Roots Manuva

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Roots Manuva
Background information
Birth nameRodney Smith
Also known as
  • Lord Gosh
  • Hylton Smythe
  • Rodrick Manuva
  • Brigadier Smythe
  • Cecil P.Y.L.M.
  • Pim Pimpernel
  • Chubb
Born (1972-09-09) 9 September 1972 (age 51)
OriginStockwell, London
  • Vocals
  • rapping
Years active1994–2018
2021–present (active)
2018-2021 (hiatus)

Rodney Hylton Smith, better known by his stage name Roots Manuva (born 9 September 1972), is a British rapper and producer. Since his debut in 1994, he has produced numerous albums and singles on the label Big Dada, achieving commercial success with albums Run Come Save Me[1] and Slime & Reason. He has been described as "one of the most influential artists in British music history."[2] His most recent studio album, Bleeds, was released in October 2015.


Smith grew up around Stockwell, London, England. His parents were from a small village in Jamaica where his father was a preacher and tailor. He spent much of his early life in poverty and this and his strict Pentecostal upbringing had an influence on his music as can be heard in many of his tracks such as "Sinny Sin Sins" and "Colossal Insight".

Of his early discovery of music he says:

It was as a kid. Before I even knew what a sound system was. I was walking past Stockwell skateboard park and there was this sound being set up. They were probably just trying out their speakers. I was with my mum, holding my mum's hand. And I remember my mum being quite intimidated by the whole affair. Such a barrage of bass coming from it! And these dodgy-looking blokes standing beside it just admiring the sound of their bass. It's just a bass thing. A volume thing. I don't know if I rose-tint the memories, but I remember it sounded so good, so rich. It's not like today when we go to clubs and it hurts. It was more of a life-giving bass.[3]

Smith made his recorded debut in 1994 as part of IQ Procedure through Suburban Base's short-lived hip hop imprint Bluntly Speaking Vinyl. He debuted as Roots Manuva the same year on Blak Twang's "Queen's Head" single, before releasing his own single, "Next Type of Motion" the following year through the same label, the Sound of Money. 1996 saw the release of his collaborations with Skitz ("Where My Mind Is At"/"Blessed Be The Manner") on 23 Skidoo's Ronin label. The release of "Feva" on Tony Vegas' Wayward imprint followed in 1997. This was also the year that saw the first releases from Big Dada, a collaboration between Coldcut's Ninja Tune label and hip hop journalist Will Ashon.

Releasing for Coldcut's renowned experimental/hip hop label Ninja Tune in 1998, some of his music may be seen as a predecessor of grime. The following year he released his debut album, Brand New Second Hand. A reference to his family's modest lifestyle, the title is a phrase his mother used for presents he got as a youngster that were pre-used. The single "Witness (1 Hope)", from his second album Run Come Save Me, with its lyrical flow and heavy shuffling squelch bass (allegedly a result of Smith trying to copy the Doctor Who theme) is a UK rap anthem. He had such an impact on the UK rap scene that The Times said that "his is the voice of urban Britain, encompassing dub, ragga, funk and hip hop as it sweeps from crumbling street corners to ganja-filled dancehalls, setting gritty narratives against all manner of warped beats." Manuva was rewarded for his breakthrough with a MOBO as Best Hip Hop Act that year.

The lyrics of his songs have a British edge, with critics highlighting his references to eating cheese on toast and drinking bitter as examples of this.

He can be heard on many songs performed with other artists such as Chali 2na (and Ozomatli), Jamie Cullum, DJ Shadow, Mr Scruff, U.N.K.L.E., Fun Lovin' Criminals, Nightmares on Wax, The Cinematic Orchestra, Beth Orton, The Herbaliser, Leftfield, Saian Supa Crew and Coldcut. He also made an appearance on the Gorillaz album Demon Days, on the track "All Alone".


In 2018, Manuva was hospitalised for six months due to suffering from a subdural hematoma. The brain injury left him with memory loss and reduced mobility in his left leg.[4]


Studio albums[edit]

List of studio albums, with selected chart positions and certifications
Title Album details Peak chart positions Certifications
Brand New Second Hand
  • Released: 22 March 1999
  • Label: Big Dada
  • Formats: CD, LP
Run Come Save Me
  • Released: 13 August 2001
  • Label: Big Dada
  • Formats: CD, LP
33 140
Dub Come Save Me 75
Awfully Deep
  • Released: 31 January 2005
  • Label: Big Dada
  • Formats: CD, LP, digital download
24 110 30 31
Alternately Deep
  • Released: 13 March 2006
  • Label: Big Dada
  • Formats: CD, LP, digital download
Slime & Reason
  • Released: 25 August 2008
  • Label: Big Dada
  • Formats: CD, LP, digital download
22 127 48
Duppy Writer
  • Released: 6 September 2010
  • Label: Big Dada
  • Formats: CD, LP, digital download
  • Released: 3 October 2011
  • Label: Big Dada
  • Formats: CD, LP, digital download
  • Released: 30 October 2015
  • Label: Big Dada
  • Formats: CD, LP, digital download
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.


