Sunday, 9 February 2014

Album of the Week #12

Artist: Roots Manuva
Album: 4everevolution
Year: 2011
Label: Big Dada

A sprawling collection of hip-hop, dubstep, pop, dance and beyond

The album under the spotlight last week was some top notch UK hip-hop from Union Blak. Following in the same vein, this week there's a nod to arguably the name that's been synonymous with the genre since the 90s. It's always refreshing to see elder statesman of the music world releasing high-quality albums late into their careers, and Manuva, now into his third decade as a recording artist, is one such example of this.

13 years ago, Roots Manuva totally shook up the then stale UK hip-hop scene with Run Come Save Me, a stone cold classic that should be mandatory evidence in criminal cases against the state of the genre. For a long time Manuva understandably struggled to reach those same heights again. Until 2011, that is. 4everevolution is a sprawling effort from an artist at the peak of his powers. It's his White Album, his tour de force, the sound of a man totally reinvigorated.

The album effortlessly lurches from genre to genre, and Manuva seems comfortable with each and every style he chooses to adapt. But this album is anything but comfortable- not content with simply dipping into new soundscapes and genres, Manuva launches himself into hip-hop, dubstep, reggae, pop, dance and more with total ease.

The ambition of 4everevolution is quite something, and the name fitting. Manuva teams up with producer Toddla T on the dancefloor filler Watch Me Dance, synthetic steel drums come to the fore on the Caribbean-inflected Wha' Mek? and the pulsing bass behind the dubsteppy Here We Go Again is the perfect backing sound for his typically gritty social commentary.

Breaking the shackles of what is expected of a hip-hop artist is not an easy thing to do. Kanye West is somewhat of a trailblazer in this respect, with his polarizing work amazing and frustrating in equal measure. Manuva clearly holds similar ambitions for his music and he has been rewarded with an album that certainly impresses far more than it frustrates. Although a 17 strong tracklist which clocks in at just over an hour long might put some people off initially, the quality of the work never wavers despite the constant embracing of different genres.

In releasing this album, Roots Manuva cemented his reputation as the leading light in the UK hip-hop scene. A consistently creative, ambitious effort that deserves all the plaudits that comes its way.

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