His gift is for expressing himself and turning pain and bewilderment into poetry.
Ruth Jamieson 2002-11-20
Roots Manuva( AKA Rodney Smith) is supremely talented but - just like you or I - he has no special gift for getting through life. His talent is for expressing himself, turning pain and bewilderment into poetry. As such, he's British hip hop's answer to Kurt Cobain, and his lyrics are the genius ramblings of a justified and righteous loony.
Slow steppa "Mind 2 Motion", as the title suggests, concerns itself with turning good intentions into good actions. Or, to be more precise, reconciling good intentions with bad behaviour. The guilt creeps in further on "Colossal Insight", to the sound of a twisted fairground, complete with haunted fruit machines: 'Gracious Lord/My Mega Almighty/I know that I been slightly outta your path& I know I should cut down on this drinking/too many late nights and wayward thinking.' "Too Cold" sees him corrupted by money, which makes 'civilised men start to act gunny gunny'.
Added to these internal struggles are external worries. Smith speaks of injustice on "A Haunting" and his suspicion of the powers that be on nasty bass-ridden grime anthem "Chin High": 'Government man keep fighting down the weed/While they boost up the booze, the Prozac and methadone.'
All this pressure seems to be affecting his mental health. The dub-heavy, acid-slashed horror film soundtrack of the title track is paranoia sonic-ified. His guilt and confusion is starting to get the better of him; 'Voodoo in the hills and I'm running from ghosties' he declares. Young black males have a higher instance of mental illness than any other social group, but its rarely discussed in young black music. Smith is not so afraid and speaks of trips to the 'farms of the funny.'
Awfully Deep may be an astounding hybrid of calypso, drum 'n' bass, breakbeat, electro, grime and hip hop, all heavily flavoured with dub. But, once its overlaid with Smith's rhymes, it's pure blues and soul.