From the boom-bap bricks of London’s gritty cityscape, there emerged Rodney Hylton Smith, AKA Roots Manuva, a master of beat, rhyme and story who has steadfastly etched his unique mark on the UK hip hop scene. His discography reads like a pulsating lyrical journey whose influence reverberates beyond borders and even genres. Tracks like ‘Witness (1 Hope)’, ‘Fighting For?’, and ‘All Alone’, all from the critically acclaimed album ‘Run Come Save Me’, are testament to Roots Manuva’s ability to blur the lines between hip hop, reggae, electronica, and dub.
Then there’s ‘Juggle Tings Proper’ and ‘Clockwork’ from ‘Brand New Second Hand’, where he combined his signature blend of distinctive beats with tales of British life that resonated on a global scale. The ‘Slime & Reason’ album gave us ‘Let The Spirit’, ‘Buffalo Crab Walk’, and ‘Movements’, highlighting his ability to infuse conscious messages with infectious rhythms. And who could forget his features on tracks like ‘True Skool’ and ‘All Things To All Men’, where his distinctive voice and lyrical genius added a unique layer of complexity and depth?
Roots Manuva’s storytelling is steeped in social commentary, painting a vivid picture of urban struggle and resilience while simultaneously exploring themes of identity and belonging. His music – never conforming to a single style – is a melting pot of influences, yet it remains unmistakably his own. His is a voice that demands to be heard, that challenges, that educates, and most importantly, that entertains. So let’s get into it. With sonic masterpieces ranging from ‘C’Est Bon, C’Est Bon’ to You Ain’t No Celebrity’, here are the Top 50 Songs Featuring Roots Manuva.
50. Big Tings Redone – Roots Manuva
This track commands your attention from the jump with its slick, menacing beat. The production is concise and punchy, never losing sight of Roots’ unapologetically British sound. Yet, it’s the fearless lyrical prowess of Roots Manuva where the track really sets itself apart. Rhymes stacked over rhymes, each as clever and thought-provoking as the last, reminding us why Roots blazed a trail in the UK hip hop scene. However, the real beauty of “Big Tings Redone” comes through the context – it’s a war cry, a challenge to the stagnancy in hip hop. A solid kick-off to this Roots Manuva deep-dive.
49. Cause 4 Pause – Roots Manuva
Manuva doesn’t just spit bars, he crafts narratives, unravelling the complexities of urban life with a stark conscientiousness that’s as provocative as it is poetic. The beat, equally militant, introduces a sonic abrasion reflecting the song’s uncompromising nature. Above all, “Cause 4 Pause” embodies the essence of a true emcee, mixing vivid wordplay with biting social commentary. It may not be Roots Manuva’s biggest hit, but it’s a flawless demonstration of the strength and depth of UK hip hop.
48. First Growth – Roots Manuva
The song serves as a magnificent showcase of the artist’s talent for storytelling, with each bar dense with allegory, all the while weaving rhymes over a layered beat that’s pure hip-hop essence. In the grand story of Roots Manuva’s musical journey, “First Growth” is a pivotal chapter, marking a steep progression in his craftmanship, and a testament to his evolution as a staple in the UK hip hop scene. It’s an underappreciated gem that’s a must-listen for any fan of conscious hip hop.
47. Dutty Rut – Roots Manuva
Yo, this cut right here? It’s a trip back to the UK underground scene, right around the turn of the millennium. Rodney Smith aka Roots Manuva was reppin’ that British style, bringing us authentic rawness with a distinctive island twist. His patois-infused flow – it was like nothing else at the time. “Dutty Rut” is a classic example – a ragga-infused hip hop track that made Heads nod on both sides of the Atlantic. Not many MCs can take you to the grimey side of London with just one verse, but Roots? Man, he’d drop those bars and you’d swear you could taste the fog on your tongue. It ain’t the easiest of his tunes to digest, but it’s worth the effort – factuals.
