Roots Manuva: Slime & Reason
Big Dada

Slime & Reason, Roots Manuva's fourth opus, is a fresh mix of bleepy synthesizer flourishes and head-spinning beats that blend hip-hop, ragga, dubstep, and funk, with the crowning touch, of course, Rodney Smith's distinctive vocal swagger. Potent hooks abound on the freewheeling, fourteen-song set (e.g., the hypnotic title chant of “Do Nah Bodda Mi” and the roller-coaster synth riff in “Do 4 Self”), and the music itself spans decades by merging funky hip-hop and rootsy, lo-fi dub into an arresting fusion.

The fifty-five-minute collection bolts from the gate with the blissfully skanky anthem “Again & Again” whose sing-song chorus quickly burrows into your skull and whose combination of infectious chant and bass-heavy groove makes for an irresistible four-minute intro. Soon after, a dubstepping lurch powers “Kick Up Ya Foot” and a burning synth swarm and a testifying Smith go toe-to-toe on “It's Me Oh Lord.” The album also features production work by Toddla T and Metronomy alongside Roots Manuva's own: prodded by a beautiful funk bass figure, Metronomy's “Let the Spirit” is invigorated by classic horn lines and a seductive electro-funk groove while “Buff Nuff” (one of three Toddla T tracks) brings loose-limbed swing to the release.

The album's mood isn't always so carefree. The lurching head-nodder “C.R.U.F.F.” paints a gloomy picture (“Way too much hurt and too much conflict”) while things turn serious on the electro-dub dirge “The Show Must Go On” when rootsy vocalizing expresses resignation (“You made me cry / with all your troubles and trials / Seems like we wasted all our time / trying to make it in this life”) while Smith recounts his own laundry list of regrets (“It was never my intention to be hurtin' you / and when you check it out who was hurtin' who?”). Such dramatic moments are rare, however, and they hardly drag down the mood of an otherwise spirited set.

October 2008