Socialist Worker

Roots Manuva's intricate new album reaches to the movement

by Patrick Ward
Issue No. 1938

Roots Manuva

Roots Manuva

Awfully Deep
Roots Manuva
Big Dada Recordings

This is the latest album from Roots Manuva, dubbed the “saviour of British hip-hop” following the success of his previous albums.

Roots Manuva (real name Rodney Hylton Smith) has produced yet another thoughtful and entertaining work in which he draws influences from reggae, dub, electro and dancehall, as well as his personal background of Africa, the Caribbean and multi-cultural south London.

Refreshingly for commercial hip-hop, Roots Manuva avoids the machismo associated with many artists, and instead produces an original sound based on his “awfully deep” experiences of everyday life.

The title track is about the performer’s experience of mental illness.But as the track progresses you begin to realise that it is society, and the approach it takes towards people like him that is in need of treatment.

In tracks such as “Chin High” the artist tackles our greed-driven society. He talks about the government’s hypocrisy in pushing drugs from big business while criminalising the poor through draconian laws against cannabis. Smith sings about the pressures of parenthood, working in truthful and heartfelt statements about drinking, smoking weed and love.

One theme revisited throughout the album is his personal battle to do the right thing in the face of the temptations surrounding him, especially with reference to his newly born son and the world he is about to be brought up in. Smith brings the political and sociological complexities of modern life to a musical genre dominated by commerical blandness.

But it’s not enough to say that Roots Manuva is an artist with a message, because that wouldn’t give enough credit to his fresh approach to hip-hop. From the darkness of “The Falling” to the slow beats of “Mind 2 Motion”, this is a diverse work about the diversity of life.

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Sat 12 Feb 2005, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1938
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