46. Wheels In Motion – Speech Debelle
Yeah, Speech Debelle ain’t no slouch, rockin’ the microphone with her distinctive UK vibes and poignant storytelling, but Roots shines especially bright here. His verse, a linguistic lava lamp of streetwise wisdom and urban poetry, gives the track its momentum and swagger. A fine example of the cross-generational collaboration in the UK hip hop scene, “Wheels In Motion” combines Debelle’s fresh energy with Roots’ seasoned wordplay, proving yet again that the dude’s got the gift to transform any track into something extraordinary.
45. Skid Valley – Roots Manuva
The track is furnished with a simple but irresistible beat, providing a perfect backdrop for Manuva’s contemplative lyrics. The man from Stockwell, London, demonstrates his knack for weaving intricate narratives with his deep, gruff cadence, painting a vivid picture of the grim realities confronting marginalized communities. It’s disarmingly honest, directing a spotlight on social inequities often overlooked, with Manuva’s biting critique of gentrification on full display. Be ready for some lyrical mastery, as “Skid Valley” shines with the lyrical prowess that’s made Roots Manuva an incredible force in the UK hip hop scene.
44. Vitals – Coldcut
The track is a vibrant fusion of technologic trance and grandmaster Manuva’s signature British hip hop styling. Rodney Smith, aka Roots Manuva, drops knowledge bombs in his distinct patois-infused flow, meshing perfectly with Coldcut’s futuristic beats. The tune’s message is deep, rootsy and spiritual, as Smith contemplates the fragile essence of life over a pulsating electronic soundscape. “Vitals” solidifies Roots Manuva’s position as one of the most intriguing lyricists in the game – a true mic controller who’s not just about the rhymes, but the reason too. Coldcut and Manuva here remind us that hip hop is not only a testament of the streets, but a vital lifeline for thought-provoking, conscious dialogue.
43. Like A Drum – Japanese Bonus track – Roots Manuva
There’s an introduction of atypical rhythms snapping in the background as Roots delivers his vibrant, high-powered lyricism, showcasing his dexterity and dominance. The production is a staggering concoction of classic dub, hip-hop and electronica influences – like living testimony to the diaspora sounds of London. The lyrics are rooted in everyday struggle, social commentary, and that peculiar British brand of humor, packed with enough punchlines to leave a mark. This track really emphasizes Roots Manuva’s uniqueness as a MC: elusive, poetic, raw, and unapologetically British.
42. C’Est Bon, C’Est Bon – Salif Keita
The track, off the 2006 record “M’Bemba,” sees Keita’s trancelike melodies weave around Roots’ introspective rhymes, creating a sonic representation of the African diaspora’s past, present, and future. While not exactly a hip hop joint in its essence, it’s a testament to Roots Manuva’s versatility and ability to transcend genre boundaries with lyrical precision. It can feel somewhat miscategorized in Roots’ musical milieu, but there’s no denying that it’s an audacious, globe-spanning collaboration, and Roots holds his own amidst Keita’s larger-than-life vocals.
41. Get the Get – Roots Manuva
It’s a track that demystifies his prowess on the mic, with lethal bars stacked with pinpoint precision over a booming electro-infused beat. Plus, having UK grime sensation Rokhsan on the guest verse just levels up the whole vibe. It ain’t just a song, it’s a commentary — a sharp jibe against phony personas and materialism that run rampant in hip hop culture. Truly, Roots Manuva rides the rhythm like a true veteran, asserting his place in the pantheon of UK hip hop. Sleep on this track, and you’re sleeping on a slice of UK hip hop history.
40. Worl’ A Mine – Roots Manuva
Now, Roots always been a king of conscious hip hop in the UK scene, but here, my peeps, he takes it up a notch – his lyricism is pure poetry, colored with a kind of bleak hopefulness. That beat, drenched in minor key darkness, underscores his fatalistic worldview. This ain’t party rap, y’all. It’s an unsettling commentary on the world as seen through the perceptive eyes of a seasoned rhyme-spitter. Don’t sleep on “Worl’ A Mine” – it’s an unforgettable gem from a master wordsmith.
