Review ·

At the same time they became the biggest band in hip-hop -- at least among hippie festivalgoers, who were allowed to feel like they were celebrating diversity by listening to the Roots, and according to a certain former SNL cast member -- the Roots were making some of their hardest, least accessible music. It’s hard to imagine a tie-dye-wearing Bonnaroo attendee enjoying the sinister bits of Tipping Point, Game Theory or Rising Down in between the crunchy grooves the Roots plentifully dole out in the live setting. Put it this way: “Don’t Say Nuthin’” isn’t going to end up slotted between a Phish and Dave Matthews Band song on any mixtape anytime soon.

 

In that respect, the course correction on the group’s ninth album, How I Got Over, was easy to see coming. Gone are the frantic raps, menacing synths, and general hardness of the band’s past three albums. In their place is a mellow approximation of the jazzy, old-school charm of the Roots circa Things Fall Apart. How I Got Over falls short of that classic, but this is the most fun Roots album since 2002’s Phrenology.


In some sense, How I Got Over is the most fan-oriented album in the Roots’ catalog. The band has become the best part of Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, and its performances and backstage dalliances with indie-rock bands deserve a show more than Jay Leno does. They’re shooting for indie fans’ yearly hip-hop purchase with this one: Amber Coffman, Haley Dekle and Angel Deradoorian of Dirty Projectors open the album with a harmonious sketch, and the album samples Monsters of Folk and Joanna Newsom. But there’s a crucial difference between this kind of indie-baiting and the kind that Jim Jones or Kid Cudi engage in by jumping on hot indie songs of the moment. With the Roots, it all sounds totally natural, not like they’re going out of their way to tie themselves to indie bands. Part of that is the Roots’ indie bonafides, the other part is that the indie sampling tracks are the best here. Black Thought’s swirling verses on “Dear God 2.0” wake the sleepy song original up, and the Joanna Newsom sample, the stellar “Right On,” features a hard-charging Black Thought trading verses with new-ish Roots affiliate STS.

 

The principle complaint here is the same as it has been for a few albums: Black Thought is hardly given much time to shine, getting only two tracks entirely to himself. (You have to imagine he’s saving up for his allegedly upcoming solo album.) That’s often a problem with the Roots live show -- ?uestlove’s musical direction is the real star -- and it remains so on wax. Black Thought, who is capable of deep introspection and cutting social commentary (for proof of both, listen to the title track) when he gets the chance, is one of rap’s most underrated MCs.  After this, he’ll probably continue to be.

 

But that concern becomes less prevalent the deeper you delve into the ultimately rewarding How I Got Over. They don’t make rap albums like this anymore. At the very least, you know that the Roots weren’t taking notes from Def Jam to have John Legend on two tracks (he sings on “The Fire” and is sampled on the excellent “Doin’ It Again”) in order to have single bait, or were pressured to include a Neptunes production or had the album shelved when their label was worried about trying to sell it. From conception to completion, the Roots are in a class by themselves, continuing to exist both in hip-hop and at the same time outside of it.

 

***

Band: http://www.theroots.com

Label: http://www.defjam.com

Audio: http://www.myspace.com/theroots

 

  • Walk Alone (Truck North, Porn, Dice Raw, Mercedes Martinez)
  • Dear God 2.0 (Jim James, MOF)
  • Radio Daze (Blu, Porn, Dice Raw, Mercedes Martinez)
  • Now Or Never (Phonte Coleman, Dice Raw)
  • How I Got Over (Dice Raw)
  • The Day (Blu, Phonte Coleman, Patty Crash)
  • Right On (Joanna Newsom, Sugar Tongue Slim)
  • Doin It Again (John Legend)
  • The Fire (John Legend, Rick Friedrich)

When it was announced that the Roots would be Jimmy Fallon's house band when he took over for Conan O'Brien, fans of the legendary Philadelphia crew were worried that would mean the band was over as a recording entity. Drummer ?uestlove put that talk to rest quickly after, however, Twittering that the band was working on their 11th album, titled How I Got Over. There's no word on what style the band will strive for, like whether or not they'll return to the acoustic jazz of their earlier albums or the synthy blasts of their previous albums, Game Theory and Rising Down.

Robert Pollard - Moses on a Snail So Percussion and Matmos Treasure State
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i can't wait for the roots new album! it all started with a single i heard on radio and now i'm officially addicted to their music!!!! GET 'EM HUS!

nas

THE TIPPING POINT WAS ONE AMAZING CD IF IT SOUNDS LIKE THAT WITH JDILLA BEATS AND ALOT MORE TRACKS AND IF MORE SONGS SOUND LIKE THE START OF WHY TRACK 10 ON THE TIPPING POINT GO LISTEN TO IT IF U NEVER HEARD IT,Black Thought Is The King Of HipHop and RAP HANDS DOWN

R.NESS

man i've been digging the roots since Do You Want More ??!?!?! and had to go cop Organix to be down from the start. I've bought every single album since. I hope they stay right where they are...not too blown up, so they never have to worry about music media tearing them down. they are the true meaning of the word longevity.

eq

been down since Organix and i cop every album when they are released... the only hiccup was the tipping point which was kind of generic for the Roots Crew, but it did have its moments... sad to see this one pushed back until december... i was hoping to have it by now

Moses

The Tipping point was a great cd as you said but Illadelph Halflife is their best album and def. in my top 5 of all time

Corey

Thank you Corey for saying that.

