When I arrive at Ninja Tune’s Kennington Lane headquarters to speak to Rodney Hylton Smith, it becomes clear, quickly, which of us is the most nervous about our interview.
As I clutch my neatly folded list of questions, the elder statesman of British hip hop is getting stuck into his Greggs in a pretty big way, barely looking up through round, pitchblack sunglasses as I’m introduced.
“What did you get?” I enquire, trying to break the ice as an avalanche of crumbs tumble. “Huh?” comes the mumbled response, Smith’s full mouth agape.
“What did you get in Greggs?” “Bread puddin’!” is the terse reply when it eventually comes, as if to say, ROOTS MANUVA “What difference would it possibly make if it was a cream finger?”
He seems to be enjoying it, at least, and we settle into things swiftly, with Smith soon revealing himself to be a warm, beguiling soul; every bit as eccentric as the genre-defying work he makes as Roots Manuva.
He is overwhelmingly confident; selfpossession doesn’t come close to describing the performance I’m treated to as he jumps, ROOTS MANUVA both from topic to topic and literally, springing to his feet and bounding around the room whenever a subject proves sufficiently inspiring.
Perpetually spiralling off on apparently unrelated tangents, ROOTS MANUVA it is pure theatre as he flicks between characters and accents; acting out both sides of conversations he’s had with scolding Jamaican aunts,
ROOTS MANUVA a booming Pentecostal preacher father, and his own young sons.
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