It has been over three years since Slime and Reason, the album that placed Rodney Smith (Roots Manuva) at the forefront of British hip hop. His new album, the imaginatively titled 4everevolution, does not disappoint. At first glance an album with 17 tracks can seem quite hard going. It is testimony to the diversity and range of his music that 17 tracks later and nearly an hour in I was still listening with bated breath.
Roots Manuva is not just another British hip hop artist. His music can’t reasonably be put into a category of hip hop, grime or reggae. It is all of these things and more.
4everevolution starts strongly with “First Growth”, a track more reminiscent of his earlier albums. But by the second track it is clear this is no ordinary hip hop album. “Here We Go Again” starts with a bass line that would make any dubstep aficionado proud.
The album is so broad that every track offers surprises. “Skid Valley”, a collaboration with British rock group Skunk Anansie, denounces “nothing-can-change Britain” as “the birthplace of the gentleman that ain’t gentle when they wish to gentrify”. He condemns the greed and corruption throughout the British ruling class in a ferociously political skit that testifies to the class of his delivery. Roots Manuva’s pessimism when he spits that “Britain will stay Britain, the nouveau riche and the old hat money” is not present in his track “Who Goes There?” Instead he demands resistance because, “if we tolerate this, we’ll cease to exist”.
“Get the Get” implores listeners to drink the Italian wine soave while also getting “suavay”. It is without doubt one of the strongest tracks and is set to be the first single from the album. It is punctured by the softer melodic voice of up and coming singer Rokhsan. The relentless beat is one that will no doubt infect dance floors across the country in the months to come.
The shifts from grime and dance to electronica and steel drums might be an odd transition for some artists, but not for Roots Manuva. “Wha’ Mek”, particularly stands out as a dreamy, sultry number, similar to his previous hit, “Let the Spirit”. While “Get the Get” and “Watch Me Dance”, a collaboration with Toddla T, are tracks for a fast-paced evening, “Wha’ Mek” featuring gentle steel drums is clearly a song for the morning after.
Roots Manuva is not always political. He doesn’t always sing about society or elites or growing up in Streatham. Whenever he does it is ferocious and gripping. But what you can always guarantee, be it music about dancing, music with steel drums, reggae or electronica, what Roots Manuva does make, always, is good music.
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