Roots Manuva Bio

Roots Manuva (born Rodney Smith in Stockwell, South London, 1972) is a rapper.

Manuva grew up around Stockwell in South London. His parents were from a small village in Jamaica called Banana Hole where his father was a preacher and tailor. Spending much of his early years in poverty, this and his strict Pentecostal upbringing clearly had an influence on his music as can be seen in many of his tracks such as "Sinny Sin Sins" and "Colossal Insight".

A quote from Smith himself sums up his early discovery of music: “I was a kid. Before I even knew what a soundsystem was. I was walking past Stockwell skateboard park and there was this sound being set up. They were probably just trying out their speakers. I was with my mum, holding my mum’s hand. And I remember my mum being quite intimidated by the whole affair. Such a barrage of bass coming from it! And these dodgy-looking blokes standing beside it just admiring the sound of their bass. It’s just a bass thing. A volume thing. I don’t know if I rose-tint the memories, but I remember it sounded so good, so rich. It’s not like today when we go to clubs and it hurts. It was more of a life-giving bass.”

Smith made his recorded debut in 1994 as part of IQ Procedure through Suburban Base’s short-lived hip hop imprint Bluntly Speaking Vinyl. He debuted as Roots Manuva the same year on Blak Twang’s “Queen’s Head” single, before releasing his own single, “Next Type of Motion” the following year through the same label, the hugely influential Sound of Money. 1996 saw the release of his collaborations with Skitz (“Where My Mind Is At”/“Blessed Be The Manner”) on 23 Skidoo’s Ronin label. The release of “Feva” on Tony Vegas’s Wayward imprint followed in 1997. This was also the year that saw the first releases from Big Dada, a collaboration between Coldcut’s Ninja Tune label and hip hop journalist Will Ashon.

Releasing for Coldcut's renowned experimental/hip-hop label Ninja Tune in 1998, some of his music may be seen as a predecessor of grime. The following year he released his fearsome debut album, Brand New Second Hand. A reference to his family's modest lifestyle as a phrase his mother used for presents he often got as a youngster that were pre-used. He had such an impact on the UK rap scene that The Times declared that “his is the voice of urban Britain, encompassing dub, ragga, funk and hip hop as it sweeps from crumbling street corners to ganja-filled dancehalls, setting gritty narratives against all manner of warped beats.” Manuva was rewarded for his breakthrough with a MOBO as Best Hip Hop Act that year.

The lyrics of his songs are usually known to take a distinctly British edge, with many critics highlighting his references of eating cheese on toast and drinking bitter as examples of this. His warm and easily recognizable voice can be heard on many songs he performed with other artists such as Chali 2na (of Jurassic 5 & Ozomatli), DJ Shadow, U.N.K.L.E., Nightmares on Wax, The Cinematic Orchestra, Beth Orton and Leftfield. He also made an appearance on the Gorillaz latest album, Demon Days, lending his distinctive vocals to the track, All Alone.

Roots Manuva's "Witness the Fitness" track was parodied by MC Pitman and renamed; "Witness the Pitness".

Roots Manuva produces much of his own music, under his own name and also under the pseudonyms Lord Gosh and Hylton Smythe.


You may also enjoy KRS One reviewing Roots Manuva Run Come Save Me

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