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.


The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.