Published Oct 28, 2015Roots Manuva raps for the downtrodden and disenfranchised on his new album, Bleeds. The veteran British MC opens this relentlessly bleak LP with "Hard Bastards," whose thudding beat and groaning background strings convey the crushing pressure that the impoverished endure. As Manuva spits about "rich cunts" and the cheap food and booze that keep the poor down, his plodding, gruff flow and Cockney accent make him sound like a Dickensian Scarface.
"Stepping Hard" has an even grimmer tone, thanks to the lo-fi bass and murky synths of its instrumental, but Manuva remains defiant throughout, vowing to "speak for the meek." He's equally resolute and all the more ambitious on "Me Up!" singing in a throaty baritone about being "face to face with the sacred" over purgatory dark synths and 808s. But his lyrical optimism finally seems to collapse on "I Know Your Face," as he spits unflinching details about a gory car crash.
However, the album's most moving track is its least dreary. Midway cut "Don't Breathe Out" has a sample that twists the heartsick organ notes of Barry White deep cut "Honey Please, Can't Ya See" into hoarse gasps, as if to echo the desperate masses as they pant while striving for more. His rhymes are so layered and rapid that they are all but indecipherable, giving them endless rewind value. These features make Bleeds a dense, dark, demanding listen. But patient, socially conscious audiences will not only find it compelling, but galvanizing too. (Big Dada)