UK Hip Hop: International
Roots Manuva - Witness (1 Hope) 12" [Big Dada] released 23.07.01
Roots Manuva - Witness (One Hope)
I review this on the basis of the real audio on http://www.ninjatune.net/ , as my eMail request to get free wax is as yet unheeded, so check it out for yourself, but here's my analysis:

The title track "Witness (1 hope)" combines a squelchy electronic riff with the established strong Jamaican/Brixtonian vocals in a juxtaposition of the kind we expect from Roots; like Miles Davis' trumpet tone or Hendrix' wah this is a unique style, that would leave a biter exposed. This certainly doesn't sound like anything made the other side of the Atlantic, but it doesn't particularly sound like anything else made in Blighty either, but rather an innovative gamble which might well turn off heads whose needle is stuck on cliched funk breaks.

On the lyrical side Roots shows global awareness as always: "I feel the pain of a third world famine, we count them blessings and keep jamming", and draws on diverse imagery, from religious to piss head (tho he doesn't claim to be as much of a heavyweight as that tough guy William Hague, sensibly enough).

The remix, by Part 2 of New Flesh 4 Old, takes a more ambient route, with melodic synths and a driving beat; this is more chilled with a different approach to the production on the original, which to my mind doesn't quite fit the vocal in its tone.

The B-side, "Son Of The Soil" uses queezy twisted horns in a bouncy kind of manner and off-beat hi-hats, giving it a nice skittery groove that makes your head nod, but not in the way that phrase makes you assume. 

So I will probably find myself parting with currency for this one, another true original. Apparently this single is on the Radio 1 B-list, and may even chart (as in get to no40 or something I imagine), and you have to hope that this will get the recognition it deserves, as further proof of a distinctive talent that has taken British hip hop on a fresh course, producing one of my all-time favourite LPs, 1999's "Brand New Second Hand" and critical acknowledgement at the time that seemed to exceed his actual fame. Ninja Tune's web site gives the clear impression that they hope their sub-label Big Dada's artist will truly break through this time, what with the radio exposure and that.

Whether heads are ready, I don't know, but personally I just look forward to hearing the new LP; everyone who listens to British hip hop is familiar with that blank look upon mentioning your favourite MC to the uninitiated, but we're also familiar with some very good music, so fuck it.

Rob Mantell

Witness Lyrics
Roots Manuva Discography
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