In making this truly individual record Roots Manuva has well and truly done the business.
Christian Hopwood 2002
So far this year has seen solid releases from both Skitz and Mark B & Blade that have done nothing but big things for UK hip hop. But it is perhaps this stunning second album from Stockwell born and bred producer come mic destroyer Roots Manuva that has raised the bar for good. Now, with the release of Run Come Save Me everyone has to jump higher... a lot higher.
Primarily this album should be lauded for its degree of musical invention and individual approach to the genre. Rodney has produced three quarters of the album himself and there are elements here that have subsequently reappeared in the world of R&B. On hearing the stuttering, organic funk of that huge, electronic bass line and the relentless, loping rhymes on "Witness (One Hope)"we are reminded of the production on Brandy's "What About" masterminded by the genius of Rodney 'Darkchild' Jerkins. There is a playful, anarchic disregard for time signatures as things slip across the bars and are then suddenly pulled back again. Roots is not afraid to experiment and the results are refreshing and unpredictable.
Not only is he technically adept Roots is also a fearless writer. Gnashing over minimal keys he confesses on "Stone The Crows" "...as you can tell I'm from a basic stock, shouldn't take these drugs, shouldn't get so p*ssed".
The raw melancholy of "Sinny Sin Sins" finds Roots refuting the strict religious upbringing imposed by his deacon father. "I used to steal collection, I used catch a beating... As long as your living under my roof your gonna heed to my interpretation of the truth... to this day I fight down their spell". Yet, pathos aside, there is a ready wit that is never far from the surface. By way of example, his ode to the 'erb "Highest Grade" lifts the hook from Craig David's "Seven Days" to illustrate the sale and daily intake of Stockwell's jolly, green clients.
He is intelligent, humble but most of all conscious. On "Witness" he raps, "I sit here contented with this cheese on toast, I feel the pain of a third world famine". Somehow it's hard to imagine any MC from the West Side issuing forth a lactose truth like this but that's Rodney -strictly UK.
Although his debut Brand New Second Hand was an underground success it fell short of the landmark release that UK hip hop had been missing for the last ten years. With the completion of album number two, we have here a record that will be artistically and commercially recognised without pandering to the sounds and attitudes of Stateside hip hop.In making this truly individual record Roots Manuva has well and truly done the business.