Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Roots Manuva -- 'Buff Nuff'

Warning: this post contains several lax opinions I'll probably regret tomorrow!



So, 'Buff Nuff' -- is this goofy party jam Roots' 'Dance Wiv Me'/'Wearing My Rolex'? Well, maybe. Like those songs it sees a normally hyper-conflicted UK MC play it for laughs, but unlike those songs there's little chance of it bothering the top ten. Cos for all that it's silly and conspicuously carefree, it's still every bit as incongruous, slimy and weird as its ice-cream themed video. Which is good -- sometimes it's fun to listen to music that doesn't quite fit in anywhere.

What amuses me here is that Roots' measured, almost mathematically precise delivery means that his particular brand of combative/playfully self-doubting rhetoric can easily fit into a classic banger. See, for example, the legendary 'Witness (1 Hope)':



Now both Dizzee and Wiley are capable of rhyming on top of party tunes, and while I don't think either of their recent successes are their best work, both of those hits certainly get people moving in a club. For this listener, however, both grime MCs are at their best when they're almost tripping over themselves in an attempt to justify or explain themselves. Of course, the frantic delivery this style requires wouldn't really work in the context of a big pop tune, which is why I'm more interested in 'I Luv U' or 'My Mistakes' than 'Dance Wiv Me' or 'Wearing My Rolex'.

What about Roots Manuva then? Where does he fit in here? Well... he doesn't. Every track on his new album, Slime & Reason, has a far stronger melodic throughline than your average hip-hop number, but as a set of songs it still makes for pretty relentless listening. Roots is constantly questioning his own self-worth, bigging himself up on one verse only to cut himself down on the next. Sometimes he seems to find redemption in the choruses ('Let The Spirit'), but as often or not they only express a sort of battered acceptance ('The Show Must Go On') so you can't rely on the hooks to save you. Plus there's also the fact that the pleasure of the verses is so often in the specific verbal or sonic details. Which leaves Roots as a beautiful oddity, a strong songwriter whose work is nevertheless a bit too gloomy and intensive to easily gain true mass appeal. But hey, fuck it! The music's still good and the words are still strong, so let's just hope he keeps on going.

Anyway, that's enough of that. Need to stop typing before my words get too slimy. Mmmmmm.... slime.

Coming soon: a brief post on the first two issues of The Eternals (Kirby version), the fifth part of my series on The Filth, and maybe a wee link post if I can get my thoughts together.

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