Roots Manuva – Slime & Reason – Hits Streets This Fall


"He’s hailed in the UK as the savior of the British rap scene… Roots’ is a peerless artist who defies being ‘pigeon–holed’ by the media”

"His post reggae toasting made him an oddball U.K. rap star long before Dizzee or Kano could text message." – SPIN

“South London’s lyrical genius… goes way beyond UK hip-hop and into other realms that no one else is coming close to exploring.” FADER

Rodney Smith a.k.a. Roots Manuva returns from the edge with Slime & Reason, his fourth full-length album, with a voice and musical vision sounding as fresh as ever on this marvelous, freewheeling summation of his career thus far.

Smith’s inspiration for the new record came from looking back to his roots, the music that moved him even before he heard hip hop. “With this record I was trying to tune into that old Channel One, Studio One aesthetic. Lord knows what they were drinking, smoking or eating or what they were doing or what was on their mind but to me that was a special period in music. Today, with the technology that’s available it’s pretty easy to make generic music, music that sounds like everything else. But to tap into a unique aesthetic, to make a long player that’s of its own world is a harder job. How do we make it have an individual sound?”

First, a little history…in 1998, Roots Manuva joined Big Dada after recording a slew of singles that hit hard in the British hip hop underground in the early 90s. The following year saw the release of his debut, Brand New Second Hand. From an initial 3000 records put into the shops, BNSH has now sold over 60,000 copies in the UK. It also made the first dents in the wall of complacency and indifference which has often greeted home-grown Black music in that country and beyond, with The London Times declaring that “his is the voice of urban Britain, encompassing dub, ragga, funk and hip hop as it sweeps from crumbling street corners to ganja-filled dancehalls, setting gritty narratives against all manner of warped beats.” Manuva was rewarded for his breakthrough with a MOBO as Best Hip Hop Act in 1999.

Big things were now expected of Smith and he delivered with 2001’s classic Run Come Save Me, the record which gained him a nomination for the Mercury Music Prize and which has sold well over 100,000 copies in the UK (certified gold). More importantly, it spawned the all-time classic “Witness (One Hope)” (voted the greatest UK hip hop tune of all time by the readers of Hip Hop Connection) on an album that ran from the broad, swaggering pop of “Dreamy Days” to the dark, odd meditation of “Evil Rabbit.” It is also the record which led the Guardian newspaper, in October 2003, to proclaim Manuva fifth in their “40 Best Bands In Britain” feature, proclaiming that “his influence is incalculable and he opened the doors for the Streets, Dizzee Rascal et al.” That influence also stretches to the Arctic Monkeys, who are on record as saying that Run Come Save Me was almost all they listened to whilst recording their debut album. “Witness” traveled to urban cities the world over to make indelible imprints on the global hip hop consciousness, and arguably setting the foundation for the rise in digitalized aesthetics in hip hop music years later. 

Awfully Deep followed in 2005 a more focussed, more ornate and fully-produced piece of work, and once again garnered huge acclaim with its release. The album entered the UK national charts at 21 and, in “Colossal Insight” and “Too Cold,” was bookended by two Top Forty singles. Smith remains bemused by its reception, though, and in particular people’s tendency to take his lyrics a little too seriously. “A lot of the jokes and humour of “Awfully Deep” went over people’s heads,” he explains. “I’m less concerned with trying to be Mr Stand Up reflecting on life this time.”

And now, Slime & Reason. While it’s a record that commentators are already comparing to Run Come Save Me  for its range, depth and impact, there’s no shortage of individuality on this project that sounds as unique, as utterly one-off, as the mind of the man who created it.

Manuva’s own productions range from the skanking carnival anthem “Again & Again,” through the melancholy funk of ‘C.R.U.F.F.’, the electro-Bach rhythms of ‘Kick Up Ya Foot’, the lo-fi Gospel of ‘A Man’s Talk’, the roots stylings of ‘The Show Must Go On’ and the analog-synth attack of ‘It’s Me Oh Lord’. As a vocalist, Roots’ storytelling gets taken into some interesting terrain through collaborations with young producers Toddla T and Metronomy. There are three Toddla tracks here (including ‘Buff Nuff’, the first single taken from the album) and they represent some of the funniest, most loose-limbed music Rodney has produced in years. In addition, Metronomy’s ‘Let The Spirit’ is one of the standouts of the record – a gorgeous piece of “blue-eyed” electro-funk which will be sound tracking our lives for a long time to come.

 Slime & Reason is the perfect representation of the fearless, iconoclastic approach Manuva takes in his music, cementing his place as one of the most vital, exciting and straight-up honest artists working in hip hop today, no matter on whichever side of the pond you find yourself standing on.

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