If you've read any of the speculation surrounding Awfully Deep
, you'll be aware that this is the down album from beleaguered Brit-Jamaican rapper Roots Manuva, a troubled work where he battles with the twin demons of depression and mental illness. Luckily, hard times can't entirely keep a good man like Rodney Smith down: barely two minutes into the bashed-up dub-hop of "Mind 2 Motion," he's already exhorting his audience to "Swing your pants!/ Swing your skirt!/ Shake away the hurt!" in an effort to keep the black dog from his door.
And truly, this is a long dark night of the soul: on the excellent "Colossal Insight," Smith turns to God to save his sanity; on pitch-black soul number "The Falling," he's lost in an apocalyptic reverie, fantasizing about smuggling hand-grenades onto an airplane. But luckily, Smith is agreeably incapable of presenting his predicament without moments of dark levity: see the title track, which recalls a stint at a mental hospital populated by "crooked doctors and kinky nurses." A man who dispatches the Reaper with a nudge and a wink, Roots Manuva remains one of British hip-hop's most potent forces. --Louis Pattison