39. Revolution 5 – Roots Manuva
Featuring the lyrical prowess of Chali 2na, this track epitomizes Manuva’s raw storytelling style coupled with his signature dub-inflected beats. Chali 2na’s baritone voice brings a west coast flavor that surprisingly complements the otherwise UK-centric vibes. This international collaboration stands testament to Manuva’s influence beyond his home turf in South London. Though it might not be as universally recognized as “Witness (1 Hope)”, “Revolution 5” is a landmark effort in the artist’s catalog. In true Roots Manuva fashion, it’s socially conscious and reflective, voicing out against systemic oppression – a true rebel anthem for the hip hop heads!
38. Man Fi Cool – Roots Manuva
Released in 2002 off the “Dub Come Save Me” album, this tune explores the complexity of the modern man’s identity, employing Patois-inflected English in a thunderous affirmation of self-worth and individuality. With a sonic texture that dips into dub, dancehall, and UK hip-hop, it’s no surprise Manuva dubbed his sound “ghetto pop life”. The hypnotic chorus hits like a mantra, reminding every man of the cool that they should be. Despite not being a chart-topper, this track’s deep-rooted cultural commentary and distinctive sound secures its rightful place in Roots’ distinguished discography.
37. Colossal Insight – Roots Manuva
One of the pivotal jams off of his fourth studio album, “Awfully Deep”, that dropped back in 2005. This joint was a perfect showcase of Manuva’s unique lyrical dexterity and his quintessentially English take on the whole hip hop scene. Packed with wonky synths and a forward-thinking beat, “Colossal Insight” served as an ideal platform for Manuva’s cunning wordplay and deep introspection. He’s out here dissecting societal norms and his own psyche at the same time. That’s some next level business he was on. But though the beat is dark and brooding, there’s also a spark of optimism in the lyrics, a reflection of his resilience amid life’s gritty realities.
36. Fever – Roots Manuva
This track sees the visionary MC in a psychedelic funk, spitting lyrical heat over a shuffling, off-kilter beat that’s as infectious as the title suggests. Manuva’s flow is like molten lava, shifting through different forms and temperatures with a mesmerizing quality. His bars are filled with cryptic wordplay and righteous fury, a commentary on the social temperature of his time. It might not be as mainstream as “Witness (1 Hope)” or “Colossal Insight,” but “Fever” is a showcase of Manuva’s unique brand of UK hip hop – cerebral, unorthodox, and undeniably compelling.
35. On A High – Roots Manuva
It’s a piece endowed with Manuva’s idiosyncratic verbal brushstrokes and shaped by a beat that pulses like the heart of London city itself. But underneath its sonic high, the tune holds a cautionary tale — an examination of the potential pitfalls of chasing constant elevated states. This is classic Roots, framing serious contemplation within rhythm and rhyme, issuing a message that lingers long after the initial head-nodding high fades. And that, my hip hop heads, is the substance of real lyricism.
34. Inna – Roots Manuva
This joint ain’t just about the beat or the hook – it’s about the narrative, the truth bombs Roots drops like he’s in a cipher with reality itself. “Inna” drills down into the marrow of social commentary, mirroring the trials and tribulations within our society. Manuva’s delivery is like a spray can, painting vibrant images with lyrics that touch on hardship, resilience, and affirmation of self. And let’s not sleep on the beat — that driving rhythm, understated yet unshakeable, lays a foundation that complements Roots’ baritone flow perfectly. If ever there was a Roots Manuva track to vibe to, “Inna” has got to be a top contender.
33. Evil Rabbit – Roots Manuva
This track skulks in the shadows of reggae and dub influences, entwining with Manuva’s insightful, witty lyricism and signature drawl, making for a hauntingly infectious listen. It’s evident that Manuva ain’t here to play safe with the dark undertones and the unpredictability of the track. It’s a deep dive into experimental waters while still paying homage to his roots. The rabbit hole of his twisted diction and metaphoric prowess is a journey that’s as mesmerizing as it is thought-provoking. This ain’t just top-tier British hip hop, fam, it’s a global affair with “Evil Rabbit”.