  • Next Type of Motion (1995)
  • Awfully De/EP (24 October 2005)
  • Banana Skank EP (21 January 2013)
  • "Stolen Youth EP" (6 August 2013)

Live albums[edit]

  • Live from London (iTunes) (15 August 2008)


  • "Juggle Tings Proper" (22 February 1999)
  • "Motion 5000" (5 July 1999)
  • "Witness (1 Hope)" (23 July 2001) UK No. 45[10]
  • "Dreamy Days" (8 October 2001) UK No. 53[10]
  • "Yellow Submarine" (14 October 2002)
  • "Colossal Insight" (17 January 2005) UK No. 33[10]
  • "Too Cold" (21 March 2005) UK No. 39[10]
  • "Buff Nuff" (30 June 2008)
  • "Again & Again" (25 August 2008) – featured on the EA TRAX soundtrack for the EA Sports videogame Fight Night Round 4
  • "Let the Spirit" (27 October 2008)
  • "Do Nah Bodda Mi" (29 June 2009)
  • "It's On (Banana Klan)" (28 April 2011)
  • "Here We Go Again (feat. Spikey Tee)" (3 October 2011)
  • "Don't Breathe Out" (22 September 2015)

Guest appearances[edit]


  • Badmeaningood Vol.2 (7 October 2002) (19 tracks selected by Rodney Smith for the Badmeaningood series.)
  • Back to Mine: Roots Manuva (24 October 2005) (18 tracks selected by Smith for the Back to Mine series.)
  • The Blacknificent 7 – Riding Thru Da Undaground! (collaboration with Seanie T, Rodney P, Skeme, Est'elle, Karl Hinds, Jeff3)
  • Black Whole Styles – "Uranium 235" (with Drunken Imoortals & New Flesh) & "Feel Da Panic"
  • Extra Yard: The Bouncement Revolution – "Dreamy Days(Loteck Productions) featuring Ricky Rankin, "Born Again" featuring Wildflower, "Witness The Swords" featuring Fallacy, Rodney P, Blackitude, Big P & Skeme, "Bashment Boogie"
  • Sound01: A Big Dada Sampler – "Skiver's Guide" featuring Black Twang & Gamma


  • "Witness (1 Hope)" appeared in the 8th episode of season 2 of Ted Lasso, as psychologist Sharon was biking to her office.[13]
  • "Witness (1 Hope)" was played in the UK game show Total Wipeout international special episode.
  • "Witness" (1 Hope) was also featured in the 2006 film Children of Men.
  • "Awfully Deep" was used as a background track in series 2 of TFI Friday.
  • "Witness (1 Hope)" was used as part of the soundtrack for Big Up Production's video of Chris Sharma's ascent of the bouldering problem called "Witness the Fitness" (V15).[14]


  1. ^ "CD REVIEWS: Tori Amos, Live, Macy Gray and many more"[usurped]. Chart Attack, September 18, By: Debbie Bento and Kori Golding
  2. ^ "SHOWS > THE BRITISH MASTERS". Vice. Archived from the original on 16 April 2016. Retrieved 30 April 2016.
  3. ^ "Big Dada: Roots Manuva". Archived from the original on 6 January 2009. Retrieved 4 January 2009.
  4. ^ Hobbs, Thomas. "Hip Hop is 50: A Profile". Roots Manuva. Retrieved 16 January 2023.
  5. ^ Peak chart positions for albums in the United Kingdom:
  6. ^ "Discographie Roots Manuva". (in French). Hung Medien. Archived from the original on 3 February 2014. Retrieved 21 January 2014.
  7. ^ "Discography Roots Manuva". Hung Medien. Archived from the original on 2 February 2014. Retrieved 21 January 2014.
  8. ^ "Discography Roots Manuva". Hung Medien. Archived from the original on 8 March 2014. Retrieved 21 January 2014.
  9. ^ a b "Certified Awards" (enter "Bloodhound Gang" into the "Keywords" box, then select "Search"). British Phonographic Industry. Archived from the original on 21 September 2013. Retrieved 21 January 2014.
  10. ^ a b c d Zobbel (16 June 2007). "Chart Log UK". Zobbel. Archived from the original on 15 April 2012. Retrieved 10 September 2008.
  11. ^ Zobbel (16 June 2007). "Chart Log UK". Zobbel. Archived from the original on 15 November 2009. Retrieved 10 September 2008.
  12. ^ Zobbel (16 June 2007). "Chart Log UK". Zobbel. Archived from the original on 15 June 2013. Retrieved 10 September 2008.
  13. ^ "Listen to Roots Manuva's 'Witness (1 Hope)' from Ted Lasso, Season 2, Episode 8 – Leo Sigh". 10 September 2021. Retrieved 27 October 2021.
  14. ^ "Chris Sharma - Witness the Fitness, V15 Roof Bouldering, First Ascent!". YouTube.

External links[edit]