Throwback: One of the UK's greatest artists, Roots Manuva & 'Witness'
The legend Roots Manuva was a unique artist that seemed to seep talent. One such record that shows this is the infamous ‘Witness’.
His second studio album, Run Come Save Me, received a great deal of props for its style, sound and confident musical delivery. NME’s Alex Needham (2001) stated that it was Brit-rap’s finest hour to date and “It's vulnerable and absolutely real, with a totally English attitude which sets it apart from almost any other hip-hop act you can name.” Whilst BBC Music’s Christian Hopwood (2002) felt that “this album should be lauded for its degree of musical invention and individual approach to the genre”.
I feel that I just missed the impact of this music and sound, yet discovered it years after. However, like those I know, if you were there during these days, a part of you feels addicted to Manuva’s melodies and the songs are forever buried in your memory.
‘Witness’ launches into the listener’s, now hooked, auditory cortices, through deep, large, upfront bass. A bass that is now familiar to only this song, and presumably one that had not been heard before. Instantaneously, you know exactly what track is playing as the squelching movement of the bass ushers in the light, funky drum kit. The instrumental is pretty much that, though during the verse the bass does switch up to something less alien and more ‘reese-type’. Simple yet extremely effective, this allows all focus on the main man Manuva.
Like much of the album he is real, honest, every-day and factual in his delivery. We hear him touch on daily activities, “Breakneck speed we drown ten pints of bitter”; real shit, “I sit here contending with this cheese on toast”; judgement, “It's him scumbag, scum of the earth, his worth was nil. Until he gained the skill of tongues”; rebellion, “Set the spirit dem loose, go head go slash up the noose”; self-assurance, “We don't give a frigg about what dem fools think”; respect and maturity, “Idiot weakhearts want to take I for chief. Stoop to their level and we plotting cold grief. But we should know that discipline maketh the gees”.
Yet most fascinating is his lyrical ability that kicks you right aside the head with the first bar: “Taskmaster burst the bionic zit-splitter.”