Now, with his third album, he has made the best record of his career, 51 minutes of pure ingenuity, real thought, genuine engagement. When Roots Manuva called his album 'Awfully Deep' he wasn't necessarily talking about how profound it was or how profound he was. He just happens to believe that life is deep, that music is deep. Big Dada. 2005.
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