If there’s one artist that can be held up as a prime example of ignoring the lure of fame and fortune, but instead simply doing what he loves, it’s Rodney Smith.
The throaty 39-year-old MC has now relocated to Sheffield from South London and his fifth album proper sees him continue his habit of poking his frazzled, weed-addled head up from the underground to bang out an eclectic LP that stitches in all the usual bits and pieces from his record collection – while throwing in plenty of new quirks and influences.
While 2008’s Slime & Reason – a stone-cold classic – saw Rodney reverse-somersault into his own murky mind and wind up propped at the bar in a dark state of mind, 4everevolution takes a more scattergun approach to its subject matters.
On ‘Here We Go Again’, Manuva extols the virtues of a solid education over a lurching beat and supremely catchy chorus, ‘Skid Valley’ is a damning indictment of his broken home nation, while ‘Revelation’ (strings ’n’ Cash Money nods), ‘Takes Time’ (unnervingly, woozily brilliant) and ‘Much Too Plush’ (funk, on a whole new level) are crisply produced gems with Roots bouncing skilfully off the bleeps and bumps in his usual phlegmy, perfectly paced manner. Like Wu Tang’s Method Man, he always seems a half second behind, yet he makes it every time.
There are a few missteps, such as the lazy ‘Watch Me Dance’ or the slightly irritating ramble of ‘Get The Get’, but with 17 tracks, there’s always something decent around the corner.
A behind-the-scenes video clip of Manuva and Joe Goddard, as they recorded the thumping track ‘Capsize’ earlier this year with DELS, showed Roots demanding the beat be bigger, and the tune more inspirational, before he can even begin to rhyme. He needed to feel it. And, as he approaches his 40th birthday, it’s obvious Rodney still feels it.