Christened with a name like Rodney Smith there’s a simple choice open to today’s young man. Either ease gently into a life of kickings and ridicule as the speccy classroom nerd the name implies, or get moody, slightly paranoid and become one of the brightest hopes and shrewdest minds in UK hip hop.
Thankfully the swiftly renamed Roots Manuva opted for the latter.
Awfully Deep, his third studio set, finds Manuva in fine, albeit none more dark, form. Ostensibly the soundtrack to one man’s neuroses, channelling the angst, self doubt and depression that stemmed from his recent brush with low-grade fame, it all comes to a spectacular head on the pitch black psychosis of the title track. But it’s the mighty “Too Cold,” thanks in part to an infectious church choir-esque chorus, that proves to be the highlight. An obvious crossover single, it also provides Manuva with the perfect showcase for his slick, hyperactive rhyming.
Brooding and brilliant, Awfully Deep is packed full of skanking dub and dancehall beats shot through with a lyrical dexterity and inventiveness missing from the recent rap scene. It also sees Manuva take a quantum leap towards mainstream recognition. Quietly, and without the hype of the likes of Dizzee Rascal, Roots Manuva has made the most important British hip hop album of the millennium so far. Rodneys everywhere should be proud.
Read more of Greg’s reviews at Swing Batter Batter!