Tom Silberberg is blown away by a five star show by one of British hip-hop's most influential and respected artists - Roots Manuva

  • Roots Manuva
  • O2 Academy Oxford
  • October 28, 2017

In a society where hip hop music has become associated with material possessions, lust for fame and glorified violence Roots Manuva cuts through like a laser beam.

Roots – known to his family as Rodney Smith – has never been particularly self-publicising and allows his work to speak for him.

He reminds us that, as an art form, hip hop can be used to explore emotional, social, political and philosophical questions.

This can be felt strongly in his music and gives a real feeling that care, passion and consideration has gone into each track.

Rich, deep lyrics combine with seminal electronic music, warm dub beats and a fantastically eclectic use of samples to produce truly unique music that will stay with you long after the first listen.

It’s no wonder that he’s considered one of the titans of black British music.

His gig at the Oxford O2 Academy on Saturday was started by his long-time collaborator Chali 2na – from Jurassic Five – who performed his brand of alternative hip hop admirably in warming the crowd up.

The hall was quiet to begin with but the crowd grew as we approached the headline performance.

Roots Manuva was casual in jeans, a hooded sweatshirt and a bowler hat – he’s not a showy performer but for fans of UK hip hop it was a delectable treat.

With Krafty Kuts on the turntables and two excellent support vocalists the setlist included songs from throughout Roots’s long, prolific career.

Highlights were: Movements, Don’t Breath Out, Fighting For, Stolen Youth and Join the Dots when Chali 2na joined Roots.

Roots was one of the first Brits to speak with his own voice – no fake American accent and attitude – when he made his recording debut in 1994 (the year before I was born).

His most recent album Bleeds (2015) showed a maturity and development in musical production with no loss of the weight of his words.

He made the audience wait for his most popular song Witness (1 Hope) and had the crowd braying for more (sorry about the shouting Roots, I was a bit over-excited!).

From album Run Come Save Me (2001), the song was influential for a host of following British hip-hop, jungle, grime and electric acts.

A more than worthy encore.