Roots Manuva: 4everevolution

British rap elder statesman’s sixth proper album offers tight grooves, adequate rhymes, and inherent spottiness.

Roots Manuva


Label: Big Dada
US Release Date: 2011-10-25
UK Release Date: 2011-09-26

Roots Manuva (born Rodney Smith) will turn 40 next year, which isn't a great sign for an artist like him. The English rapper has yet to build a substantial following stateside and has taken a backseat to peers Mike Skinner (of The Streets) and Dizzee Rascal in his homeland. Realistically, his career has probably peaked, and he now has nowhere to go but down. But that doesn’t mean he’s going to let up. Something about him screams that he’s a gamer, and that he plans on sticking around until he physically can’t, or until nobody cares about him anymore. That deserves some respect.

Roots’ sixth proper studio album (and first since 2008‘s Slime & Reason, excluding 2010's Duppy Writer, English DJ Wrongtom’s collection of Roots remixes), 4everevolution, pumps out some seriously tight grooves without sacrificing authenticity or integrity, which is exactly what it aims for. There are some very solid moments here. When the production is really on -- that is, when the perfectly EQ’d drums, wobbly bass lines, and ethereal synths interlock just right, like on “Beyond This World” and “Watch Me Dance” -- Roots doesn’t need to do a whole lot, and that’s something he knows well; he’s very cognizant about recognizing when to blend in with a beat and when to stand out. The dude is a veteran of this rap shit, and it shows.

The subject matter of the album doesn’t quite align with what its title suggests, as any revolution spawned from this will be for the dance floor only. Still, Roots goes pretty hard when he tries. There’s a slew of savor-the-(subtle-)wordplay lines on opener “First Growth”, including these: “Paranoid people are the most annoyed people / Peeping to see who’s a Peeping Tom / News leaks, now we see where the news is from”. That sort of observational reportage is out of the ordinary here, but as long as you’re not expecting any KRS-One-like insight, or even a whole lot of life-affirming lines, from 4everevolution, that shouldn’t be a huge shortcoming.

That’s not to say there aren’t problems here -- there are, and they prevent this from being an exceptional album. The hooks, whether sung by Roots or otherwise, are generally easily forgettable or even futile (see “Wha‘ Mek”, “Crow Bars”). And the production is eclectic, yet cohesive to a fault; too many tracks melt together. A solid 15 minutes could be chipped from this album’s slightly daunting 65-minute running time, and its quality wouldn't be worsened. (Come on, rappers, when are y’all going to figure out that’s usually the case with albums of that ballpark length?) All in all, 4everevolution solidifies Roots' stance as an elder statesman of British rap, but his chance at being an ambassador is fading fast. Is he still a gamer? Absolutely. Verbal virtuoso or visionary? Meh.







Kristin Hersh Discusses Her Gutsy New Throwing Muses Album

Kristin Hersh thinks influences are a crutch, and chops are a barrier between artists and their truest expressions. We talk about life, music, the pandemic, dissociation, and the energy that courses not from her but through her when she's at her best.

Jennifer Kelly

The 10 Best Fleetwood Mac Solo Albums

Fleetwood Mac are the rare group that feature both a fine discography and a successful series of solo LPs from their many members. Here are ten examples of the latter.


Jamila Woods' "SULA (Paperback)" and Creative Ancestry and Self-Love in the Age of "List" Activism

In Jamila Woods' latest single "SULA (Paperback)", Toni Morrison and her 1973 novel of the same name are not static literary phenomena. They are an artist and artwork as galvanizing and alive as Woods herself.


The Erotic Disruption of the Self in Paul Schrader's 'The Comfort of Strangers'

Paul Schrader's The Comfort of Strangers presents the discomfiting encounter with another —someone like you—and yet entirely unlike you, mysterious to you, unknown and unknowable.


'Can You Spell Urusei Yatsura' Is a Much Needed Burst of Hopefulness in a Desultory Summer

A new compilation online pulls together a generous helping of B-side action from a band deserving of remembrance, Scotland's Urusei Yatsura.


Jess Cornelius Creates Tautly Constructed Snapshots of Life

Former Teeth & Tongue singer-songwriter Jess Cornelius' Distance is an enrapturing collection of punchy garage-rock, delicate folk, and arty synthpop anthems which examine liminal spaces between us.


Sikoryak's 'Constitution Illustrated' Pays Homage to Comics and the Constitution

R. Sikoryak's satirical pairings of comics characters with famous and infamous American historical figures breathes new and sometimes uncomfortable life into the United States' most living document.


South African Folk Master Vusi Mahlasela Honors Home on 'Shebeen Queen'

South African folk master Vusi Mahlasela pays tribute to his home and family with township music on live album, Shebeen Queen.


Planningtorock Is Queering Sound, Challenging Binaries, and Making Infectious Dance Music

Planningtorock emphasizes "queering sound and vision". The music industry has its hierarchies of style, of equipment, of identities. For Jam Rostron, queering music means taking those conventions and deliberately manipulating and subverting them.


'History Gets Ahead of the Story' for Jazz's Cosgrove, Medeski, and Lederer

Jazz drummer Jeff Cosgrove leads brilliant organ player John Medeski and multi-reed master Jeff Lederer through a revelatory recording of songs by William Parker and some just-as-good originals.


A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.


The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.


Jaye Jayle's 'Prisyn' Is a Dark Ride Into Electric Night

Jaye Jayle salvage the best materials from Iggy Pop and David Bowie's Berlin-era on Prisyn to construct a powerful and impressive engine all their own.


Kathleen Edwards Finds 'Total Freedom'

Kathleen Edwards is back making music after a five-year break, and it was worth the wait. The songs on Total Freedom are lyrically delightful and melodically charming.


HBO's 'Lovecraft Country' Is Heady, Poetic, and Mangled

Laying the everyday experience of Black life in 1950s America against Cthulhuian nightmares, Misha Green and Jordan Peele's Lovecraft Country suggests intriguing parallels that are often lost in its narrative dead-ends.


Jaga Jazzist's 'Pyramid' Is an Earthy, Complex, Jazz-Fusion Throwback

On their first album in five years, Norway's Jaga Jazzist create a smooth but intricate pastiche of styles with Pyramid.


Finding the Light: An Interview with Kathy Sledge

With a timeless voice that's made her the "Queen of Club Quarantine", Grammy-nominated vocalist Kathy Sledge opens up her "Family Room" and delivers new grooves with Horse Meat Disco.


'Bigger Than History: Why Archaeology Matters'

On everything from climate change to gender identity, archaeologists offer vital insight into contemporary issues.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.