Manchester’s Shotty Horroh released his latest record, Salt Of The Earth, late last week; a surprising turn that sees the rapper embrace the sounds of his city’s rock heroes to deliver his most personal and introspective work to date.

Making his name as a vicious rap battler in the early part of this decade, Horroh, born Adam Rooney, was known for his  lyrical dexterity and barbed attacks on competitors which were both crude and creative in equal parts. His early success and exposure led to a move to Toronto and collaborations with Deadmau5, a growing reputation on the international battle scene, tours with some of the world’s biggest rap artists and the release of his gritty debut Sixteen Minutes Past 3.

Despite this international success, what was never lost through the years was his Mancunian accent and outlook on life, which remained core to his style and music. Recently reflecting, “Back home rock and roll’s always been working class music. As a Mancunian that sound just resonates more than anything else. This is the first time in my career I’m showing people Adam.” Whilst he has never lost that Mancunian perspective, musically Salt Of The Earth is still a very different proposition to what has come before.

The record is both an introspective reflection on his background and a snarling attack on the socio-political forces that have helped shape those experiences. As a result, the record is rooted in the Manchester communities in which Rooney grew up, with lyrics such as “I was up all night cos the money’s tight, but the government don’t give a shite” on ‘Shudehill’ bringing to life the challenges of growing up in Harphurey in the nineties, as well as reflecting on the continued poverty in the area in light of the continued cuts made by the Tory government. ‘Dirty Old Town’ reflects on the people he lived among in the city’s council estates, urban storytelling for Manchester in a way that Plan B, another artist who has successfully fused rock and hip hop, delivered for London on Ill Manors.

Right from the opening riff of ‘Dynamite’ sonically the record is in strong deference to Oasis, from the melodic riffs of his band to Rooney’s drawling vocal delivery. Nowhere is this more evident than on the ‘Slide Away’ nodding ‘Alien’ or the chorus of ‘Frank & Stein’. Elsewhere there are touches of The Stone Roses and Ian Brown, which is all the more surprising given the album was produced by Shotty Horroh, Patrick “P” McKenzie and Jules Lynch at PMCK Studios and OnlyReal Entertainment in Toronto, and the band performing the tracks were actually North Americans. They have schooled themselves in the sound of Manchester’s past and present (including recent break out acts such as Cabbage) to deliver this record, which was mixed by McKenzie with assistance by Brendon “Stretch” McDonald in Toronto, and mastered by Tim Young at Metropolis Mastering in the UK.

Horroh doesn’t abandon his rapping entirely. He uses his trademark flow sporadically to deliver the most invective and pensive moments on the record, including the standout ‘Stay For The Ride’. Rooney has been open about consciously abandoning any effort to keep up with the latest trends, a sensation which seems to affect hip hop more than other genre at the moment, and instead focusing on making music which reflects his personality and influences. Whilst the sound is certainly rooted in the past, and its originality may be open to challenge, it is refreshing to hear an artist who is having fun with their music, faithfully paying homage to their roots whilst adding their own twist.

The storytelling is also grounded in his past, with many of the lyrics feeling like they are reflecting on moments and emotions Rooney hasn’t felt able to explore fully before. Salt Of The Earth is the record Horroh needed to make, even if he didn’t know that until he started making it, pushing the boundaries further to allow him to continue the evolution of his musical career.

The record comes a week ahead of the release VS., the upcoming BBC Film directed by Ed Lilly, a man Rooney has history with as the director of some of his early music videos. The film delivers  a heartfelt and powerful story aimed at underserved, young British audiences, showing their humour and creativity through the UK battle scene. Rooney plays the chief protagonist in his first acting role alongside emerging star, Connor Swindells.

The film hinges around Swindell’s character Adam’s struggles moving from foster home to foster home, landing back in Southend and being introduced to the local battle scene by the fantastic Fola Evans-Akingbola. As he struggles to reconcile with his birth mother (Emily Taaffe), with the film emotionally pivoting around a bracing meeting between the two, the friendships and community he has built are tested by moments of self-destruction.

Vs. premieres at the BFI London Film Festival on 13 October and is out for general release on 19 October via Altitude and BBC Films. Salt Of The Earth is out now via Sony Music Entertainment Canada and available to stream and download HERE.

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