Bio“It was as a kid. Before I even knew what a soundsystem was. I was walking past Stockwell skateboard park and there was this sound being set up. They were probably just trying out their speakers. I was with my mum, holding my mum’s hand. And I remember my mum being quite intimidated by the whole affair. Such a barrage of bass coming from it! And these dodgy-looking blokes standing beside it just admiring the sound of their bass. It’s just a bass thing. A volume thing. I don’t know if I rose-tint the memories, but I remember it sounded so good, so rich. It’s not like today when we go to clubs and it hurts. It was more of a life-giving bass.” In this simple recollection it’s easy to locate the driving force of a whole lot of what Rodney Smith aka Roots Manuva is all about, what he remains all about right up until this very day. His fascination with and love of soundsystem culture informs not just his music and lyrics but his whole attitude towards life and goes some way to explain his popularity both as an artist and an individual. “It’s the bass thing. It’s the whole organic thing. Back in those days the sound was probably built by a local carpenter. The whole communal aspect of a bunch of people getting together and doing whatever they have to do to build this sonic monstrosity. It’s just the love that people get together and project into this one physical thing.”
Rodney Smith was born and grew up in Stockwell, South London. His parents both came from a small village in Jamaica called Banana Hole. His father was a lay preacher and tailor, a combination which goes some way to explaining the son’s preoccupation with the soul and the stitching, or as he puts it, describing his new album, “the internal/external struggle.” His family weren’t exactly rolling in money (hence his mother’s use of the term “brand new second hand” to characterise the occasional pre-used present), but they were strict, as befits members of the Pentecostal Church. Music was never meant to be the chief inspiration in young Rodney’s life, but the soundsystem in the park that day moved his spirit in mysterious ways.