Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Roots Manuva - Slime and Reason (Big Dada 2008)

Roots Manuva has always been the definitive UK hip-hop artist. His sound is so unique and inimitable yet so completely British. His success, especially his cross-over success has come from his adeptness at sounding completely like himself, embodying a ye olde outlook and a futuristic sound, like no one else. He's not replicating any Golden Age of hip-hop. He just is. And he writes the killer hooks to boot.

Slime and Reason, his new offering is grimier than ever before, yet more confessionial. Roots has always walked the line between surreal imagery, bravado and earnestness, especially on previous tracks like Collossal Insight. Now, he's like a man walking in a wilderness of his own choosing and the way out is through couplets. 'Again and Again' and 'Buff Nuff' embody his more playful, his dancehall side, with killer hooks, bouncy beats and funny lyrics (along with hysterical accompanying videos) but it's tracks like 'A Man's Talk', 'Oh Lord Hear Me' and 'The Struggle' that really pique your interest and prick up your ears, as a man, who can't quite work out his place in the world, wrestles with the levity of his own conscience and his own consciousness. It's moving stuff.

The album is truly incredible, a real tour-de-force from a true UK original. Why he hasn't enjoyed the flag-waving success of truly British bands like Portishead and Massive Attack, especially when they portray the same amount of emotion is beyond me. A man wise beyond his years and with the ability to play the sad clown, the clowny clown, the dancehall king and the man on a couch spilling his guts, he knows how to celebrate his strengths and his diversity of skills. Roots Manuva has got better and better with age, and his albums have improved as he has gone on. The sickening thing is his first album was amazing. So, from strong starts to where he is now, this is Mercury Prize worthy, this is award-worthy, this is dark and celebratory, contradictory and funky, perhaps his best work. 5 out of 5 and album of the year for me. Nice one Mr Smith.

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