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Meaning of the song ‘Witness’ by ‘Roots Manuva’

Released: 2001

“Witness (1 Hope)” by Roots Manuva is a dynamic and uncompromising expression of a hustler’s struggle, resilience, and ambition, weaving intricate tales of his journey through life’s hardships and his quest for survival. It’s a pure, unadulterated slice of UK hip-hop, featuring Manuva’s distinctive voice and idiosyncratic lyrical style.

The opening verse introduces us to Roots Manuva’s world, his everyday struggles, and maneuvers for survival, portrayed metaphorically as “Taskmaster burst” and “Bionic zit splitter.” He’s fighting against a life that may not align with societal norms; it’s not always productive, but it’s a means to live, represented with the phrase “We lean all day how some say that ain’t productive”. Although struggling, he possesses clarity and serenity, appreciating the simple pleasures of “cheese on toast” and living life one day at a time.

The hook “Witness the fitness, the cruffatin liveth, one hope one quest” is a testament of resilience and commitment to survival in a harsh environment. The term “cruffatin” is a play on words created by Manuva himself, representing the notion of survival and overcoming hardship. This kind of linguistic inventiveness is a common tool in hip-hop to communicate unique experiences and contexts.

As the song progresses, Manuva takes us deeper into his life, emphasizing the importance of staying true to his roots as depicted in lines “Manifest that with wholesome roots rap.” No matter the challenge or situation, he holds on to his authenticity, “ain’t nutten else I know,” sailing through life’s challenges with resilience and a unique perspective conveyed in “With this I-ragged born flow”.

He shows contempt for the oppressive systems that try to put him down, “Frig your network, our dett work will speak for itself”. The language here is direct and confident, asserting his independence and resilience in the face of difficulties.

The latter parts of the song confront both external and inner obstacles. He talks about conflicts with “the beast,” probably symbolizing societal pressures or the system trying to put him down. However, he remains resolute and determined, fighting against the odds and surviving the harsh realities of life, “Discipline maketh the geez,” essentially meaning the strong survive.

Overall, “Witness (1 Hope)” by Roots Manuva is a powerful anthem of resilience, hustle, and hope, anchored in a unique cultural and socio-economic experience. With his vivid lyrics and raw delivery, Manuva presents a masterful depiction of life in a struggle–a testament to the enduring power of hip-hop as an art form.

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