Roots Manuva - Brand New Second Hand

by Bob Coyne Rating: Release Date:1999-03-22

For a long time, it seemed like any sort of hip-hop that came from Great Britain was immediately labelled "trip-hop." But it's impossible to pigeonhole crews like Black Twang and London rapper Roots Manuva into that category--and sometimes it's tough to slot Roots Manuva into any category. Unfortunately, the production on this album is spotty, veering uncomfortably from the hopelessly fractured reggae of "Dem Phonies" to the live funk of "Fever". Roots Manuva's skills, though, are undeniable and he manoeuvres through tracks like "Big Things" and "Baptism" with a keen intellect and an impressive moral authority. His ragga-accented flow differs greatly from that of his American peers, though, and may prove to be an acquired taste for some. Flawed as it may be, Brand New Second Hand shows that international hip-hop need not mimic that of the States in order to compete--but it could take some lessons in the studio. --Justin Hampton

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