The Roots are what every aspiring hip-hop group should hope to become. For nearly two decades now the legendary Philly crew have been making their music, their way. Over the course of eleven albums and countless live shows, The Roots have proven themselves to be artists of unparalleled dopeness and integrity. Sure, there have been some ups and downs. The group’s seen some line-up changes (can you believe Scott Storch used to be in The Roots?) and like everyone the recession has pushed them in new directions (they’re currently putting in work as the house …
DJBooth Album Review
There is this one thing though…
I want to end this review on a high note – in fact the Roots deserve for me to end this review on a high note – so let me get my complaining (some might call it whining) out of the way now: sweet baby jesus, would it kill you guys to make an enjoyable song again? Your last two albums Game Theory and Rising Down were supposed to be dark reflections of our troubled times, I understand that, I support that. But I was honestly relieved to hear that How I Got Over would acknowledge Obama’s election and be more buoyant and uplifting. What happened? This is only an uplifting album if you spend the last week in your house alone drinking and listening to Portishead. Just take the title track How I Got Over, a cut that’s damn good in its own right and that you’d think would be a song about triumph given the title. Nope. Although the bouncing beat at first may suggest an up-tempo cut, all hopes are dashed as soon as BlackThought kicks in with “we livin’ in a war zone like Rwanda.” I suppose Web 20/20 comes closest, although that’s more of a raw, hard hip-hop cut featuring Peedi Peedi and Truck North than anything designed to move a crowd. Hell, even The Fire, a gripping track featuring John Legend, is more darkness than light. I’m not asking for an auto-tuned club jam, I’m just asking for something that makes us happy to be alive. You know, like Proceed, or Hypnotic, or You Got Me or The Seed 2.0, or any of the other tracks you once made to remind us that while life is hard, it can also be joyous. Is that really too much to ask Roots?
There, I think it’s out of my system. Sorry. Now I can just fully appreciate some of the amazingly dope music we find on How I Got Over. The Roots have always been hip-hop ambassadors and on Got Over their a virtual United Nations of genres, bringing in, for example, The Monsters of Folk to deliver a moving hook on Dear God 2.0, and recruiting the eminently eclectic Joanna Newsom for the hauntingly beautiful Right On. And I can’t ignore their flip of John Legend’s infidelity anthem Doin It Again into a pounding, virtuoso banger. That spirit of creative adventure of course continues well beyond guest features, most notably on the bonus track Hustla. It may be more obvious than the subtle mechanisms driving tracks like Now or Never, but the way they flip the sound of a baby crying and a rattle into an ill beat? I mean, that’s one of those “oh s**t, only The Roots could pull this off” moments that define all their best albums. One of those moments only they could provide. The Day, Radio Daze, there’s not a weak moment to be found on How I Got Over, and how many albums can we truly say that about?
I’ve been listening to The Roots for long enough to feel comfortable saying How I Got Over isn’t one of their best albums, and not just because of the absence of feel good tracks. True, it’s expansive, but not as expansive as Phrenology, and it takes risks, but now as many as Game Theory. So what does that leave us with? That leaves us with an album we’re lucky to have, an album that most hip-hop artists couldn’t even dream of making. Respect The Roots crew.
DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on 06/22/10
First DJ Booth Appearance:
"75 Bars (Black’s Reconstruction)" (2008)
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