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"This is my money, this is my pain. These are my drugs, this is my brain and it's never gonna be the same." - Roots Manuva
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This man hurts like the truth - Time Out

Rodney Hylton Smith was born and grew up in Stockwell, South London. His parents hailed from a small Jamaican village called Banana Hole. Smith's father was a preacher with the Pentecostal Church and his upbringing was very strict with his parents strongly disapproving of his interest in hip hop and reggae. His family was not wealthy, giving rise to the phrase "brand new second hand" to characterise some of the presents he received. Smith could not stay away from hip hop and he listened in secret to artists like Rakim.

In 1999, after four years rapping, Smith dropped his first album, Brand New Second Hand. Whilst not a huge chart hit the album was extremely well received by the music press. In a country almost devoid of successful native hip hop artists Smith was seen as a prophet of a new sound. He made no attempts to emulate the American sound and wove a refreshingly London line with his lyrics. Regarded as the "saviour of British Hip-Hop" Smith's was branded by the Independent as "The most significant and original new voice in Hip Hop". With this one album Smith proved that hip hop need not be simply translated to trip hop for UK artists.

Smith followed up the LP by working with a variety of big names, including Leftfield, Skitz, Mr Scruff, Mica Paris, 23 Skidoo and Pharoahe Monch. In August 2001 Smith released his second effort, Run Come Save Me, along with the single Witness (1 hope). Witness climbed the UK charts, in part thanks to its imaginative video in which Smith returns to his primary school and presents a trophy to be given to the winner of the school sports day. However he then proceeds to take part in the events, wins the egg and spoon race, grabs the trophy and scarpers in his Ferrari! The album has done well and has received more critical acclaim. However some reviewers have been disappointed with a more US flavour to the record.

In September 2002 Smith showed us another string to his bow with a reworking of tracks from his second LP entitled Dub Come Save Me along with some new material. He proves that on top of his lyrical skills he can manipulate turntables to good effect and has the vision to expand his tracks in new directions. A lot of the songs are almost unrecognisable from the originals. The LP features guest appearances from Chali 2na of Jurassic 5 and Lord Gosh. It is not really an album intended to acheive popular success as the original did, more his own chance at experimentation and show off some tracks that never made it through the original cut.

On the whole Smith has managed to stay true to his London roots despite criticisms to the contrary. He refused a record deal from Sony, choosing to stay with Big Dada, an offshoot of Coldcut's Ninja Tunes. Of the deal Smith said,

"I wanted to sign, but to be able to still use the expertise from Ninja but the deal was a straight buy-out or nothing. I'd just got a good working relationship going and I didn't want to start all over again. Mind you, that was my staunchly idealistic period. If it came up again I'd take the money and run. Hargh Hargh!! Now I'm sitting here rubbing the pennies together going, `Bloody hell, I could have signed for Sony!"

As a Londoner myself I appreciate Smith's refreshing angle on hip hop and he proves that MCs can succeed in the UK away from the acursed UK Garage scene. His accent and lyrics immediately displace you to Brixton market or Peckham high street - an unusual feeling when listening to any record. Smith is a man who has mastered a unique blend of UK influenced hip hop styles and combined them to excellent effect.


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Dicography

Brand New Second Hand, Big Dada Records - 1997

"Brand New Second Hand shows that international hip-hop need not mimic that of the States in order to compete" - Justin Hampton, Amazon.com reviewer

"A clarion call for UK MCs to give up emulating US styles and focus on home-grown vibes" - Paul Sullivan, Amazon.com reviewer

"It should be mandatory for anyone with even a passing interest in hip hop culture to check out a bit of Roots-Fi Boogie" - DJ magazine
  1. movements
  2. dem phonies
  3. juggle tings proper
  4. inna
  5. soul decay
  6. baptism
  7. strange behaviour
  8. big tings gwidarn
  9. sinking sands
  10. wisdom fall
  11. clockwork
  12. cornmeal dumpling
  13. fever
  14. oh yeah
  15. motion 5000

Run Come Save Me, Big Dada Records - 2001

It's vulnerable and absolutely real, with a totally English attitude which sets it apart from almost any other hip hop act you can name - NME

Run Come Save Me sounds like a rip-off of New York-style hip-hop with an energy that seems more contrived than anything else - John Bush, AMG
  1. no strings
  2. bashment boogie
  3. witness
  4. join the dots
  5. ital
  6. kicking the cack
  7. dub styles
  8. trim body
  9. artical
  10. hol' it up
  11. stone the crows
  12. sinny sin sins
  13. evil rabbit
  14. swords in the dirt
  15. highest grade
  16. dreamy days

Dub Come Save Me, Bid Dada Records - 2002

It's the rare dub/remix album that even comes close to the original; Dub Come Save Me nearly trumps the last one - John Bush, AMG
Like everything Mr Manuva turns his hand to, Dub Come Save Me is weirdly sophisticated, and serves as an essential companion to the original long player - Paul Sullivan, Amazon
  1. Man Fi Cool
  2. Highest Grade Dub
  3. Revolution 5 feat. Chali 2na
  4. Styles Dub
  5. Tears
  6. Dream Days SFA Dub
  7. The Lynch
  8. Brand New Dub
  9. UK Warriors
  10. Witness Dub

amazon.com
rootsmanuva.net
allmusic.com

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