Brand New Second Hand

Should [a]Roots Manuva[/a] ever tire of the rap game, he could always become a demolition expert....

Brand New Second Hand

8 / 10 Should Roots Manuva ever tire of the rap game, he could always become a demolition expert. Compounding hip-hop power and dancehall reggae grind, his voice isn't so much in his boots as subterranean, packing the force to flatten the unsightly tower blocks of his south London locale.

But what makes 'Brand New Second Hand' that most rare of phenomena, a fine UK hip-hop album, is both the dexterity of Roots' rasping mic attacks, and the skewed sounds he sets them to. Stylistically, it's a long way from the Darth Vader-esque vocal effects of 'Sinking Sands' to the good-time funking of 'Fever', yet Roots succeeds in lining up his diverse canon with the utmost confidence. This aplomb is also writ large across 'Soul Decay', with the meditative rapping adopting an electric relentlessness. And on 'Baptism', where he's joined by Wildflower for a missive which, though similar to one of Tricky's collaborations with Martine, oozes a fearsome splendour.

'Brand New Second Hand' runs like a perspicuous, uncanny urban novel, with Roots a smart character amid the disorder. Short of razing those cheerless tower blocks, this rap tyro couldn't have made a greater inaugural impact.

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