Roots Manuva’s style has never fit into the UK grime hip-hop
scene, but he’s never intended it to. Manuva’s playbook draws much more from
American rap music, as well as dub, reggae, ska, funk, and punk, than
contemporaries like Dizzee Rascal and Kano. All of these influences are on
display on his new album, 4everevolution,
a sprawling affair that at an hour long could stand for some fat trimming.
Still, there are moments of flash and steady talent, such as
“Who Goes There,” a track built upon a reggae beat and a warbling synth line.
Manuva’s deep voice always lends his words authority, whether he’s speaking to
social ills or simply crafting a party jam. He tends to lean towards the
former, with better results. “Watch Me Dance” rides a synth-laden dance beat
over and over while Manuva tries his hand at singing. The man doesn’t need or
use Auto Tune, a commendable feat in pop music, but he raps better than he
croons. And you can find his singing all over the album, most prominently on a
song like “The Throes Of It.” Over what sounds like live instrumentation,
Manuva eschews hip-hop almost entirely to produce an experimental electronic
rock song, complete with upper register harmonies and soulful, wailing vocals.
The problem with 4everevolution is that it takes too
long to get to the good moments. Much of the album seems packed with solid but
unmemorable hip-hop tracks, with a uniform sound and production style.
Especially for an American audience, Manuva’s British-meets-Caribbean
sensibility sounds new and refreshing at first. But when played over the course
of the entire record, it begins to lose some of its luster. Roots Manuva has
put out much better albums than this one, and let’s hope this is just a
stumble, not the beginning of a downhill descent.
Throes Of It,” “Go Champ” JONAH FLICKER