|Roots Manuva's first appearance on wax was way back in 1990|
Why should Collectors of UK Hip-Hop desire the vinyl offerings of Rodney Smith? Hmm well... not only is Roots Manuva one of the very few "UK Hip Hop" artists from the 90s who has managed to break out of the narrow "UK Hip Hop" classification and gain genuine cross-over recognition from critics who wouldn't usually touch our music with a barge pole, he is also one of the few artists who has managed to do it in a way that hasn't alienated a scene notorious for turning it's collective back on artists who they deem as having sold-out. How has he achieved that? Simple, he hasn't sold out!
|Since '99 The LPs have just kept coming... |
but what came before?
So after appreciating the above I applied this simple process of vinyl collecting mathematics to Mr Manuva... (Truly original and relatively popular artist with a strong following originating from a music scene with an innate appreciation for vinyl records) + (large back catalogue of vinyl records often pressed in fairly limited quantities) = (the theory that early/rare Roots Manuva vinyl records would one day shoot up in value and become highly collectable thus validating my possession of them and giving me a warm fuzzy feeling inside!). Then, in Spring 2007, I was perusing the pages of a freshly delivered HHC when I came across an article by a rap-journo with a fondness for the Homegrown that caught my eye.
|Ancient Britain HHC 211, May 2007|
As an avid but often mystified reader of James McNally's Ancient Britain I was excited by the realisation that for once I recognised the subject of the article. In said article, McNally served up a feast of information that for a geeked out Roots Manuva fan with a vinyl addiction and completist tendencies generated a little too much excitement to handle. The result - a lot of time spent trying to find five tricky-to-track slabs of wax, all bearing various pseudonyms relating to Lord Gosh himself - Mr Rodney Smith. All five releases hit the record shops before Manuva dropped the 1999 classic LP - Brand New Second Hand and, when listened to one after another, beautifully chart the development of one of scenes most loved recording artists.
|Stupid Fresh Vol 2: Roots TDA vinyl debut|
As with the 1992 Blak Twang debut talked about elsewhere on this blog - the missing link to the puzzle is Victor Redwood Sawyer aka VRS (who would later go on to become the 2nd member of Blak Twang back when the name referred to a duo not just Tony Rotten as it is now). I don't know all the ins and outs but the schoolmates formed a group with another friend and called themselves Touchdown Alliance. They cut a track and managed to get it on an obscure 1990 UK rap compilation on Warrior Records called Stupid Fresh Volume 2.
The album itself looks like an early Wax incarnation of what Disorda did with his Mind the Gap tape series - a load of tracks commissioned with the help of an HHC advert from a series of unknown rap groups, put together with the aim of getting them exposure. Whilst many of the names on the back will have drifted into obscurity, Manuva certainly isn't one of them. The notes on the back of the LP could still apply today, describing the group as... "hitting hard from the Southside with a sound all of their own. With their own production company, Safe Sound Productions, they blend together Reggae, Street Soul, Swing Beat and of course Rap."
|R.Smith in full effect for the 1st time|
Touchdown Alliance: "It's Our Time" (1990 Warrior Records)
|IQ Procedue 12" on MC Duke's Bluntly Speaking|
All four tracks on the EP are ill in their own right. It all kicks off with the original version of "Run Tings" and the beat is nice enough in 93-Pete Rock-Large Pro-influenced-jazz-funk-loop-kind-of-way, but things really pick up with the stripped down industrial sounding Southside Relick of the same track that follows on side A. The bass heavy metalic beat and the husky "rude bwoy - liiick" chant give the the track a properly grimey London feel and the ragga vocals of the other emcees only add to make it the earliest example of the sound we would later hear Roots develop and modernise - not least on Slime and Reason.
|Released on MC Duke's Bluntly Speaking Label|
IQ Procedure EP (1994 Bluntly Speaking):
Run Tings (Southside Relick) / Can U Get With This / Big It UP
|Front cover of the Sound of Money 12"|
|And on the back Roots in Stockwell Station|
Roots Manuva: Next Type of Motion (12" Remix) / Raw Uncut (1995 Sound of Money)
|Label track-listing is incorrect "That Side" |
should read "Fever", "Fever Instrumental"
Roots Manuva: Fever (1996 Wayward 12" Version)
|A straight up must have for any fans of Mr Smith|
Skitz alongside Roots Manuva: Blessed Be The Manner / Where My Mind is At (1996 Ronin 12")
Peace, love and happy hunting,