Following on from my feature on The Herbaliser the other week, I thought I'd use today's entry to discuss another artist that has long remained high on my last.fm charts; Roots Manuva. Mr Manuva is currently my third most listened to artist since Feb 2005, amassing a huge 495 plays. Most people know him, but just how well? And what of the people that have never heard of him? I'll try and shed a bit of light…
Roots Manuva is Rodney Smith, a UK hip-hop/dub artist from London. Although he was brought up in the Stockwell area of London, his parents are of Jamaican origins – his father was a preacher. He emerged on the music scene in '94, appearing for the first time under his name of Roots Manuva on a Blak Twang track called Queen's Head. Later that same year he released his first single, Mind To Motion. In the years following this he collaborated with artists such as Skitz and also worked alongside the guys at Big Dada (a sub division of Ninja Tune).
Then in '99 came Roots Manuva's debut album release, Brand New Second Hand. For god's sake, if you don't have this album… get it! The same year he won a MOBO award for this album. It blends elements of ragga, dub, and hip-hop – Roots Manuva has a really unique way of emceeing, too. Where other British emcees had either gone for faking an American accent or over doing the cockney thing, Roots focussed on the structure of his verses and the content of the lyrics; often telling stories from his childhood and upbringing.
A second Roots Manuva album came out in 2001 and was named Run Come Save Me. Although it maintained the Roots Manuva sound, the content revolved more around political views, as well as his life experiences. This album also contained the absolute storming and legendary track Witness (1 Hope), this track was to become a real UK hip-hop anthem. To this day, at live performances, it is evident that the crowd is waiting for that track to drop, and when it does the place goes mental. Although Brand New Second Hand was a fantastic album, this follow up seemed to show a more polished product than previously seen. A year later, in 2002, a dub version of this album was released, named Dub Come Save Me. Below is a little taster from Run Come Save Me…
Roots Manuva – Witness (1 Hope)
>> download <<
This download is a sample of the music only and must be deleted from your computer within 24 hours of downloading. This download link will expire on 12th June.
Awfully Deep was the third album to be released and was done so in 2005. This album was typical Roots Manuva, but yet again just showed the progression that had been made. All of the Roots Manuva albums have been very good in their own separate ways, yet have been different enough to warrant their own existence. Earlier this year a follow up album named Alternately Deep was released, this was evidently the tracks that previously didn't make it on to Awfully Deep. Some people were ruined by the misconception that this was full of tracks not good enough to make the last album – but if you give it the time it deserves, you'll see it is just more of the same good quality.
Roots Manuva is a UK hip-hop pioneer. Sadly this doesn't necessarily count for much other than his own huge reputation. There's plenty of piss-poor UK hip-hop and grime being created and gaining airplay, whereas the better quality UK hip-hop still struggles to gain much need recognition. Last year Rodney was beaten to the best hip-hop act at the MOBO awards by Sway. Some people seem to really like this Sway fella, but I've listened to his album a few times and I really don't think it's anything special. Sway's not a bad emcee, but I think his music is pretty poor. However, he obviously has the right hype and connections behind him and he is doing well for himself.
Still, Roots Manuva isn't bitter. He's worked with plenty of fantastic artists, including; Amon Tobin, The Cinematic Orchestra, Coldcut, DJ Shadow, The Herbaliser, Leftfield, Mr. Scruff, Ty, and Chali 2na. He continues to work with Big Dada and regularly plays at festivals.
If you like experimental hip-hop, dub, funk, ragga, dancehall, you'll love Roots Manuva – although anyone reading this that has never heard a Roots Manuva track must have been in a coma for a long time or something! I think most will know all about Monsieur Manuva, so feel free to share thoughts on tracks, albums, and live performances – I'd be interested to hear.