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Roots Manuva
a long time ago
"In 2001 Roots Manuva could have been standing at a crossroads in his career. A successful 'underground' album behind him, the traditional choice between mainstream acceptibility and artistic credibility lay in front of him. Roots Manuva chose to dynamite the crossroads. In the words of the man himself, this is "the return of the Rootical one - French kissing the chaos."

Brave or foolhardy? Depends on where you're standing. Depends on where you're coming from.

You may already know the basics of the Roots Manuva story. Rodney Hylton Smith was born and grew up around Stockwell in South London. His parents were from a small village in Jamaica called Banana Hole, his father a preacher. His family weren't exactly loaded (hence his mother's use of the term "brand new second hand" to characterise the occasional pre-used present), but they were strict, as befits members of the Pentecostal Church.

When Smith found himself drawn to the reggae of the UK's sound system culture and hip hop (through the lyrical expressiveness of Rakim), his parents hardly approved. In fact, he had to listen in secret.

But it was worth the effort. In 1999, four years after the release of his first single, Roots Manuva dropped the instant-classic "Brand New Second Hand" to critical acclaim and commercial success. At a stroke, the market for hip hop from the UK was thrown wide open by a record that found Manuva described as "the most significant and original new voice in hip hop" (The Independent). It is hard to underestimate the impact of the record on a genre of music which seemed to have gone into hibernation in the UK of the early nineties. (As a result of this success, Roots also became something of a cameo king, destroying microphones for the likes of Leftfield, Skitz, Mr Scruff, Mica Paris, 23 Skidoo and Pharoahe Monch, amongst others)

Since then, Manuva has been "living in a dream". What makes him special, perhaps, is his willingness to gamble with this dream. He could, after all, have taken the boring big-money route and hired in a heap of famous guests to make safe, production-line hip hop. Instead he chose to spread the love a little. That's why he describes the album as "a patchwork reflection of the bittersweet-tainted joys and pains of progress. It's so easy to get cynical in these big, bad corporate times - so this be a declaration of good hearted ghetto hoorah joyous intent." In the process this future-blues man has created a record that re-writes the hip hop map in a way no album has done since Outkast's "Aquemeni"."

Ninja Tune (Latest Album)

Listen to Cinematic Orchestra's All Things to All Men with vocals by Roots Manuva, live at the Medicine Bar. More Music at All .Mp3's.


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