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Surround your sound like a Spandex pant leg

A pair of legs in high heels and Spandex leggings

Image: Pixabay

  • Track: Join the Dots
  • Artist: Roots Manuva feat. Chali 2na
  • Album: Run Come Save Me
  • Year: 2001

I feel bad that we’ve got to ten tracks before featuring a ‘proper’ British rapper.

We’ve had a couple of London-born US rappers and one British DJ so far. So it’s my pleasure to introduce the legend that is Roots Manuva (whose real name, awesomely, is Rodney Hylton Smith).

This one is a banger. From the same 2001 album that delivered UK hip-hop anthem Witness, comes a collaboration with Jurassic 5’s Chali 2na. And boy is it a treat. Run Come Save me is one of those albums that hit me like a tonne of bricks when I first heard it. Now do yourself a favour and watch the hilarious Witness video. I’ll wait.

Mr. 2na also included this track on his solo effort Fish Market  (he’s obsessed with fish for some reason), released three years after Run Come Save Me. He had the temerity to cut out the last chorus, reducing the track length by 32 seconds. Maybe he was thinking of a future where some nerd on the internet would rank hip-hop tracks by number of similes per minute?

But as the Roots Manuva version is the original, it’s the one that we’ll be adding to the database. At this point. Eventually of course, probably in about 2067, we’ll get round to logging the Fish Market version and the circle of simile life will thus be restored.

One thing that makes this so pleasurable to listen to is the combination of two very distinctive voices. Chali 2na (AKA the Manphibian – he’s not afraid of mixing his aquatic metaphors) might just have my favourite voice in hip-hop. His voice is as deep as the Mariana Trench. This guy is not a baritone, he’s basso profondo. Actually, that’d make a good fish-related alias.

This is also the best hip-hop tune I can think of that samples a piccolo. It’s also the only hip-hop song I can think of that samples a piccolo. It’s a joyous little loop nabbed from an album of film and television background music recorded in 1937 (sample drops at 3m 25s).

Chali 2na’s fellow Jurassic 5 member Cut Chemist also put together a trippy, ever so slightly indulgent remix. It’s all right, but it lacks the rawness of the original but does clean the vocals up a bit. That’s helpful because the lyrics in the original are a bit hard to hear in places. So credit to whoever transcribed this on Genius. I’ve made a few tweaks because it’s my blog and I’ll do that if I want.

This isn’t a simile-soaked track. They come sparingly, and in theory it’s all about quality not quantity. But until we have a method of properly assessing quality, we’re stuck with quantity.

Over the course of this post, we’ll also find out why spandex is so called. And if that doesn’t keep you reading, whatever will?

Also, I just invented a joke:

What’s Chali 2na’s girlfriend’s hip-hop alias? Mariana Tench.

I’m sorry.

The lyrics

View full annotated lyrics on Genius.com.

[Intro]

2na Manuva get gettin’ the got
Good God ah, yes man, it’s auspicious man
Oh God (good night). Who’s that?

[Chali 2na]

My escapades exceed Caddy Escalades

Here we go then. We’re opening up with a comparative, which is perfectly legitimate. The Cadillac Escalade is a luxury massive great car of the sort Americans love to zoom about in. This thing can carry nine people. It’s practically a bus. Thinking about trying to park it is giving me anxiety so we should move on.

I best behave to the rhythm of justice slaves
Selected brave I lecture make extra waves
Doggin’ your sounds causing you clowns just to cave
Address the rage rush the stage just to blaze
Glorifying glamour and gore is just a phase
Cutting down the rainforest for cows just to graze
It’s killin’ the populous while you clone test tube babes
Test the change ‘cause of fantasies they try to feed us
Under the bridge drumming for Flea and Anthony Kiedis
I ran from elitist who got the truth confused
It’s the Manphibian and the one Roots Manuva

Just one simile in this verse. This track takes a while to warm up simile-wise. But we can still enjoy this opening, including a nice slice of eco-warriorism, once you’ve got the mention of the massive gas-guzzling SUV out the way.

There’s also a clever reference to the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ most famous song. Though it’s only well known because of the far superior All Saints cover. Aaah, they make singing about heroin addiction almost heavenly.

Now swim aside Chali, because it’s time for Roots Manuva to announce his intentions.

[Roots Manuva]

Yo, mystic mindset travel at warp eight
Flashback to my very first taste of hash cake
Oh Lord I feel so sensual
And every now and then I get a great sense of woah!
Synchronisation of the hip gyration of the old time new brand
Back to back, man or no man no matter oh man boy or boy girl or girl
Steppin’ out of place with the light of the world I’m locked up
Weed grass rushing through my veins slip over the rocky terrain and maintain
Like a weed whore checkin’ that hydroponic bud

Earth child, come see me rolling in the mud

Oof. Roots Manuva gatecrashes his own track with a wonderful opening line. It’ll please Star Trek fans. Or maybe annoy them: even I know it should be ‘warp factor eight’ and I hate Star Trek.

Anyway it’s a memorable opening verse, and I love it. ‘Synchronisation of the hip gyration’ deserves to win some sort of award.

Roots Manuva won’t win any awards for his simile use mind you – this is his only one on the track. It’s quite a complicated one, and a vivid bit of imagery: I can almost picture their fingers frantically rifling through their little baggie.

He Virgo ever so civilised while I unrobe
No played out to catch wives
Don’t wanna get mixed up in they mix up
Wanna just fix up mind, soul and mental plane

Roots Manuva has always been one for tiptoeing into spirituality territory. I don’t think ‘while I unrobe’ is correct (not sure about you, but I disrobe), but any other serious contender for the lyric has escaped me.

