Categorising Roots Manuva has never been an easy thing to do. While he is undoubtedly, broadly, a hip-hop artist, the 43 year-old spans and transcends the genre like no other. His own comparisons to Mark Rothko are entirely just.
The latest album, 'Bleeds', is a prime example of the diversity that Rodney Smith brings to the table. Packed within the confines of this concise 10-track record - Roots' sixth studio album - are tinges of techno, reggae, funk, neo-classical and trip-hop, merged together and underpinned by hip-hop to create what the man himself calls, "liquid soul, the blood, the bleeds that paint infinite sacred wonders in our dreams and unfold in our day-to-day".
Various avenues are explored throughout this album, with fresh production from up-and-comer Fred, as well as heavyweights Adrian Sherwood, With You (Switch's new production team) and Four Tet - the latter offering up the most psychedelic beat of a very spiritual first half of the record on 'Facety 2:11'.
Lyrically, four years of virtual silence has not dampened Roots Manuva's penchant for the weird and the wonderful. The humour is still there too, albeit slightly withdrawn to make way for a more calculated approach to matters of political and social analysis on tracks such as album opener, 'Hard Bastards' (Things are getting bleak, we ain't seen the worst/Kids are having kids, kids that will never work/Grandad never worked, daddy never worked now three generation don't give a shit about work), and 'One Thing'.
Paranoia and eeriness - common traits on albums since '99s debut, 'Brand New Second Hand'- can also be found here on a trio of tracks: 'Stepping Hard', 'Crying' and 'I Know Your Face'.
The album title and the meaning behind it, an "egocentric jest of daring to do things in the tradition of Jesus: I'm ready to bleed for the artform" is a poignant one and tells us everything we need to know about of the UK's foremost wordsmiths. Bleeds is a work of passion; for the craft and for the art of music - a passion that shows no sign of diminishing.
While perhaps not the ideal entry point to the world of Roots Manuva, Bleeds is an impressive effort that consolidates Big Dada's finest as a true UK hip-hop legend.
Bleeds is available to download now from the following outlets:
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