After three years away from the circus, Roots Manuva is back to remind listeners just who runs U.K. hip-hop. It’s not easy to describe Manuva, aka Rodney Smith, but then he does a pretty good job himself, boasting on his new album, “Awfully Deep,” of his “venomous eloquence” and his “cryptic displays of deadpan.” As lyrically lucid as ever, Roots Manuva’s third album teems with attitude, imagination, humor and genuine insight. Standout songs include the title track and “Chin High,” which deals with being strong and true to yourself. Elsewhere, drug abuse, revenge and the value of money all get the Manuva treatment.

These stories are supported by a super-improved Manuva production that sizzles with tension and flash and shows he can make a range of styles his own, from dub and reggae through to twisted two-step riddims. Calling “Awfully Deep” a great hip-hop album is only the half of it: Smith has taken it beyond hip-hop.

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