32. Dub Styles – Roots Manuva
It’s an underrated gem off the ‘Roots Manuva meets Wrongtom and Deemas J’ compilation that takes you on a trip into the interplay of dub and hip hop. The track is laden with reggae flavored beats and Manuva’s idiosyncratic flow. Speaking on society’s ills, Manuva employs his signature style of hard-hitting, conscious lyrics that demand contemplation. Punctuated with his unmistakable patois-driven delivery, it’s a stylistic masterstroke that exemplifies his pioneering position in UK’s hip hop scene. But be forewarned, it’s not a breezy listen. “Dub Styles” asks you to lean in, absorb the rhythm, and get lost in its depth. It’s an echo chamber of lyricism and low-frequency resonance that reverberates with authenticity.
31. Starlight – The Herbaliser
The track is a mesmerizing blend of the latter’s jazz-infused beat craftsmanship with Manuva’s unmistakable lyrical finesse. Our man rides the beat like a seasoned surfer on the crest of a wave, his flow drenched in the shadows of inner-city London, reality rap at its finest. It’s a masterclass in storytelling, evoking a blend of grit and melancholy that’s nothing less than intoxicating. The ominous bassline and haunting trumpet licks create an atmospheric backdrop against which Roots Manuva unfurls his vivid narratives. “Starlight” is a high watermark in the Manuva discography and a haunting reflection of urban life.
30. Ital Visions – Roots Manuva
The song’s beat throbs with an earthy, organic rhythm that pulsates under Roots Manuva’s southern London twang. Roots out here spitting wisdom about the spiritual and cultural significance of Ital food − a dietary practice central to Rastafarian belief − and its larger implications on societal health. This song ain’t just about food, y’all; it’s a commentary on the preservation of culture, health consciousness, and social critique. Its layered meaning and rich lyrical content firmly anchor “Ital Visions” among Roots Manuva’s most thought-provoking tracks. Remember, this is hip hop that goes beyond posturing and braggadocio, serving intellect on a thick bass. You gotta marinate on this one.
29. Empty Vessels – Bonus Track – The Maccabees
This track proves that the UK hip hop veteran is just as formidable among indie rockers as he is in the realm of rap. Roots Manuva’s stone-cold flow imbues an additional layer of vitality and urgency to the track, resonating above the jangly indie instrumentation. Like the proverbial seasoned flavor in a hearty stew, Manuva embellishes the sonic composition without usurping or overpowering it. The blend is just right, lending this track a unique identity in the pantheon of hybrid indie/hip hop tracks. It’s a testament not only to Roots Manuva’s versatility, but also the magic that can happen when genres collide.
28. Too Cold – Roots Manuva
The beat drips with a moody chill, mirroring the track’s title and nailing the UK’s grime aesthetics. In his signature style, Manuva melds introspective lyricism with an off-kilter flow, pulling no punches in his socio-political commentary. The hook is hauntingly unforgettable, capturing the harsh reality of the British streets. While the track might not have the widespread love of “Witness (1 Hope)”, its potent blend of icy beats and sharp lyrics make “Too Cold” an unheralded classic in Manuva’s discography. Truly, this joint is a testament to Manuva’s ability to bring that raw British cold to the mic.
27. Only Heaven – Coldcut
It’s a testament to the cosmic intersection of electronica and hip-hop. Coldcut’s fabled mastery of mixology shines through their use of atmospheric synth work that gets ya caught up like you in a celestial daydream. But don’t sleep too hard, ’cause Roots Manuva’s impeccable wordplay cuts through the ethereal soundscapes like a sharp blade on hot wax. His lyrics ask us to look up, to the sky, to truly appreciate the ‘heaven’ of our existence. This track is a feast for true heads who ain’t afraid to get trippy with their beats, showcasing how far hip hop can extend its boundaries when great minds intervene. This one’s a must for your crate, no doubt.
