Your basket is empty

Categories :

Similar artists

Albums

From
CD$10.49

Hip-Hop/Rap - Released January 1, 2010 | Def Jam Recordings

Distinctions 4F de Télérama
The not-very-hip-hop Dirty Projectors, Monsters of Folk, Patty Crash, and Joanna Newsom contribute one way or another to How I Got Over. Rest assured, the ninth studio album from the Late Night with Jimmy Fallon house band is very much its own, and skeptics should be reminded that hip-hop history is filled with figures as unlikely as Billy Squier (who probably did not bump into Run-D.M.C. backstage at The Alan Thicke Show). Very much in line with recent albums like Game Theory and Rising Down, neither of which was tailored for a good time, How I Got Over is the most subdued of the three. The blood doesn’t really get pumping until the fifth track. Up to that point, however, the band creates some of its most downcast and alluring material, covering solitude, self-destruction, and just about every planetary ill. It’s all vividly conveyed through pensive arrangements, sobering rhymes, spooky choruses, and even spookier backing vocals. Truck North, P.O.R.N., Dice Raw, and Blu make gripping contributions, but no one cuts to the chase quite like Black Thought, who can condense modern reality into one deftly delivered and commanding line, like “Got immunized for both flus, I’m still sick.” From there, the spirit lifts a little, though the songs are still deeply planted in realism. The title track is modern soul-blues that cooks, assisted by some serious singing from Black Thought and an inspiring chorus from Dice Raw. On “Now or Never,” Phonte’s dejection (“My role was cast before I even auditioned for it”) is tempered with Dice Raw's glints of determination. For good measure, or perhaps for the sake of a little balance, the back half also features a hardcore boast session between Thought, Peedi Peedi, and Truck North that cannot be disregarded. This is yet another Roots album that lends itself to repeated, beginning-to-end listening. It is gracefully and cleverly sequenced, from the way the tracks melt into each other to the way “Doin’ It Again” utilizes John Legend's anguished “Again” prior to transitioning into the subtly anthemic “The Fire,” which features a fresh collaboration with…John Legend. © Andy Kellman /TiVo
From
CD$12.99

Hip-Hop/Rap - Released January 1, 1994 | DGC

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Because the Roots were pioneering a new style during the early '90s, the band was forced to draw its own blueprints for its major-label debut album. It's not surprising then, that Do You Want More?!!!??! sounds more like a document of old-school hip-hop than contemporary rap. The album is based on loose grooves and laid-back improvisation, and where most hip-hoppers use samples to draw songs together and provide a chorus, the Roots just keep on jamming. The problem is that the Roots' jams begin to take the place of true songs, leaving most tracks with only that groove to speak for them. The notable exceptions -- "Mellow My Man" and "Datskat," among others -- use different strategies to command attention: the sounds of a human beatbox , the great keyboard work of Scott Storch, and contributions from several jazz players (trombonist Joshua Roseman, saxophonist Steve Coleman and vocalist Cassandra Wilson). By the close of the album, those tracks are what the listener remembers, not the lightweight grooves. © John Bush /TiVo
From
CD$12.99

Hip-Hop/Rap - Released January 1, 2011 | Def Jam Recordings

Booklet Distinctions Sélection Les Inrocks
The Roots' umpteenth album is titled after a Guess Who song mutilated by countless lounge bands since 1969. It incorporates a Sufjan Stevens recording, mixtape-style, for the purpose of starting a four-part instrumental suite that closes a program lasting only 40 minutes. Based on those details, it would not be irrational to think that the band’s well of inspiration might be dry or tainted. While the well might be slightly tainted, it is full. Undun is based on the life of Redford Stephens, a fictional product of inner-city New York who was born in the mid-‘70s and tragically passed in 1999, the point at which the album begins -- with a quiet EKG flatline. Appearances from MCs Big K.R.I.T., Dice Raw, Phonte, Greg Porn, and Truck North, as well as contributions by singers Aaron Earl Livingston and Bilal, flank principal voice Black Thought, yet this is no hip-hop opera or anything close to a typical concept album. The existential rhymes, seemingly created with a shared vision, avoid outlining specific events and focus on ruminations that are grave and penetrating, as if each vocalist saw elements of himself and those he has known in Redford. What’s more, Undun probably shatters the record for fewest proper nouns on a rap album, with the likes of Hammurabi, Santa Muerte, and Walter Cronkite mentioned rather than the names of those who are physically involved in Stephens’ life. (The album’s app, filled with video clips and interviews with Stephens’ aunt, teachers, and peers, provides much more typical biographical information.) Musically, Undun flows easier and slower than any other Roots album. The backdrops ramp up with slight gradations, from soft collisions of percussion and keys (“Sleep”), to balmy gospel-soul (“Make My”), to Sunday boom-bap (“One Time”). There's a slight drop into sinewy funk (“Kool On”) that leads into a sustained stretch of stern, hunched-shoulder productions, highlighted by the crisply roiling “Lighthouse,” that match the cold realism of the lyrics. The strings in the slightly wistful “I Remember” and completely grim “Tip the Scale” are a setup for the Redford suite, which is nothing like padding. It glides through the movements, involving mournful strings, a violent duel between drummer ?uestlove and guest pianist D.D. Jackson, and a lone death note that fades 37 seconds prior to silence. © Andy Kellman /TiVo
From
HI-RES$28.49
CD$23.99

Hip-Hop/Rap - Released January 17, 1995 | Geffen

Hi-Res Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Reissue
Original release October 24, 1994 (USA) and January 17, 1995
From
CD$18.99

Hip-Hop/Rap - Released February 23, 1999 | Geffen

The Roots, a group formed in Philadelphia by MC Black Thought and drummer Questlove, took their music to a whole new level in their fourth album. Recorded with Common, Mos Def, Erykah Bady, D’Angelo and producer James Poyser, Things Fall Apart was recorded at the same time as D’Angelo’s Voodoo, Erykah Badu’s Mama’s Gun and Common’s Like Water for Chocolate in the legendary Electric Lady studio. The album was a huge success when it was first released on February 23rd 1999 and is an impressive combination of the group’s two previous albums – the carefree Do You Want More?!!!??! and the grittier Illadelph Halflife. Whilst they always give pride of place to their improvised live sessions, they have got their samples and loops in this album down to a fine art. And whether it’s through telling a story, a social commentary or purely an egotistical perspective, Black Thought certainly isn’t holding anything back when it comes to his vocals. The Roots keep the groove going throughout the entire album, from the cutting edge Step Into the Realm with its beat that fades in and out, to the neo soul hit You Got Me, with guest appearances from Jazzy Jeff (The Next Movement) and Jay Dee, aka J Dilla (Dynamite!) to top it off. Things Fall Apart was the first of many great albums from the new era led by the Soulquarians collective (a diatribe against mainstream rap, like Ain’t Sayin’ Nothin’ New) and was a source of inspiration for Kendrick Lamar’s album, To Pimp A Butterfly. To celebrate its 20th birthday this brilliant album now comes in Deluxe edition; full of alternative versions as well as live and previously unreleased tracks. A must-have! © Damien Besançon/Qobuz
From
CD$12.99

Hip-Hop/Rap - Released January 1, 2004 | Geffen

One of the cornerstone albums of alternative rap's second wave, Things Fall Apart was the point where the Roots' tremendous potential finally coalesced into a structured album that maintained its focus from top to bottom. If the group sacrifices a little of the unpredictability of its jam sessions, the resulting consistency more than makes up for it, since the record flows from track to track so effortlessly. Taking its title from the Chinua Achebe novel credited with revitalizing African fiction, Things Fall Apart announces its ambition right upfront, and reinforces it in the opening sound collage. Dialogue sampled from Spike Lee's Mo' Better Blues implies a comparison to abstract modern jazz that lost its audience, and there's another quote about hip-hop records being treated as disposable, that they aren't maximized as product or as art. That's the framework in which the album operates, and while there's a definite unity counteracting the second observation, the artistic ambition actually helped gain the Roots a whole new audience ("coffeehouse chicks and white dudes," as Common puts it in the liner notes). The backing tracks are jazzy and reflective, filled with subtly unpredictable instrumental lines, and the band also shows a strong affinity for the neo-soul movement, which they actually had a hand in kick-starting via their supporting work on Erykah Badu's Baduizm. Badu returns the favor by guesting on the album's breakthrough single, "You Got Me," an involved love story that also features a rap from Eve, co-writing from Jill Scott, and an unexpected drum'n'bass breakbeat in the outro. Other notables include Mos Def on the playful old-school rhymefest "Double Trouble," Slum Village superproducer Jay Dee on "Dynamite!," and Philly native DJ Jazzy Jeff on "The Next Movement." But the real stars are Black Thought and Malik B, who drop such consistently nimble rhymes throughout the record that picking highlights is extremely difficult. Along with works by Lauryn Hill, Common, and Black Star, Things Fall Apart is essential listening for anyone interested in the new breed of mainstream conscious rap. © Steve Huey /TiVo
From
CD$12.99

Hip-Hop/Rap - Released July 13, 2004 | Geffen*

The delivery of any new Roots album is rarely talked or written about without the words "highly" and "anticipated," and The Tipping Point is no exception. Besides the usual expectation for the band's superior lyrical skills and attention to detail, there's the previously announced concept that The Tipping Point would be recorded through free-spirited jams that would later be edited down. Sounds like a don't-care-about-the-final-package, music-for-music's-sake release, but the album is a well-constructed ride from start to finish that's perfect for a headphones-on, lights-out evening and a gift to fans who found 2002's Phrenology a bit mannered and forced. To paraphrase the album's "Pointro," the tracks here are mostly warm and organic "life music" that "thrusts its branches from the muck of wackness" without any overly calculated "hypnotic donkey rhythms." The ghost of Sly & the Family Stone is summoned for the opening "Star," an exuberant soul rocker that creeps along with a Timbaland-style beat, only it's live. On the other hand, there's the perfect for popping, locking, and robot-dancing "Don't Say Nuthin'" with its solid electro and Black Thought's quirky mumbled verse. The shifting from the sticky, stately reggae of "Guns Are Drawn" to the Cohiba-puffing swagger of "Stay Cool" is just one example of how the album overcomes its noncommitment to any particular groove by giving the listener nothing but fully formed, inspired tracks. The band's renewed love of head-bobbing jams also helps keep it together although the album's long stretches of rap-less jamming might alienate those just here for the message. For them there's the lyric-filled "Boom!," which may not be enough. Take off your academic backpack for a change and bask in an album that's comfortably loose and ends with an over-the-top, celebratory cover of George Kranz's "Din Daa Daa" that's unnecessary but extra fun. The Tipping Point is too modest to be the "idea that spreads like a virus" that's explored in the Malcolm Gladwell book the collection cops it title from. What the album lacks in ambition and social commentary, it makes up for with deep soul. That should be enough to make whatever this group does next "highly anticipated." © David Jeffries /TiVo
From
CD$12.99

Hip-Hop/Rap - Released January 1, 2012 | DGC

For the Roots' second major-label album, the band apparently recognized the weaknesses of the debut, since there are several songs which provide more structure than previous jam-session efforts -- two even became R&B radio hits. But for all its successes, Illadelph Halflife mostly repeats the long-winded jams and loose improvisatory feel that characterized Do You Want More?!!!??!. And while these songs may sound great live (a field where the Roots excel over any other rap act), in a living-room setting listeners need hooks on which to focus. © John Bush /TiVo
From
CD$9.99

