Roots Manuva – 4everevolution | Album Review

A reference point for many emerging emcees as well as many connoisseurs within the fourth estate, the UKs Rodney ‘Roots Manuva’ Smith shows no sign of retiring to the background to merely live off the compliments and reminisce on the good old days. Ever recording and performing, the veteran lyricist’s abstract way with words and his slumber-esque flow have mesmerised (and baffled) the public for over a decade, bridging the gaps between Hip Hop, Ska and Reggae. Having seen the days of Jungle, Garage and Trip Hop pass by, 4everevolution, Roots’ eighth studio album aims to show that it can still stand out from the dominant sounds of the younger, shinier urban superstars flooding the charts.

Now sounding like the aged veteran which he is now looked upon as, Roots’ sleepy drawl channels a more studious and wiser tone than previously. ‘First Growth’ pens the liberation found in growing up over a slow burning electro production. Much like his previous endeavours, Mr Smith again embarks on lyrical journeys through murky basslines and distorting warbles, as the soundtrack is composed of a variety of distorted bounces. “Here We Go Again” is provided with a gentle stepping riddim which acts as the pallet for Manuva to transcribe a tale of a friend who has taken the wrong path.

The south London poet has always had a socio-conscious ear but 4everevolution sees him fully don a political demeanour – playing social commentator on everything which resides in suburbia. “Skid Valley” echoes a House of Commons like damning of politicians; raising the issues of private schooling, the NHS and the abundance of fast food chicken shops which are dominant in the working class areas.

Sounding similar to Professor Green‘s smash “Jungle,” “Revelation” embraces the familiar dark tones which the charting single carried whilst the veteran emcee utters wisdom as to whether ones legacy in life consisted of good deeds or selfish acts. Not one to stand on a soapbox for too long, there are plenty of lighter moments to break up the public enquiry format of 4everevolution. UK DJ/producer Toddla T jumps on the boards to concoct the rudeboy-meets-hipster anthem “Watch Me Dance,” which offers wicked, nonchalant vibes of moving on the floor.

Listen: Roots Manuva – “Watch Me Dance”

“Wha’ Mek” adds a Caribbean tinge to the overcast sounds with steel drums clanging in sync to Manuva’s monotonous drones of love and happiness whereas the contrasting “Go Champ” will do well to gravitate to the raver crowd, as its raucous arrangements and simple chorus results in an anthem made to go wild for. Whilst the album title would suggest such carefree tracks have no place being on board such a project, these tracks do well to break up the intense tones which dominate Roots’ latest outing.

The 17-track LP at times falls short of leading a political revolution, rather instead inspiring his free living followers to deliberate on more pressing issues when not intoxicated on the fun aspects of life. On his eighth outing, Roots Manuva still proves he has the ability to compose an album which warrants as much praise for its quality rather than his past legacy. Playing the street scholar with confidence rather than a forced conviction, 4everevolution engages with many issues which would relegate many an artist to the “conscious rap” bracket, made engaging by Manuva’s trademark witticisms and vocal character.

Although the revolutionist theme begins to wear thin midway through, the charm and poetic stanzas of the acclaimed performer carries the rest of the album all the way to a satisfactory end. Coming at a time when the recent riots in the UK have yet again led to claims of Hip Hop’s supposed negativity, 4everevolution not only acts as a counter to the simplistic accusations, but also provides the voice of reason which has been long sought after by many who are weary of the genre tip toeing around life’s bigger issues.

Roots Manuva – 4everevolution
Released: September 26, 2011
Label: Big Dada
Buy: iTunes / Amazon