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Roots’ two previous albums have been credited with influencing everyone from The Streets to Dizzee Rascal, but Awfully Deep is easily his most consistently worthwhile offering yet
Craig Fitzsimons, 28 Jan 2005
Anyone in their right mind would concede that, aside from the fleeting glories of the Tricky/Massive Attack heyday, British rap and hip hop has had hopelessly little to offer compared to the riches that spill forth from LA and New York. While there’s no obvious sociological explanation for this, it’s nonetheless impossible to escape the fact. It’s hardly a huge exaggeration, in this context, to anoint Stockwell son-of-a-preacher-man Roots Manuva (aka Rodney Smith) as the potential saviour of Britrap.
Roots’ third album, Awfully Deep, fuses a bewilderingly impressive range of styles to concoct threatening, thumping, bass-heavy gangsta beats of the sort you’d sooner not hear on your way down a dark winding South London alley. Vocally, Rodney doesn’t quite have the awesome gravel-throated delivery of a 50 Cent, but there’s moments when he comes arrestingly close.
Lyrically, the usual bitches-and-bling braggadocio is strikingly thin on the ground (Roots drips with social/communal conscience) – but it’s the sonic variety that most consistently impresses, with echoing, cavernous, dense dub soundscapes unafraid to borrow liberally from the better end of the reggae spectrum (one can detect traces of Mikey Dread and Prince Far I), a hint of drum’n’bass, possibly a whiff of ganja, and all manner of electronica going on in the multi-layered background.
Roots’ two previous albums have been credited with influencing everyone from The Streets to Dizzee Rascal, but Awfully Deep is easily his most consistently worthwhile offering yet; if the lyrics sometimes seem awkward or forced, the music invariably backs it up. Settled now with a son, we can righteously hope that he develops even further.