Roots Manuva : Witness (One Hope)

Marred only by the rapper's references to [I]"cheese on toast"[/I] and [I]"ten pints of bitter"[/I].

A massive-sounding electro squelch marks the impressive return of the man long proclaimed as the saviour of British hip-hop. Roots Manuva’s records would be even better, mind, if they didn’t so scrupulously draw attention to his nationality: ‘Witness (One Hope)’ is marred only by the rapper’s references to [I]”cheese on toast”[/I] and [I]”ten pints of bitter”[/I]. I suppose we should be grateful he’s not pretending to be American, but there’s a parochialism here that’s as desperately emphasised, in its own way, as Britpop’s fetishism

of rainy-day mundaneness. Perhaps it’s not so much the Britishness but the arcane detailing that seems wholly at odds with the brutal futurism of his beats. After all, as Richard Hawley proves, it’s possible to anglicise American music without being self-conscious about it.

John Mulvey