26. Juggle Tings Proper – Roots Manuva
As the 26th track on our list, it’s a defining moment in UK hip hop, with Roots drawing from dub, reggae, and the grimy streets of London to produce an unparalleled sound. In this track, he proves himself as the Shakespeare of the streets, spitting lines with a dazzling lyrical dexterity, chronicling urban life with a poetic flair. The production is alchemical, transforming minimalist beats into a phonic goldmine that perfectly complements Roots’ trenchant rhymes. “Juggle Tings Proper” marks a crucial point in Roots Manuva’s career, where he truly vibes with his own unique sound, a testament to his evolution as an artist. This track isn’t just a banger; it’s pure lyrical genius made audible.
25. Uk Warriors – Roots Manuva
With its dark, offbeat instrumentation and Roots’ thunderous, patois-infused flow, the track embodies the edgy, underground soundscape that defines British hip hop. The lyrical craftsmanship is top-shelf, as Roots raps about life on the gritty streets of London with his signature blend of wit and raw authenticity. The beats are heavy, the bassline brooding, and it all comes together in a sonic rebellion against the mainstream. While it might not get the recognition it deserves overseas, “Uk Warriors” is a rightful anthem in the pantheon of UK hip hop, bolstering Roots Manuva’s rep as a real guardian of the genre.
24. Lord Lord – The Herbaliser
Not your typical hip-hop jam, it stews in its own unique blend of jazz, funk, and soul elements, merging it all with Roots Manuva’s unassailable flow. As UK’s undisputed maestro of rhymes, Roots Manuva drops knowledge with his potent lyricism in this track. The edgy verses are paired with a moody instrumental that’s all about that hypnotic bassline, slick horns, and mad percussion. If you’re sleeping on this one, it’s time to wake up, y’all! “Lord Lord” is a standout track, a deft fusion of genres and a testament to The Herbaliser’s and Roots Manuva’s artistry. In the pantheon of British hip-hop, this one’s a shoo-in.
23. Highest Grade Dub – Roots Manuva
This track is a testament to Roots Manuva’s ability to blend that UK-style dub and hip hop in a way that resonates with both the mind and the body. The background beat is meditative, giving way to Roots Manuva’s signature lyrical drawl that adds a depth of gravitas to the track. No fluff or theatrics – just pure, straight from the chest bars about life, herb, and staying elevated above the grind. It ain’t find itself in everybody’s rotation, but trust, this one’s a sleeper hit missed by many. A true testament to Roots Manuva’s low-key legend status.
22. Jusjus – Mr. Scruff
Scruff. First time you bump this track, you might think it’s all about the groove. Don’t get me wrong, that funky bassline and ukulele riffs will have your head nodding for sure. But it’s Roots Manuva’s bars on this track that really elevate it. He’s got that distinctive South London vibe, spewing lines with a relaxed flow that’s half street poet, half reggae toaster. The hook, “It’s just, just a little bit of this and a little bit of that,” got cats all over the UK echoin’ it back in the day. As far as collabos go, “Jusjus” is an underappreciated gem in Roots Manuva’s discography.
21. No Love – Roots Manuva
This joint is a testament to the rapper’s refusal to conform, fusing hip hop beats with an eclectic smorgasbord of sounds rooted in reggae and dub. His lyrical prowess is evident in every line as he grapples with themes of self-worth and absence of affection. The rawness and authenticity in Manuva’s storytelling only cements his place as one of the UK’s most celebrated and poignant MCs. While it may not be as popular as some of his other hits, “No Love” deserves a legitimate place in Manuva’s discography as a testament to his versatility and depth.
20. Let The Spirit – Roots Manuva
Dropped in 2008, it’s a smooth blend of the man’s signature UK rhymes and a dub-flavored beat that’ll have your head nodding in no time. Manuva stripped hip hop down to its bare bones, threading in a resonating message that spoke spiritual volumes. With the raw power of his verbal ability, he urged us to let the spirit move and shake up the universe. This track ain’t just music, folks; it’s a sermon delivered on the pulpit of beats and melody. A testament to Manuva’s versatility, it shows the MC stepping outside of his comfort zone, delivering bars that come alive with rhythmic agility and poetic prowess.
