Experimenting With Roots

Roots Manuva

Witness (1 Hope)
Ital Visions
Dreamy Days

from Run Come Save Me (2001, Big Dada Recordings)

When I’ve introduced Americans to UK hiphop I usually send them Roots Manuva or Jehst tracks to begin with. Both are very able lyricists, because when people can look passed accent they can hear that Roots Manuva has a very smooth voice and flow and an untapped flow.

It was 1999 when Roots dropped his debut effort “Brand New Second Hand” which had some very patchy production, some hype and some unlistenable. It’s impossible to categorise Roots Manuva, he frequently crossfades the fine lines of reggae, dub and rap, for example on his track “Dub Styles” from “Run Come Save Me”, he merges styles. Undeniable ability as a rapper, and even on his confusing debut, he wrecked tracks like “Fever”, which is over a jazzy funk sounding beat.

Production wise “Run Come Save Me” is more grounded, if I can describe the occasional wishy-washy synth loop as ‘grounded’. But think for yourself, and think on “Witness(1 Hope)” which is the first of the 3 track standard. With a bassline like a bee-hive and with words like “Let the whole world know, we on some off-key tip”, this track is crazy. Next up is “Ital Visions”, which contains murky sounding keys, and another synthy bassline coated by an operatic loop. There’s a pattern for the beats throughout the album, they are dope, with un-expected components. Another thing which applies throughout the album is the use of hooks. All very catchy, and none more so than “Dreamy Days” – “Dreamy days -La,La,La- Come what may -La,La,La..(etc)”..

Thankfully you can listen for yourself… No rapper is too good for the famous serenade to the un-named female and “Dreamy Days” is Roots Manuva’s attempt. This is the most NORMAL beat of the entire album. Dope strings – probably synthesized.. You can’t doubt his experimentive use of various sounds, if more people tried to stretch the boundaries of sound hiphop would be different from how it is now, and that’s a worldwide issue beyond the UK!!

-Matt B

  1. that’s funny… I thought the beats on brand new… were pretty ill back in day… Roots is cool, I wouldn’t front, but compared to some of the emcees in the UK I think it’s kinda strange… like he went a route true to himself,but ignorant outsiders could assume that he HAD to be ‘different’ to make hip hop in the UK… when there’s so much talent, that doesn’t come in a bashy dubbs influenced format… not that i think that reflects badly on roots, it’s just a shame to me that people could see his more offkey shit as a kind of justification for UK rap…

    this is a nang blog by the way, good to see some like-minded bidniss!


  2. BBoys,
    You guys always come through! Congrats on the SF weekly shout out, by the by! You guys were the first music link on my blog. I happen to be related to some Broke BBoys myself and was wondering if you wouldn’t mind giving their instrumental tracks a listen to and telling me what you think. Many thanks in advance and I appreciate you keepin’ us up on good music. peace,

    • Matt. B
    • October 25th, 2005

    Phundamental, I agree with what you said, about an ‘ignorant outsiders’ view of Roots Manuva, but didn’t consider that for too long… Like someone recently said in response to another post I made, we can’t aim to please ignorance.. Some Americans can’t stand UK hiphop, however good it sounds to us, but if we were to focus on other outsiders to the global hiphop game, like Japan, Oz, Europe, etc, our output would fall on more sympathetic ears.

    What you said about Roots sounding off-key as an attempt to establish himself in the minds of the unaware outsiders, is probably true, I’ve never thought about that..

  3. yeah without a doubt man, you know people need to be aiming for the other markets out there! so many areas in the world are feelin’ it, it seems kinda crazy to just concentrate on a market which aint never really gonna open up…

    • Anonymous
    • October 25th, 2005

    You live in London yourself?

    Maybe they will never break the US ‘market’, but alot of the underground US rappers only have a small cult following, it would be cool if some UK rappers could achieve that same status.. It’s not big money, but good word of mouth is pretty valuable.

    • Matt.B
    • October 25th, 2005

    That was my post^, accidentally clicked anon.

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