Artist: Roots ManuvaTitle: Awfully DeepRating: 4 StarsReviewed by: Conan Milne
Firstly, lets kill all of the inevitable comparisons between British and American artists dead in their tracks. The fact is that someones location doesnt determine whether or not he or she is a talented MC. Enter Roots Manuva. The British/Jamaican hip-hopper returns with his third album Awfully Deep (Big Dada) and, in doing so, proves that good music transcends such supposed limitations as where youre situated.
The album opens in typically crazed fashion with Mind 2 Motion. Although Roots instruction for the ladies and gents to shake your skirt, and pants respectively, will lead some to view the track as a club cut, it nonetheless features dark undertones. Examples include the rappers pleading for forgiveness from his sinny sin sins and his desire to shake away the hurt. The occasionally bleak instrumental courtesy of Lord Gosh perfectly fits such subject matter and helps display Roots split personality as both a complex MC and troubled soul. But the following cut serves as one of the best: Awfully Deep sees Manuva exploring his own sanity, with the afore-mentioned Gosh providing spaced-out production (complete with barely audible shrieks) that compliments Manuvas crazed lyrics. I cant get no sleep, he booms on the chorus, before admitting that his mental health is back on the line again. Roots poignant lyrics in this song (he even discusses his experiences with crooked doctors and kinky nurses) are nothing short of gripping.
However, some might deem both Cause 4 Pause and Pause 4 Cause filler due to their abrupt length in an album that is merely fourteen tracks long. Despite these potential negatives, Cause 4 Pause is followed by Colossal Insight, which, as the name suggests, gives the listener a greater view into the mind of such a unique artist. How often do you hear a rapper profess that they should cut down this drinking and too many late nights? Pause 4 Cause, meanwhile, leads into Move Ya Loin, a relatively straightforward cut with an overly sparse stringed production which, frustratingly, only picks up near the songs end and during the cuts repetitive chorus. The track withstands as one of the select downsides to the album.
Hes hailed in the UK as the savior of the British rap scene, but Roots dismisses this by rhyming that he doesnt give a damn about UK rap, before adding Im a UK black making UK tracks. These lyrics alone show that Roots is a peerless artist who defies being pigeon-holed by the media and industry. His bizarre style will doubtless put off some, but those who persevere with Awfully Deep are in for a masterwork in worldwide Hip-hop.