Interview: Roots Manuva

Roots Manuva and Wax Da Jam at Aura Ibiza: 21/09/10

Photography by Eli Zuta

Having grown up with Pentecostal parents then becoming such a firm fixture on the UK hip hop scene for so many years, it may come as a surprise to many that the legendary Roots Manuva (that’s Rodney Smith to his mum) harbours a secret love for the white isle. But despite his previous gigs at Ibiza Rocks and the large expat community, he says he’s never really encountered much of the British culture here to this day, until meeting Hayden Trethewy, owner of Aura before his recent gig at Wax Da Jam

You say Ibiza has been your secret escape for a long time – when did you first come here?

It must have been 1998… it was just alien to me! As soon as we got off the plane we went to somebody’s mansion and it was like, what on earth is going on here? It was good crazy though, friends of mine were DJing at a millionaire’s party but we got cleared out at 4am and we were staying at a club 18’s place near Café del Mar!

But you kept on coming back…

Yeah, now I’ve seen more sides to it and it’s such a beautiful place. I’ve always felt in my mind that Ibiza must have split off from Jamaica. My older brother, who was born in Jamaica came here with me about three years ago and the first thing he said was, ‘Man, this looks like Jamaica.’ It’s the secret two-hours-away-from-London Jamaica!

Has it changed a lot since that first time?

It’s still a beautiful place and of course, it’s got its good sides and its bad sides. But I was a very different person over 10 years ago. Coming from the British urban music and hip-hop scene, coming here was so far away from South London. It was more of an escape and I could run around here and do top secret things, whereas in London, I had to hold it down and try and ‘represent’. It was my secret place then…

What about your style of music now, in this era on the island – do you think there’s a place in Ibiza’s dance music culture for it?

Definitely. There’s always been an opening for something different here, because there’s a tendency to keep the beaten track going out of a general fare. There are so many people that have come here and found the same qualities attractive…

Like Dizzee Rascal for example, who has made the leap to high-glam VIP clubs? Do you see yourself ever doing something like that?

That’s good fun. If I had the right kind of show, yeah, I wouldn’t just want to turn up and start shouting into a mic, if I had the right kind of show, a full-on, proper show… I wouldn’t just want to be part of the scene for the sake of it.

But this time you’re playing the jam session with Nightmares on Wax – what’s the connection between you guys?

We used to be managed by the same woman! But I always knew the records, I listened to the music, but I didn’t know Nightmares on Wax was one person [DJ E.A.S.E.]. I thought it was a massive movement – well, it is. It’s a project and it’s got so many facets to it and many different people have helped them on the journey.

And now you! What can we expect from Roots Manuva in Ibiza?

I haven’t got the foggiest! I’m going to record a podcast with Ricky [Ranking, vocalist] while I’m here, record some performances for a few videos… But there’s never enough time!

Why – are you still spending too much time hanging out at pimping villas?

Well… [laughs]. Yeah, still!

This interview was published on September 29, 2010

Roots Manuva and Wax Da Jam at Aura Ibiza: 21/09/10

Photography by Eli Zuta