Now aged 39, South London rapper Roots Manuva may well be the elder statesman of British hip-hop, but his eighth studio album, 4everevolution, shows he can still summarize the state of the nation more succinctly in one line that most MCs half his age manage over the course of an entire album. "Cost of life so cheap round here/but the cost of living ain't cheap round here," he cleverly delivers in his distinctive, sleepy Cockney drawl on the cinematic "Skid Valley," a diatribe against the government featuring dramatic, James Bond theme-style strings and impassioned soulful vocals courtesy of Skunk Anansie's Skin. It's just one example of the effortless, lyrical wordplay and socio-political messages on offer throughout its eclectic 17 tracks, which embrace a whole host of urban sounds, from wobbling the dubstep on "Here We Go Again," a cautionary tale of a friend who's taken the wrong path in life, to the twitchy grime of "Revelation" to the woozy, East Coast hip-hop beats and skank guitars of "Who Goes There?" Indeed, Manuva's trademark swagger and acerbic wit are still very much in full flow, but this is by far his most versatile record to date. For every seven-minute slice of challenging, ambient electro-clash, ("The Throes of It"), there is a Radio 1-friendly attempt at soulful, 2-step garage ("Beyond This World"), and for every song which evokes the late-night, inner-city streets of London ("Takes Time"), there is a sunshine-fueled ditty more suited to the beaches of the Caribbean ("Wha' Mek?"). It's an approach which could finally reap the rewards that have so far eluded his critically acclaimed but commercially ignored career, and although the likes of the Basement Jaxx-esque ragga of "Go Champ" and the disco-tinged collaboration with Toddla T ("Watch Me Dance") are potential club anthems, this is no Dizzee Rascal-esque mainstream make-over. Instead, 4everevolution is an appropriately titled, subtle progression which proves that intelligent hip-hop and accessible urban pop don't have to be mutually exclusive, and in the process, Roots Manuva has produced his best record since his 2001 breakthrough, Run Come Save Me.
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AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien