Roots Manuva – 4everevolution

written by: November 8, 2011
Release Date: October 10th, 2011


In the 13 years since Roots Manuva’s debut album Brand New Secondhand, the British hip-hop scene has warped and wobbled toward an ever more uncertain gentrification. The two most famous modern examples, Mike Skinner aka The Streets (although he’s technically classified as “garage”) and Lady Sovereign both made the coastal jump, concurrently falling apart under a weight that neither knew what to do with. Manuva, along with Dizzee Rascal, represents the old guard, the Talib Kweli or Common of the Brit-rap scene, fending off promising upstarts such as Giggs or the decidedly Manuva-like Wretch 32. And while Manuva has maintained a much lower profile than his American parallel, his newest record, 4everevolution, recalls Common in both good and bad ways, leading to a product that, like most, pales in comparison to his own older work and the contemporary work of his challengers.

The album is foremost an unfortunately confounding beast to dive into. Considering its almost-too-abhorrent-to-mention album title, the record is a monstrous 17 tracks, with nary a contrived skit to break up the mass. Only slightly more than an hour, 4everevolution isn’t impossible to absorb, but its lack of center or cohesion gives the unneeded impression of heft, something that could be simply remedied with some timely editing. While none of the songs are abject failures or missed opportunities, a large middle section containing five songs shorter than or just at three minutes never gets time to gel together. Instead, it functions as a discomforting grab bag of sounds Manuva was trying to complete but never got the chance to. Roots’ best efforts bubble up when he’s allowed to let a sound develop, like the dark-rap “Revelation” or the (yes) slightly chiptune-y “In the Throes of It.” Roots’ verse typically falls under the realm of philosophizing about real life, and his metered approach pays off when the tracks last longer. He’s also remained adept at blending dancehall and funk into the mix, primarily on the slightly-too-coy “Wha Mek” or the Michael Jackson ripping “Watch Me Dance.”

Roots is still on his game lyrically, even if his style can seem a little archaic now that many Brit-hop artists have taken notes and improved on the formula.

His deliveries still trend positively toward the slow-roll, letting his wordplay unfurl slowly, revealing moderate levels of cleverness that most of his younger peers can’t match yet. Even if he does roll out dud bars while doing a convincing 50 Cent impression (the bit conflating his girlfriend and his internet habits on “Too Much Plush” feels particularly uninspired), Roots still possesses the lyrical dexterity to mold himself to whatever dark Brit beat comes his way. The overall theme of the beats on the record trends too disjointing, struggling under the massive track weight to bring together chiptune, brit-hop, dancehall and straight rap together into something whole. When he does hit, the results are immediately satisfying. Examples include “The Path,” a midtempo pop tune with a Kate Nash soundalike for a chorus, or a riders slow burn with “Revelation.”

Roots Manuva’s Common affliction may be the disease that does him in, albeit on a much smaller scale considering the Brit audience. While he still has meaningful things to say, his struggle to adapt his style to a modern audience, exemplified here by his inability to make a compelling short-playing LP or short-playing singles, are making him feel dated. While that date doesn’t necessarily have to breed cantankerousness in a way akin to Nas’ poor aging process, Roots Manuva and his “Keep Calm, Carry On” rap persona on 4everevolution feel tried, if relatively appeasing.

Roots Manuva – 4everevolution tracklist:

  1. “First Growth”
  2. “Here We Go Again”
  3. “Skid Valley”
  4. “Who Goes There?”
  5. “Watch Me Dance”
  6. “Revelation”
  7. “Wha’ Mek?”
  8. “Takes Time To”
  9. “Beyond This World”
  10. “Go Champ”
  11. “Get the Get”
  12. “Crow Bars”
  13. “In the Throes of It”
  14. “Noddy”
  15. “Much Too Plush”
  16. “The Path”
  17. “Banana Skank”