Illadelph Halflife was easily one of the most slept on albums in rap history. Why people never realized that is still a mystery to this day...

ItIsMe

Any of The Roots fan e-mail me if they insipre you or how you feel about there tracks over the Years.
Would Music like this survive longivaty like Jay-Z.
We need some genre's like this still active before the industry compelty
overcasts us with music that + to muntant teenage Southern songs.
We should stilll have concious music out there.
but e-mail if you a rapper a fan dj anything.
it's the idea to think & create music .
Badgrams

/site_media/uploads/images/users/prefix/no-user-pic.gif badgrams

whatever game theory was differently awesome.

ragz

Have been patiently waiting for this album to drop and I am ecstatic for the release of How I Got Over... Been down with the Roots since Organix and have been a die-hard ever since... Although Illadelph Halflife is def. in my top 5 i gotta say that Things Fall Apart is from front to back my fav. and one of the most overlooked Albums in Hip-Hop. Viva La Legendary Roots Crew, Keep the Music Alive!!!!

Status_Legato

The Roots are the Hands Down! best group out there! They always come with REAL music instead of the pre packaged BULL that the rest of the world seems to enjoy. Real instrumentals, Real Content and Real music.

P.S. J Dilla, god rest his soul, passed away early in 2006. I doubt that he will contribute to the Roots new Effort 'how I got over'. If you like J.D check out his tribute CD 'the Shining' which features amoung other The roots Black thouhgt as well as some Common.

Bphilli1

When is this album gonna be released... Their website says 10/20/09, cant seem to find it still!!?? Whats going on?

Hujo

Release date now June 8, 2010 according to ?uestlove's Tweet:
http://twitter.com/questlove/status/10006424623

Thanks to Andrew Martin for pointing this out.

/site_media/uploads/images/users/daba/me-bermudajpg.jpg Daba

There are three things that I can say about The Roots: 1}'Halflife','Phrenology', and 'Rising Down', are Hip-Hop classics, 2}Black Thought is one of the top 5 MCs of all-time,and, 3}they ALWAYS deliver high-quality Hip-Hop!!

Bigbizon

C'mon y'all... "things fall apart" & "game theory" are their best albums to date--hands down. Seriously what's better than "double trouble"(the collab w/ mos def) and "act too-love of my life"(w/ common) back to back??? tell me, after that, do you REALLY want more??! Lol :) "phrenology"(the seed, ugh) & "rising down" were missteps to me. "tipping point" is kinda forgettable..."star" & "stay cool" are (2) dope tracks on it though. "halflife" was 20 minutes too long wouldn't you agree? peace i'm out.

bridgkid

I will have to say the "double trouble" is my favorite song! The collabo with Mos Def was like two run away trains that collided and the only sound from the crash was REAL HIP hop!!!

The Roots to me have never made a bad jam. I wouldnt even say some were lacking. We must remember that they are a band and they feed off of one another and, I am sure of it that each member has lead a song or 12 with past, present or future experience and emotion, and like the painting that there songs are we must appreciate them for that and try not to be so critical of "OUR" favorite band.

All I can say at this point is that I consider myself to be pretty damn lucky to be able to enjoy such a power house as The ROOTS in my life and further more during this time of trashy bee bop candy rap....

Thanks to THE ROOTS and big ups to all that support methodical abstract vocal art....

Dan Data... BBBBDDDDRRRRAAAAATTTT....one love

Dan Data

Album cover art added. Changing release date yet again.

/site_media/uploads/images/users/daba/me-bermudajpg.jpg Daba

New release date is June the 22nd.

Dan Data

track list added.

/site_media/uploads/images/users/daba/me-bermudajpg.jpg Daba

picked this up today on amazon (despite the 22nd release date) ... umm this album was worth the wait, excellent stuff!!!!!

Bauer

The new album kicks butt. Best rap album out today. ;)

BTW, I posted a Roots retrospective on my blog from the past decade. Thought you guys might be interested:

http://www.goodbadunknown.com/?p=366

JP

I agree with most of your review, good sir. One thing I have a bit of a hard time agreeing with -- and this might be because I'm a huge Black Thought fan -- is this: "That’s often a problem with The Roots live show -- ?uestlove’s musical direction is the real star -- and it remains so on wax."

