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Roots Manuva
Duppy Writer Colin McKean , September 21st, 2010 06:51

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A friend of mine recently postulated the theory that if you do the same thing for long enough people will eventually notice and you'll be revered for it. It could be called the theory of consistency. Or predictability. Or monotony. This is palpably bollocks.

The records that comprise Rodney Smith's career (even disregarding assorted dub versions, remixes and obscurities) are not consistent, predictable or monotonous.

There was the raw Brand New Second Hand. Then there was Run Come Save Me with 'Witness (1 Hope)', a track so colossal it would always overshadow the album that bore it, no matter how good the album was. Awfully Deep was unbearably bleak. And in 2008 Smith went pop, after a fashion, with Slime & Reason.

The latter contained some glorious moments and was engaging where its predecessor had been morose. But despite this, Slime & Reason sounds patchy in retrospect, due in part to the number of producers involved. For Duppy Writer, Roots Manuva has recruited only one, and in Wrongtom (perhaps previously best known as Hard-Fi's tour DJ) he may have found the perfect foil.

From 'Butterfly Crab Walk' onwards Smith sounds as self-assured as he ever has, and the early pace doesn't let up from the bouncing bass and stentorian rhythm of 'Chin Up' to the hypnotic burbling of 'Big Tings Done'. "Squeeze my lime/ put the pep in my pepper", he spits on the magnificent 'Worl' A Mine', continuing with, "sing a song of sixpence a pocket full of rice an' peas/I'm hated by those clone MCs." Indeed, in terms of his ability to turn a phrase inside out with a well-placed non sequitur, Smith's pretty much in a class of his own.

"No need to despair", our hero refrains as the breezy 'Lick Up Ya Foot' disperses the skunky paranoia of 'Jah Warriors' and 'Proper Tings Juggled', before Wrongtom's effervescent refix of Toddla's 'Buff Nuff'. The whomping bass of the penultimate and relatively minimal 'Son of Bodda' seems designed to loosen fillings and make the bass bins clack. And on closer 'Motion 82', like a stoned Robin Hood, Smith raps, "I bring dues for the masses to share/ I fights down greed 'cos there's masses to spare."

Consistency in itself isn't a particularly inspiring attribute. Duppy Writer is consistent only in its artfulness, benevolence and generosity.

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Sep 21, 2010 4:49pm

You do realise that this actually a dub spanning Roots Manuva's career by Wrongtom rather than a new album with Wrongtom as producer? Only that isn't clear from the review. Also no mention of the fact that this a real dub trainspotter's album covering the many styles of dub from the past 30 years or so. It's decent but not quite as good as Dub Come Save Me imho, which was patchy but shot through with absolute genius.

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Sep 22, 2010 10:46am

In reply to Simon:

I disagree. I think this is far better, and really quite a different album in both scope and delivery, to 'Dub Come Save Me'.

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Simon Young
Sep 22, 2010 4:34pm

Great album. Simultaneously looking both forwards and backwards. And very accessible. Overall, far, far better than Dub Come Save Me, which had F-all to do with Roots Manuva, Reggae or Dub and is frankly unlistenable.

Stay Bless!

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Oct 4, 2010 6:10pm

Been following Tom's output for a good few years, he's a talented chap. Check out Stoneleigh Mountain Rockers for more goodness. As such, him as fader-rider for Roots couldn't fail but be fucking splendid.

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