sex as a foreign language

awkward aural adventures

Roots Manuva – August 2008

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This article originally appeared on Subba Cultcha.

“Oh the Roots of 1999 would not have liked this record (Slime and Reason), I’m not making bachelor bedroom hip hop anymore.” Rodney Smith, aka Roots Manuva premier elect of UK hip hop, is responding to the question of what has changed in the UK hip hop scene and in the Roots Manuva world in the decade since he dropped ‘Brand New Second Hand’ which, crazy as it seems, will reach double figures next year. Has it really been 10 years since everything?

Roots Manuva is back with a brand new LP, the glorious ‘Slime and Reason’, launching with two devastating singles that in two easy strokes have created a one man battle for song of the year. First off the dirty frolicking slice of scuzzed up dancehall that sees Roots laying down sweet temptation for the ladies of Hackney by offering promises of such stunning rituals as pulling a wheelie in exchange for some intimate attention. It’s the first example of three collaborations from Slime and Reason to feature the mystical skills of baby faced producing prodigy Toddla T. The two seem to have found a harmonious balance that allows Roots to sounds as free as at any point in his career, sliding freeform lyrical meanderings over tight beats and pelvis agitating bass. Secondly, in follow up single ‘Again and Again’, Roots has produced a track who’s melodies will stick to your with 10 times the staying power of anything Duffy or her cohorts ever produce. The Shy-FX produced single version featuring a horn section that sucks up a lethal dose of summer and injects it straight into your heart like a reggae loving extra from Pulp Fiction. It’s a knockout one two that declares Roots Manuva is back and has produced the album that may finally see the masses become aware of what many have been shouting from the rafters since 2001s touchstone ‘Run Come Save Me’ LP.

Talking with Roots Manuva is not the easiest thing in the world, anyone who saw him capitulating at chess against Trevor Nelson in Ibiza will know he’s a man who can easily lead you off on a wily tangent to avoid speaking about his craft and simply let the music talk for itself. Those of you who follow his Twitter updates from his site will know he recently had to fly to Paris and Berlin to service what he sees as the promo beast and he is as duplicitous in interview as on record. His records and his persona straddle the line of observational, biographical and socially informed and the dryly comic. It’s a line that has in the past caused him some discomfort with Roots remarking about his last album ‘Awfully Deep’ “I’m less concerned with trying to be Mr Stand Up reflecting on life this time. I was pretty disturbed by the misinterpretation of the last record!” It’s still a juxtaposition on Silme & Reason, for every Again and Again there’s a “The Struggle” detailing the travails of Roots’ personal life so it might explain the overtly comic nature of his recent videos. The videos of Slime & Reason come across like an urban Benny Hill flying around in ice cream vans and suffering a mishap laden afternoons cricket. “I hate making videos man”, cries Rodney when asked how much he likes to get involved in the process. “But I come up with the ideas, like the cricket idea (Again and Again) was mine. I usually come up with the idea I’ll hate the most and pick that. I love videos but I hate the process of getting that idea to the screen. they’re hard work!”

This summer has seen some big one off and festival shows such as Ibiza Rocks, and the upcoming V Festival and Bestival. Asked what he thinks of these shows compared to the more intimate headline stops he notes. “With my shows they can pretty much go off anywhere you know. It depends on the mood, on the audience but they can go off anywhere. With a festival show you got to play a certain type of show. It’s more about the hits. Bt the new stuffs gone down really well.” Being a uniquely british urban voice is there a barrier to breaking through outside these shores? “ Nah man, Europes just a different vibe, they approach it in a different way to the UK fans, in the UK you get some who only like the first album or some who only like the second album and I think on the continent it’s more of a blur so yeah, they’re good shows to play.”

With Slime & Reason landing in september and a full scale Uk headline act in the autumn there is going to be a lot more of the promo beast for Mr Manuva to cope with, but backed up by an album that, despite not being his masterpiece is his best and most accessible work to date it will be a sacrifice worth making. The only reasonable choice this autumn is to get yourself good and Slimey!

Roots Manuva


Written by Jonathan

August 19, 2008 at 12:15 pm

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