19. Clockwork – Roots Manuva
This joint is positioned smack in the middling territory, neither going hard with the deep lyricism Manuva’s known for nor falling flat on its face. The beat is steady yet unassuming, providing a backdrop for Manuva’s artful, British accented rhymes that swerve and sway like a skilled boxer. Its cultural significance is solid, true, but it ain’t quite the bomb that shakes the scene. Still, “Clockwork” displays Manuva’s versatility, straddling that fine line between banging club tracks and deep conscious rhymes. It’s a testament to his skill, if not a standout in his catalogue.
18. Stolen Youth – Roots Manuva
Appearing on the soundtrack for the British television series ‘Skins,’ Manuva demonstrates his knack for heartfelt storytelling and introspection. The lyrics delve into the perils of growing up too fast, underpinned by a melancholic, bass-heavy beat that hits you right in the gut. Manuva’s baritone voice serves up the narrative with undeniable gravitas, highlighting the complexities of early adulthood and societal expectations. It may not be a club banger, but “Stolen Youth” is a testament to Manuva’s lyrical prowess and ability to touch on universally resonant themes. A must-listen for any head seeking substance over style.
17. Butterfly Crab Walk – Roots Manuva
A collaboration with the quirky electronic music act Good, the Bad & the Queen, this track crests on a sonic wave divergence from his usual style. The track’s experimental landscape melds his distinct lyricism with a new-age, almost psychedelic production. Manuva’s cool patois delivery sidles perfectly with the unhurried, hypnotic beat. His ability to infuse tracks with a distinctive UK flavour whilst making them universally approachable is testament to his artistic caliber. Though not his signature, it’s an example of Manuva proving he’s not just a hip hop purist, but an artist unafraid to tread unfamiliar terrains. “Butterfly Crab Walk” is truly an underrated gem in Manuva’s discography.
16. Dreamy Days – Roots Manuva
Rodney Smith, that’s Roots for the uninitiated, draws you into his world with his unique blend of acid jazz and trip hop. The track’s languid beats paired with his poetic lyrics and that smooth-as-silk flow got you feeling like you’re floating on cloud nine. The cool thing about “Dreamy Days” is how Roots Manuva transcends the usual braggadocio and posturing we see in hip hop. Here’s a brother who’s not afraid to reveal a more introspective and contemplative side. Straight up British hip-hop genius, y’all.
15. Strange Behaviour – Roots Manuva
Released as part of the album “Slime & Reason” in 2008, the track is a sterling example of Roots Manuva’s ability to weave unabashedly British sounds into a US-influenced rap landscape. British slang drips from every line, giving us a taste of Manuva’s South London stomping grounds. The production is sick, filled with a skippy, juddering beat that keeps the energy level pumping. However, this track is not all gloss – Manuva drops some serious knowledge, questioning societal norms and expressing his disillusionment. It’s like a lyrical uppercut coming straight from the London underground scene. The song may have a cheery bounce, but underneath it’s all real talk.
14. All Things To All Men – The Cinematic Orchestra
This track aces it in providing a spiritual, jazzy, introspective vibe, transcending the normal trifles of genre classifications. Roots Manuva’s flow on this cut is like practised poetry — lyrical and deliberate with a purpose. His lyrics are laced with social commentary, introspective musings, and dollops of British metropolis reality, making it a potent cocktail of thought and rhythm. This is not your average club banger or radio-friendly pop; it’s profound, complex, and methodically constructed. It’s the type of track that makes you think and bob your head at the same time, reminding us of the remarkable versatility in the embodiment of Roots Manuva.
