UK hip-hop’s eccentric uncle Roots Manuva has returned from a reasonable hiatus with a new track and video “So Jazzy”, and the title is not a curveball. This is late night jazz bar turtleneck hip-hop territory, and it’s a welcome return to form from a titan of the scene. It’s been 20 years since Roots’ seminal debut album Run Come Save Me and naturally the style has mellowed somewhat, but the pleasure of listening to the king address his people remains undiminished.
The muted trumpet which introduces the track gives us an early indication of exactly how jazzy it’s looking to get out here. As the melancholy piano takes over, those questions are put to bed. This is a cut of pure golden era styles and Roots is in fine form, turning a phrase in his own esoteric manner, underpinned by his bewitching baritone. His prose has become more accessible but still offers enough ambiguity to maintain intrigue. Such is the commanding nature of his voice, you find yourself agreeing emphatically without knowing what you are agreeing with.
“I got the clean 16s for the internet
This is how we talk, full of intellect
Defined for the vivisect aspect prospective
The retrospective shall be respected
Irrespective of the need to be corrected
Viral champagnes that were never expected”
The hook is suitably suave, leading with the line “I’m so jazzy, you might call me Jazzie B”, referring to the legendary Soul II Soul producer. Jazzie B is depicted, along with Mr Manuva himself, as a stop-motion animated puppet in the music video for the track. Roots is shown rapping with Jazzie on the decks and enjoying the company of a lady friend in a summer dress on an amorous picnic. The tone is beautifully understated and shows how Roots Manuva’s whole output has matured organically without losing any of its original tang.
There is no word on a possible album on the horizon, but either way it’s reassuring to hear that familiar voice and know that the brain behind it is still whirring and grafting. “So Jazzy” is the musical equivalent of a comforting hand placed on a distressed shoulder, accompanied by a knowing look and some cathartic dancing. It’s impossible not to nod your head and get lost in the drift for 3 minutes, which you could have spent worrying. Grab the track here.