Roots Manuva – Bleeds Review

It’s been 4 years since Rodney Hilton Smith, better known by his stage name Roots Manuva, released his last album ‘4everevolution’ on UK based label Big Dada, but he is back, angry and bitter as ever with his latest offering ‘Bleeds’. Coming in at just over 31 minutes long it is a reasonable short length of time for an album, however it still packs the punch and gritty sounds that Roots Manuva has been praised for since his first release in the 90’s.

‘Bleeds’ opens with a tirade against the free market labels, intense, deep and dark all you would expect from a Roots Manuva track. However looking past the gritty drama of the music and rough vocals Roots Manuva allows his lyrics to talk just as much as the music. Throughout the album there is plenty of interesting, if a little unorthodox, productions, for example the type-writer beat on frenetic, Four Tet produced ‘Facety 2:11’ or the psychedelic trip-hop of ‘Steppin’ Hard’. Throughout the album, looking past the unusual beats, Roots Manuva has managed to retain his wayward worldview and exceptional rhyming skills. His penchant for creative lyrics that delve deeper into his own psyche and views upon the world are still here, all layered on top of the slightly strange beats that have become a stalwart of Roots Manuva’s production. Tracks such as ‘Crying’ make use of baby wails whilst speaking lyrics such as “this world cannot be trusted’. Tracks such as ‘I Know Your Face’ offer a more apocalyptic outlook, entrenched in a darker sound than previous tracks with a paranoid wariness. Tracks such as ‘Fighting For?’ the last on the album, have a much more minimalist feel than previous tracks on the album, a focus on Roots Manuva’s lyrical prowess and lyrics seem to be taking precedent whilst still retaining the production values that run throughout the album.

As ever though the core values, both lyrically and production based, are still there, the feeling of an underlying anger lingers under many tracks without ever being the underlying message throughout the album. Roots Manuva manages to deliver an album full of gritty, dark lyrics all underpinned by slightly unorthodox beats.

Roots Manuva – Bleeds = 8/10

Matthew Kay

Single Review – Roots Manuva – Facety 2:11

Veteran London rapper Roots Manuva is back with new single ‘Facety 2:11). Having began his music career over 20 years ago in the early 90’s, his first release coming in 1994 as part of IQ Procedure, debuting as Roots Manuva the same year on Blak Twangs ‘Queen’s Head’ single, before releasing his own single, ‘Next Time of Motion’. A veteran of the UK rap scene Roots Manuva has been an inspiration to many UK artists and has had such an impact in the music scene that The Times declared him ‘…the voice of urban Britain, encompassing dub, ragga, funk and hip hop…’. His lyrics are known for having a British edge and his ability to set gritty narratives against all manner of warped beats have brought about his legendary status within the scene. Alongside his own work Roots Manuva has featured on the tracks of many other artists most notably Gorillaz, DJ Shadow, and Fun Lovin Criminals alongside many others.

His latest single sees him returning to his own productions and has been produced by another well-known artist ‘Four Tet’. A blistering attack on the senses Roots Manuva does what he does best, working his lyrical magic over warped and distorted sounds. The deep low-slung drums underpinning the track, pushing the music forward, relentlessly pounding onto which Roots Manuva adds his typical lyric style. Glitched vocals add an unorthodox texture to the aesthetics of the song whilst simultaneously contributing to the weird and wonderful ambience. Sparse sounds take the listener further into a surreal world where the typical expectations of rap music are banished, the textbook ripped up and thrown away and replaced by Roots Manuva’s distorted vision. The mood of the track fits perfectly with Roots Manuva’s vocals, dark, deep and relentless, unrelenting in its approach and unapologetically aggressive. The uncompromising approach taken to the track allows Roots Manuva to push the boundaries of what is expected of him and the genre he works in, allowing the artist to showcase what he does best, the gritty atmospherics bringing the listener into a dark world underpinned by tribal-esque drums and rough rhetoric from Roots Manuva himself. The track represents an unorthodox creativity that can sometimes be missed by the more commercialized sounds and allows Roots Manuva to carry on doing what he does best.

Matthew Kay