13. Blaze Away – Morcheeba
This is a track brimming with heat, yo – the title ain’t lying! Manuva blesses the song with his unmistakable flow, his verses acting as a fiery contrast to the cool, ethereal hooks brought by Morcheeba’s Skye Edwards. Lyrically, Roots brings that consciousness we’ve come to expect from him, touching on societal issues with his usual depth, introspection, and witticism. The intricate interplay between Roots’ potent bars and the hypnotic, entrancing backdrop cultivated by Morcheeba makes “Blaze Away” an auditory feast that symbolizes the very essence of UK hip hop’s fusion with trip-hop. A track that should be on any Roots Manuva’s fan’s playlist fo’ sure.
12. Join The Dots – Roots Manuva
“Join The Dots” – A collab with queen of trip-hop, the Bristol diva herself, Ms. Tricky, drops us off at number It’s a synergistic blend of two UK legends, Roots Manuva providing the dependable hip hop pulse to Tricky’s distorted, broken beat backdrop. It’s a contemplative track, Manuva’s conscious bars and Tricky’s eerie echoes creating a soundscape that’s as thought-provoking as it is haunting. A classic from the Vaults of UK hip hop, no doubt, but not quite Roots Manuva’s best work. It lacks some of the raw energy and innovative wordplay that catapult him to the frontline of Hip Hop royalty. Nevertheless, it’s an essential piece in his variegated discography.
11. Dead Editors – Massive Attack
Teaming up with the UK’s very own Roots Manuva, this track is a slick, dark, and brooding odyssey into the depths of trip hop. Roots Manuva’s signature baritone pierces the atmospheric production, driving home hard-hitting sociopolitical commentary on fame and media manipulation. The lyrics reflect a critique of editorial practices in the age of misinformation. Manuva’s blend of poetic intellect and street-wise candor is nothing short of mesmerizing over Massive Attack’s eerie, industrial vibes. It’s bass-heavy and loaded with thought-provoking lines – “dumb down, hold your tongue and let it simplify”. Standout backdrop, compelling lyrics, and a poignant message – “Dead Editors” is high-grade underground hip hop at its finest.
10. True Skool – Coldcut
This collaboration with Coldcut is a standout, trust me. It’s not just a tune, it’s a testament to Manuva’s versatility. The staple dub reggae vibrations of Manuva’s typical sound get a sub-zero cool down on this track, courtesy of Coldcut’s electronica ice. Manuva’s bars sit all snug like a bug in a rug on the beat’s frosty pulse, full of wit and grit. And with a hook that oozes charisma, it’s no wonder this track melts dance floors. It’s Roots go electro, proving that he ain’t confined to one style. If this track ain’t in your playlist, you playing yourself, fam.
9. A Caged Bird/Imitations of Life – The Cinematic Orchestra
Roots’ verses here feel like a poet laureate’s interpretation of life on these hip hop streets. The Cinematic Orchestra’s production rumbles under Roots Manuva’s flow like distant thunder – jagged, yet oddly comforting. It’s a juxtaposition of the bitter and the sweet, the grimy and the celestial – real talk, it captures the dualities of life in a way few songs can. On this record, Roots sounds like a preacher man for the disenfranchised, shedding light on the darkest corners of existence. Listen close, there are life lessons in these bars.
8. Movements – Roots Manuva
This track, which sits at number 11 on the list, is dope because it grasps your ear with its bass-heavy groove and refuses to let go. Manuva’s flow is infectious, his rhymes are razor sharp, and the production is straight fire – all elements of a bangin’ hip hop track. It’s a stellar example of Manuva’s ability to create music that challenges the listener while still being an absolute bop. The wordplay takes center stage here, showcasing Manuva’s gritty lyrical prowess. “Movements” serves as a timeless testament to Roots Manuva’s influence in the UK hip hop scene, proving that the British emcee got mad skills, no doubt.
