I have never understood why Roots Manuva doesn’t get the widespread acclaim that he so richly deserves.
Roots aka Rodney Smith is nothing short of a lyrical genius. His rhythmic alliterative bittersweet pen portraits of UK life should be essential listening for anyone with a half decent music collection. Indeed if I had my way they’d be taught on the national curriculum.
Tonight’s gig at London’s Roundhouse is the final date of the UK tour in support of Roots’ latest album 4Everevolution, a 17-track return to form that’s had the critics cooing their approval. The South London born rapper has never been one to stick to a particular musical vein and this time around he embraces everything from dubstep to dancehall and techno. Here We Go Again, the latest single off the album, kicks off tonight’s show - a bass shuddering techno-laced track that sets the tone for the evening.
Roots effortlessly commands the stage, sporting a dapper hat and long coat – fitting attire for his quitessentially English take on rap. And rather than just shouting out the rhymes over a DJ as lesser rap acts might do, he’s playing in front of a tight live band who appear to be having just as much fun as him. The dreadlocked bass player thrashes his locks around while the drummer’s merciless beats adds an extra crisp punch to the tunes.
Tonight’s setlist weaves in stand out tracks from the new album – a killer version of Get The Get in particular is lapped up by the crowd – alongside favourites from his extensive back catalogue.
The biggest cheer of the night is when the opening “well, well, well…” of Witness (1 hope) rings out. Root’s biggest hit to date still sounds as fresh tonight as did a decade ago – an all time classic tune that still brings the house down.
Roots showcases his many different moods from the brooding, reflective man on the edge Too Cold with its “sometimes I hate myself, sometimes I love myself” chorus to the easy skanking upbeat Again and again. Anyone who feels that rap has to be synonymous with guns bitches and bling would be severely disappointed.
The one downside for me was Dreamy days which didn’t seem to work as well live but maybe that’s because I imagine it played with a full string section. Now there’s a thought – Roots Manuva with live band alongside a full orchestra? That would be something.