For some artists, momentum is the key to success. This certainly holds true for Roots Manuva, who blazed the UK’s hip-hop heads with his dub riffs and smirking flow back in 1999 with his debut Brand New Second Hand. He took his platform to new heights in 2001 with Run Come Save Me. However, if momentum is a key to success, a lack thereof is a harsh reminder of what made Mr. Manuva so hyped in the first place.
For an MC that was deemed, at one point, to be the UK’s “saviour”, Awfully Deep just doesn’t bring the musical growth that a four-year break (from an LP, that is) would imply.
To his credit, Roots Manuva is a talented MC with a nice knack for vocabulary. With characteristics typical of most talented MCs; he is honest, driven, troubled and introverted. However, the lyricism found in the verses is not the problem with Awfully Deep. In fact, the verses are quite good. The problem with this album lies in its long-winded choruses. Song after song drives the (sober) listener to boredom, depression and annoyance. The redundant and dismal choruses actually prolong the album to an insufferable length.
Based on the lyrics (“This may wellabe my last LP.”), it doesn’t seem as if Roots has been working too hard during this four-year hiatus. The production on this album is certainly a step in another direction from his previous two ventures, but it’s not a new or innovative direction—just another one. The same hip-hop/dub feel is present, but there are more synths, and a more open sound in general.
The troubled mind Roots Manuva displays on Awfully Deep suffers from the Eminem effect: the lyrics are so troubled, so introverted, and so depressing that sincerity is replaced by gimmick. Roots Manuva is a talented MC who, with four years to develop, came with something a hell-of-a-lot weaker than he should have.