As always, the man serves up a blinding mixture...
Chris Jones 2008
Three years on from the darkness that was Awfully Deep, Stockwell's Rodney Smith returns. In an genre rife with up-and-coming MCs all vying to knock the crown from the head of current rulers of the mic, such a gap may seem like a suicidal career move. But when you're as original, interesting and well, deep as Mr Manuva the usual rules don't apply. Slime & Reason should shut up any young pretenders out there, at least for a while.
Of course another reason for the hiatus has been Smith's not-so-private battles with his own demons. Those worried that his flow has been...erm...blunted by indulgence will be relieved at the first play of this many-sided album. Jauntily bringing a hefty slice of Studio One deep end and dancehall smarts to the opener Over And Over, it seems like Roots has had time to lighten up as well. That's not to say that he doesn't address personal issues. It's Me Oh Lord details his struggles trying to preach the gospels of truth and light. The pentecostal strand learned in childhood rings as loud as ever here. And On I'm A New Man he makes atonement for past indulgences.
As if to signal his awareness of the post-pubescent competition he does upgrade the sound somewhat. There are more burbling analogue synth sounds and the mix is sparser, relying on the bass to carry you through. Oddly it's this head nodding towards newer hybrids that mark the album's low points. The Toddla T-assisted Buff Nuff visits the same priapic territory that Dizzee Rascal's recently visited. But urban music's about asserting your pedigree and as he points out in that fabulous mocknee growl on Well Alright, "They got a little chatter but they got no brain". Elsewhere the string-led R'n'B of A Man's Talk is merely too squarely hip hop compared to the other delights on offer here.
But it's really the Carribean flvours of the hilarious Do Nah Bodda Mi or the dubwise Well Alright that show that his pen is just as sharp as it was. As always, the man serves up a blinding mixture of fun, doomy retribution, guilt-ridden dread and loping oddness. Welcome back Rodney...