I can see what you mean, especially considering how often people compliment the Roots for their amazingly tight live shows. But I can't help sticking up for BT here and saying that I think he's, at least over the past three years or so, really upped his showmanship. Again, might just be the BT stan in me, so leave it at that.

Also, I don't really necessarily hear the "fun" being heard on here, as I feel like the first half of the album, up to and sort of including the title-track, is rather somber. Then, for the second half, Thought and his guests rarely sound upbeat, except for on "The Day" and parts of "The Fire." Otherwise, I hear a darker tones throughout the entire of the LP. Well, except for the last two tracks, though "Hustla" is a bonus cut.

Hope my thoughts made sense. And again, great review.

/site_media/uploads/images/users/Andrew_Martin/me.jpg Andrew_Martin

I don't know, maybe I haven't seen them recently enough (I saw them the last time almost two years ago), but the three times I've seen them, I've come away super disappointed that they don't let Black Thought dominate like he can. I guess it's because there are other dudes to consider--everyone gets their time to shine live--but it's not like going to see a solo MC. I saw GZA essentially open for them at this festival once, and he killed Black Thought, but only because GZA was given an entire hour to do his thing, while Thought maybe had a 45 minutes in an hour and a half set.

/site_media/uploads/images/users/thestorfer/1202393jpeg.jpeg andross

Ah, OK, I see what you're saying then. Do remember if Thought get a chance to do his cover of Kool G. Rap & DJ Polo's "Men at Work" where he basically raps for five minutes straight? That alone continues to amaze me as dude simultaneously dances and gets the crowd into it without taking a breath.

/site_media/uploads/images/users/Andrew_Martin/me.jpg Andrew_Martin

Yeah, I think he did that the first time I saw them. That's awesome, but again, why not let him do that throughout the whole show. I think the roots might be the most socialist band around. No one is really the clear star. For a lead singer, Black Thought gets comparatively little time on his own.

/site_media/uploads/images/users/thestorfer/1202393jpeg.jpeg andross

I hope you get what I was trying to say there, andross. That comment is f*cking typo-heaven.

/site_media/uploads/images/users/Andrew_Martin/me.jpg Andrew_Martin

Sh*t, well, I guess you did understand me. Anyway, yeah, you make a good point there. I think it's just the BT-stan in me that walks away being the most impressed with his skills as an MC. But you're right. I mean, friends I've gone to shows with mostly comment on how the Roots put on such a finely orchestrated/crafted show.

/site_media/uploads/images/users/Andrew_Martin/me.jpg Andrew_Martin

Hahaha. "Typo-heaven" is a good one.

/site_media/uploads/images/users/thestorfer/1202393jpeg.jpeg andross

Also, hard for me to admit this, but I thought Black Thought was kinda sh*tty on "Right On." So many bad punch lines. Thank god the rest of that track is amazing.

/site_media/uploads/images/users/Andrew_Martin/me.jpg Andrew_Martin

Good review man. I agree with AM though, both times I've seen them live Thought has had plenty of mic time to bolster my view of him as one of the greatest... Also, I'm pretty sure "Guns are drawn" could fit that spot between Phish and Dave Matthews you mentioned...

h0gy

This is definitely their best album in my opinion since "Things Fall Apart", The Roots exemplify real Hip Hop with Black Thoughts intense lyrics and Dice to back him, we only missin MARS and Malik B; hopefully they will make the next album!!! A Classic Album and a must have for true fans!!!

Awesome O

Great album!

DSJ80

Black Thought; you are truly a gifted poet,I'm from north philly and yall send chills down my spine everytime I hear you spit. I hope to see yall perform live one day and I have front row seats where nobody can stand in front of me to block my view because I'm in a wheelchair just like the brother in the video HOW I GOT OVER. PEACE, LOVE,RESPECT, AND MUCH SUCCESS

Sheila Harris

Brilliant album, especially when compared to the junk we here these days. We can never compare it to "things fall apart" but hey, we dare NOT align it to souljah boy album either. Ohh to ellaborate one would say..."Inevitably, hip hop records are treated as though they are disposable.They are not maximised as product...not to mentions as art" talk about true prophecy

Xulu_Bex

Brilliant album, especially when compared to the junk we hear these days. We can never compare it to "things fall apart" but hey, we dare NOT align it to souljah boy album either. Ohh to ellaborate one would say..."Inevitably, hip hop records are treated as though they are disposable.They are not maximised as product...not to mentions as art" talk about true prophecy

Xulu_Bex

Dopeness, as usual!

Tracie Montgomery

Hey! Love ‘The Roots’? Opportunity Nation (a non-profit focused on restoring the American Dream) is giving away a trip for two (hotel, airfare, tickets) to Roots Jam, a private VIP invite-only concert series the night before the Grammy’s check it out http://www.opportunitynation.org/.

Johnny Harpp

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