming heartbreak. 

“Losing my mother, I was trying to figure out how to channel that grief, and I was doing it in some of those [earlier] songs, but it wasn’t hitting,” he said of his approach to the album at the time. “With some of them it was like, okay, good, you got your feet wet. Now we gotta get in the mud.”

Reteaming with longtime friend and producer Soop, born Demetrius Howard, Manifest emerges from this lingering funk in fully realized form with The One Day I Arrived, pairing his time-honed wordplay with a worldview shaped by having fought his way back from the brink. As a result, tracks swing from celebratory anthems (“All for You”) to uber-confessional tear-jerkers such as the wrenching “Foresight,” on which Manifest raps like a man who could shatter at the slightest touch. Rather than easily decipherable turning points, the album follows small steps forward with reminders of past pains – the track list echoing the idea that recovery isn’t a straight line, and that grief can strike seemingly out of nowhere, temporarily leveling a person no matter how much work they’ve put in.

“They say grief happens in different stages,’” said Manifest, who joined Soop for a late December interview at Upper Cup in Olde Towne East. “I know how hard I worked to get to this point.”

Manifest wrote the bulk of the songs that make up the album in the days following a horrific July car accident from which he emerged virtually unscathed, save for some minor back pain and a scratch on his arm – an injury that recalled the time he tried to cut his wrist as a high school sophomore, which he raps about with characteristic bluntness on “Foresight.” 

“I didn’t want to drive, so I was writing at my bedside, chillin’,” said Manifest, who reteamed with Soop for recording, the two continuing an artistic partnership that has been a central part of both of their lives since they first joined for sessions in late 2009 at the now-defunct Clintonville studio Central City. In a full-circle nod to this shared history, Soop sampled the Bob James song “Nautilus” for The One Day I Arrived track “Bizzy,” having initially utilized the sample when the two first collaborated more than a dozen years ago.

Soop maintained the urgency of the moment by limiting the number of vocal takes, believing a sense of urgency is lost each time a rap is delivered. “You’ve got that small window to get it right, probably takes one through three, before you really start to lose something,” said Soop, also a cofounder of Driving Park restaurant FishBurger, which is currently raising repair funds after someone drove a stolen car into the building earlier this week. “And that’s why a lot of the verses have that raw emotion to it, because it was literally the first time he stepped up to say whatever he was going to say.”

The version of “Foresight” that appears on the album, for example, is the second take that the two recorded, done at the insistence of Manifest, who believed he didn’t capture the full emotional weight of the moment in his initial run through the song. “It was like, no, I need you to understand this is still in my foresight and I can’t get rid of it no matter how hard I try,” he said. “I needed [listeners] to feel that.”

The long-developed comfort level between producer and rapper fueled the sessions, with both largely eschewing flash and showcasing a sense of restraint that can only come with time and maturation. Rather than filling every inch of space with complex drum breaks and synthesized flourishes, Soop frequently pulls back and gives the tracks needed space to breathe. “You can overproduce,” he said. “If you’re too worried about how dope your beat is, it becomes distracting. … I want to make sure you can hear what Trek has to say, because it’s important.”

Manifest likewise refrains from “rapping to rap,” he explained, increasingly intent on telling a story rather than simply flaunting his lyrical skills. At the same time, he still maintains the ability to uncork the occasional fast-forward rhyme that can leave listeners questioning if his larynx is somehow double-jointed (see: “Read the Room”). But it’s more now about picking those moments.

“For years, I was always trying to prove how good I was as a rapper. … Now I know how to control it, and I know how to unlock the cheat code when I need to,” Manifest said. “I’ve always had this [type of album] in me. But like with everything, it takes time. Nobody is ready right away. … But I figured my style out, myself out. I know who I am now.”

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