Time for the chorus. Don’t take it too seriously, it’s a knockabout lark. Just sit back, relax and enjoy.

[Chorus]

Join the dots, block blood in the block
Knock knockin’ the not, the which the where the what
2na Manuva get gettin’ the got
Stewed chicken in the Dutch pot runnin’ it hot
Join the dots, block blood in the block
Knock knockin’ the not, the which the where the what
2na Manuva get gettin’ the got
Stewed chicken in the Dutch pot runnin’ it hot

Nice. Now we’ve relaxed a little, let’s prepare ourselves for a veritable onslaught of similes.

There isn’t too much time to wallow in the spiritual mud, or think too much about the chorus, because Chali wants to bring us back down to earth. He’s a bit miffed you see.

[Chali 2na]

Yo some of these fellas be overzealous
We have them marks jealous in dark cellars
Blowing like Branford Marsalis

The unfortunate fellas in Chali’s cellar are blowing a lot of hot air (thanks Genius), like jazz saxophonist Branford Marsalis.

We park dwellers rhythm rebellers
We spark letters we art sellers
Pleadin’ the waters the sharks fell us
Be quick with your camcorder
In no particular plan order
We go hit like vehicular manslaughter sing

Ok so he’s not that miffed, but at the very least a little narked. It’s around this point that the Genius transcription starts to go a little awry, with exhibit one being that unlikely shark line. Or maybe these are the actual lyrics and I’m too stupid to understand them.

What I do understand is that Roots Manuva and Chali 2na’s sound will hit you as hard as a speeding car. Fingers crossed it’s not a fully packed Caddy Escalade.

[Roots Manuva]

In ting bring a fling of bringin’ it on
Refuse to get lost in the quest for wong
Although we transatlantic we never pedantic
Check my antic, we most romantic
We plan shit new for self quantumly
We killin’ the saw man we killin’ the see

I’d bet my house it’s not ‘quantumly’, but I’ve listened a few times and I can’t get anything better. I need a distraction, quick, before anyone notices my appalling levels of ‘analysis’.

Cue piccolo!

[Chorus]

Join the dots, block blood in the block
Knock knockin’ the not, the which the where the what
2na Manuva get gettin’ the got
Stewed chicken in the Dutch pot runnin’ it hot
Join the dots, block blood in the block
Knock knockin’ the not, the which the where the what
2na Manuva get gettin’ the got
Stewed chicken in the Dutch pot runnin’ it hot

[Roots Manuva]

No Sir Mr. 2na, I can’t burn the blunt
I remember the last time and how I got t’ump

It’s rare for a rapper to admit he’s a lightweight. But there’s not a chance Roots Manuva is saying ‘t’ump’ here. He’s not from Yorkshire, he’s from Stockwell. Again, what he’s actually saying remains a mystery to me.

I promised a cascade of similes, yet we’ve only really had a dribble. Well hold your hat there friend, because like a boxing glove, Chali 2na’s on hand to knock a few out.

[Chali 2na]

Yo yo, you ran slower while my clan grow chance’ll
Let the man know my pen brush strokes like Van Gogh

Hmmm, interesting. Four tunes back you might remember we featured another simile referencing Vincent van Gogh:

Ripping me is like a Mike fight versus Vincent van Gogh

D-Sisive, 3 Feet Deep

So this marks our first ever recurring simile. Yay. But we’re not done yet.

I disappear like his missing ear when I’m switchin’ gear
Shining like your kitchenware rhymes rich and rare

So by shoehorning another Van Gogh simile in, that makes three. An early contender for most used simile in hip-hop? Two of them reference ears being removed, funnily enough. Pity poor old Vincent: died penniless, struggled with serious mental health problems, and now best remembered for that one thing.

There’s nothing interesting about shiny kitchenware, so let’s not dwell on that.

Get your picture clear, 2na the stealth reporter
I melt your order like sugar and seltzer water

Lots of lines that are pretty cryptic in this verse (and the whole song really). Assuming the transcription is right, I have little clue about this one. Seltzer water is what Americans call sparkling water, if that helps. I realise it doesn’t.

Whoever felt the horror but knows that their chance beg
Surround your sound like a spandex pants leg

Roots and Chali’s sound will grip you like Lycra (same thing apparently). Here’s a great bit of trivia: ‘spandex’ is an anagram of ‘expands’. That alone is worth the price of this blog. This blog is free.

Spread like an advanced plague worms never dance may
Shout the f and f that beats my man Craig

The track’s final straightforward simile brings us to the end of this perplexing verse.

None of this makes much sense. Who’s Craig and why are you shouting at him? Poor Craig. I’ve tried and can’t get any better interpretations of the lyrics. To be fair, Chali 2na raps flipping quickly.

That’s it for the similes. Turn the heat off on that Dutch pot and let’s settle down for a snack.

[Chorus]

Join the dots, block blood in the block
Knock knockin’ the not, the which the where the what
2na Manuva get gettin’ the got
Stewed chicken in the Dutch pot runnin’ it hot
Join the dots, block blood in the block
Knock knockin’ the not, the which the where the what
2na Manuva get gettin’ the got
Stewed chicken in the Dutch pot runnin’ it hot

So there we have it. Just ten similes in all, but covering a satisfying range of things. Chali 2na carried this one to be honest. If we’d looked at the version on Fish Market, the similes per minute would be 0.5 higher but as it is, it’s propping up the simile league table for now.

The stats

Similes:10
Words:650
Words per simile:65.00
Length:3m 58s
Similes per minute:2.52
Warp factor:8

Leave a comment. Bonus points for similes.