Roots Manuva is one of the most familiar faces in British hip-hop music. With his 2001 classic album 'Run Come Save Me', which featured the instantly recognisable Witness (1 Hope) and a host of other quality projects before and after that, he's eclectic, influential and has always been one to adapt and push boundaries. 'Bleeds' is his ninth studio album, released through the independent Big Dada label, and Manuva's growth and maturity shines through, with some unexpected musical choices and a modern, diverse approach.
The swelling synthesizers and textured production of opener 'Hard B*****ds' instantly draw you in; Roots Manuva's vocal is passionate and heartfelt, and you can hear his experience even when the more familiar hip-hop and dub sound is put on the back burner. The intensity of 'Crying' makes the track a real standout, and a more aggressive Manuva is definitely successful when tackling the gritty production. The London musician takes influence from a wide variety of music on this album, with some almost Bon Iver-esque vocal melodies on 'Don't Breathe Out' and an interesting electronic soundscape which is, at times, upbeat and uplifting and, at others, sinister and glitchy.
'Bleeds' is an album with a very cinematic feel. The scope of the production on the relentlessly pounding, slow-paced 'Stepping Hard' is a prime example, with experimental sound effects and dramatic electric guitars adding to the depth of Manuva's tone and writing. The slight trap influence on 'Me Up!' is another unexpected route for Roots Manuva, and the power in his voice makes him sound so authoritative when rapping his verses, and his melodic ability is also to be praised highly on this album. The silky keys and strong message of the jazzy and heartfelt 'Fighting For?' make for a stellar finishing track; the mature, subtle production mixed with Roots Manuva's undeniable skill on the microphone and his sheer class close off a really good album.
Roots Manuva has always made intelligent music, but his growth is incredibly apparent on 'Bleeds'. The production brings out a different side to his work, with a heavy focus on songwriting and musicality. He still shows he can liven up any party with some energetic verses, but for the most part, 'Bleeds' will get you thinking. With an honest outlook, conveying positive messages on the songs across this project, Roots Manuva proves why he's one of the most revered faces in our hip-hop scene.
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