Music for our time: Roots Come Save Me / haadoob’s Hylton Smythe tribute

Listen… can you see what I hear?

A tribute? Don’t worry: Roots Manuva isn’t dead. Far from it. With Brexit dominating the news and extreme politricks on the rise, the message in his songs is as relevant as when they were first released. Roots Come Save Me is a mix of classic and rare Manuva cuts, re-assembled and re-juggled by haadoob. This compilation is also a sign of appreciation and love for British-Carribean culture and music, which I first came across when watching the film Babylon. The Jah Shaka sound made the telly speakers vibrate and I can easily, cheesily say that vibration is felt to this day…

Around this time 10 years ago I took a sneak peek into the South London studio where Roots Manuva penned and recorded many of his tracks. That’s when I first got an idea of what it takes to be an independent musician. And thanks to a Beat Bungalow interview I was fortunate to chat with Roots Manuva’s long-time friend and collaborator Seanie T. It was an autumn evening. The studio was built into a railway arch and there were trains rattling overhead.

Roots of Hip-Hop

Seanie can be heard on classics like Big Tings Gwidarn or Skiver’s Guide. He explained : “Roots Manuva has got a way of working and he’s a man that will build three tunes in one. Because he starts and he hears something. Then he’ll branch off but won’t lose the original idea and he’ll move onto something else and another new tune is born. He’s got a great musical ear, he’s a genius and I want to use that word with him. Sometimes we’d be in his yard and we won’t talk for like two hours, even though we’re sitting next to each other – I’m writing and he’s constructing. We’d just vibe and then at some point start talking again.”

Roots Come Save Me tries to show the musical versatility of the MC and producer Roots Manuva. Not many can take a classic track like The Message by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five and flip it in a way that turns it into a totally new tune. The same is true for the remix version of Ghostpoet’s Survive It. Both remixes make you stop what you’re doing and listen with fresh ears – in the first case it’s the horns instrumental, in the second one it’s the lyrics Roots Manuva spits.

Roots Come Save Me is a tribute mix and also shows that the artform of Hip-Hop has many roots and branches, some of the oldest and deepest ones leading to Jamaica via London. This is a musical tribute to an artist who has been a source of inspiration and most of whose albums I would consider desert island discs. I’ve been hooked on Roots’ bass-heavy soundscapes and Patois prose ever since discovering Brand New Second Hand in my local vinyl shop.

I can’t give enough props to Hylton Smythe a.k.a. Lord Gosh a.k.a. Roderick Manuva for getting me into making music – and for providing the rootical soundtrack to the years I spent living in the North of England. Below are a few photos taken during that trip to south London 10 years ago. Thank you, Roots!