7. Righteous – Ocean Wisdom
“Righteous” – Ocean Wisdom ft. Roots Manuva Yo, don’t front on “Righteous” by Ocean Wisdom; it’s as real as it gets. The track is a collaboration between this young gunna from England’s Brighton town and the legendary Roots Manuva. Now, I ain’t gonna lie, there’s some tough competition out there, but this joint makes a statement. It’s got that classic Manuva wordplay and wisdom, coupled with Ocean’s signature quick fire delivery. The beat? Straight fire. A jazzy lo-fi concoction that swings like a pendulum. Lyrically, it’s a hard hitting exploration into the culture of conspicuous consumption and societal pressures in contemporary life. This track definitely propels the UK grime and hip hop scene to new heights.
6. Don’t Breathe Out – Roots Manuva
When it dropped, we felt the room vibrate with the deep, dub-influenced beats. The joint features Manuva’s distinctive lyrical genius, his words cutting through the music like a knife, giving voice to the struggle and resilience of life. It’s conscious rap at its finest, folks – no flexin’, no posturing, just real talk. Yet, Manuva doesn’t lose sight of the groove, that’s why it’s got serious replay value. However, it doesn’t quite reach the heights that the top cuts in this list do. Solid tune, no doubt, but Manuva is capable of even more.
5. Dusted – Leftfield
The track drips with the essence of late ’90s underground hip hop, melodically muffled and rhythmically ruthless, with Roots Manuva’s bars oozing an inimitable, potent street charm. His lyricism takes the driver’s seat here, delivering hard-hitting lines with a natural rhythm that meshes perfectly with Leftfield’s intricate production. The track doesn’t just bang; it rattles your eardrums and shakes up your conscience. While not Roots Manuva’s most popular feature, “Dusted” undeniably holds its weight as a testament to his skill as an emcee, and his ability to leave a lasting impression on any track he graces. Classic Manuva, no doubt.
4. Fighting For? – Roots Manuva
It’s a prime example of his unique blend of dancehall, dub, and hip-hop vibes, overlaid with his distinct London twang. Manuva drops profound lines, passionately questioning societal norms and life’s struggles. He ain’t just spitting verses, he’s preaching gospel from the streets of Brixton, feel me? The track’s booming bassline backs up his fierce delivery, highlighting his gritty determination. It’s a reflection of Roots Manuva’s celebrated knack for balancing introspective content with foot-stomping beats. “Fighting For?” ain’t just a song, it’s a soulful outcry, a message echoing from the heart of UK’s underground to the rest of the hip-hop universe.
3. Witness (1 Hope) – Roots Manuva
Released as a standalone single from his second LP, “Run Come Save Me”, this track transcended the UK hip hop scene and made a global impact. Bursting with deep sub-bass and a playful hook, Benie G’s (aka Manuva) delivery is fresh and textured, showcasing classic British inflections over a sound that melds Jamaican dancehall, UK garage, and traditional hip hop. It’s not every day you hear an MC drop lines about cheese on toast and athletic prowess, but Roots does so while keeping it 100% authentic. This track is a major key in understanding the dynamism of UK hip hop.
2. All Alone – Gorillaz
Manuva’s verse in this track is a masterclass of flow – the way he twists familiar phrases into catchy hooks is pure poetry. His commanding delivery magnifies the haunting undertones of the track, giving the song’s vague sense of isolation a palpable sense of urgency. The experimental nature of “All Alone” shows Roots Manuva in a different light, proving his versatility beyond his usual grime stylings. While it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, those who appreciate artists pushing boundaries will undoubtedly find this crossover a worthwhile listen. The track is a testament to Roots Manuva’s ability to adapt and enhance any sonic landscape he’s put into.
1. You Ain’t No Celebrity – Jungle
Jungle’s production whips up a sick beat, giving Manuva the perfect platform to spit his knowledge. His lyrical sword cuts through the illusions of celebrity culture with a sharp, sly wit that’s lucent like the star he critiques. It’s an incisive commentary, a reminder that fame is fickle and the grind is real. This track might take the last spot on our list, but don’t get it twisted; it’s still a certified banger. Roots Manuva ain’t just chattin’; he’s speakin’ truth, schooling us all on the reality behind the glitz and glamour.