Big Dada – 2001 - 58 minutes

Roots Manuva is a lone wolf, a lyrical rogue trader who skirts the periphery of a genre where ego has more clout than musical competence. The current hip-hop climate - overcast with lame 'reworkings' of regurgitated samples – is desperately seeking a new angle, an innovator who's not all about 'the papers'. Now Rodney Smith aka Roots has stepped from the underground shadows of 1999's 'Brand New Second Hand' classic to remind the braggadocios what real hip-hop is all about.

Although hip-hop is the mainstay of the album, this is a slick hotchpotch of styles, running the musical gamut of Ambient Breakbeat to Zulu stopping off at electronica, funk, ragga and blues in between. 'Bashment Boogie' is ill two-step convalescing on a prescription of electro while the pitched beats and chunky breakbeats of 'Witness (1 Hope)' are riotously funky.

Chali 2Na, Jurassic 5's most distinctive rapper, lends his vocal talents to 'Join the Dots'. The excellent 'Hol' it Up' is not only super catchy, but juxtaposes a brilliant pun about a Chelsea footballer and the cream of UK high-street financial institutions: 'To my boys who hassle banks, like Jimmy Floyd, NatWest TSB, Lloyds and Abbey make some noise'. Genius.

A heady infusion of styles and influences puts Roots Manuva way ahead of the pack. There's a definite mainstream appeal here but the dark opacity of some of the songs and Roots' sheer individualism should save him from a full-on commercial assault. UK hip-hop has always been the impoverished cousin of the US variation (especially west coast offerings) but 'Run Come Save Me' establishes Roots as a groundbreaking prime mover in Brit-hop. Not only is he a lyrical heavyweight, he can easily outrun the competition.

Sinéad Gleeson

Tracklisting: No Strings – Bashment Boogie – Witness (1 Hope) – Join The Dots – Black Box Interlude – Ital Visions – Kicking The Cack – Dub Styles – Trim Body – Artical – Hol' It Up – Stone The Crows – Sinny Sin Sins – Evil Rabbit – Swords In The Dirt – Highest Grade – Dreamy Days