Hip-Hop/Rap - Released November 22, 2011 | RBC Records

From
CD$12.99

Hip-Hop/Rap - Released January 1, 1999 | Geffen*

Releasing an album recorded live in concert makes more sense for the Roots than any other hip-hop artist, considering they've always concentrated on live prowess over their skills on the mic or in the production booth. The standard guitar/drums/bass/keyboards lineup of most rock bands is a reality for this group, and after years of requests from rabid fans, the Roots acquiesced with a document of their live experience, titled The Roots Come Alive. Recorded at two venues in New York and one in Paris, the album distills exactly what the Roots bring to the hip-hop world -- a live experience built on call-and-response vocals that bring the show to the audience like few other artists. The sound is fantastic, especially on early keyboard-driven tracks like "Proceed," "Essaywhuman?!???!!!," and "Mellow My Man." Though the raps themselves often suffer from the live setting, the rhythms are crisper than in the studio, and the bass-driven grooves are much beefier. The Roots' resident turntablist, Scratch, takes a large role as well, as does human beatbox Rahzel the Godfather of Noyze (though the latter only appears on about half of the album). This is a live album that not only satisfies fans, but offers neophytes more entertainment than any of the Roots' studio efforts. It's difficult to make any live album a first pick, but Come Alive displays the group doing exactly what it does best. © John Bush /TiVo
From
CD$12.99

Hip-Hop/Rap - Released January 1, 2005 | Geffen

With albums that vary greatly in style and purpose, and some of them taking more time than usual to warm up to, getting beginners hooked on the Roots isn't easy (unless you can drag that unsoulful someone to one of their amazing live shows, then it's way easy). With unattractive cover art, a track listing that counts down across two volumes that are only available separately, and liner notes that are languid and unwieldy for the newbie, Home Grown! The Beginner's Guide to Understanding the Roots, Vol. 1 is hardly for beginners. But if the quote "to truly understand the Roots as artists and as human beings you must exercise one character trait: Patience" was on the cover rather than buried deep in the credits, it would be easier to forgive this sprawling collection that is, at worst,, a sentimental stroll through the band's career. Of interest to the longtime fans are the unreleased cuts, remixes, and a live version of "It's Comin'," from way back in 1993, but the most rewarding bit of newness for Vol 1. are the liner notes from member ?uestlove. Who knew the death of Kurt Cobain and Axl Rose's unwillingness to hand over a new Guns N' Roses album to Geffen put the Roots' career in jeopardy? or that the dress J-Lo wore to the Grammys caused the boys to get tongue-tied while accepting an award? There are more personal and poignant stories to digest but even ?uestlove seems to be speaking to the faithful by leaving out the basics. Bumping the old, scrappy Roots tracks against the older, more learned and loose ones is interesting, and the flow of the whole collection is near-perfect, but fervent admirers are going to have most of this, either through their official purchases, or grabbing from the underbelly of the Internet where unreleased Roots is well represented. Home Grown! suffers from the misrepresentation in its title, but if you don't mind acquiring some of these tracks again or have plenty of that all important "patience," it's a rich and rewarding way to hang with this poignant groove crew. © David Jeffries /TiVo
From
CD$12.99

Hip-Hop/Rap - Released September 16, 2011 | Geffen

The easy-flowing Things Fall Apart made the Roots one of the most popular artists of alternative rap's second wave. Anticipated nearly as much as it was delayed, the proper studio follow-up, Phrenology, finally appeared in late 2002, after much perfectionist tinkering by the band -- so much that the liner notes include recording dates (covering a span of two years) and, sometimes, histories for the individual tracks. Coffeehouse music programmers beware: Phrenology is not Things Fall Apart redux; it's a challenging, hugely ambitious opus that's by turns brilliant and bewildering, as it strains to push the very sound of hip-hop into the future. Despite a few gentler tracks (like the Nelly Furtado and Jill Scott guest spots), Phrenology is the hardest-hitting Roots album to date, partly because it's their most successful attempt to re-create their concert punch in the studio. ?uestlove's drums positively boom out of the speakers on the Talib Kweli duet "Rolling With Heat"; the fantastic, lean guitar groover "The Seed (2.0)" (with neo-soul auteur Cody ChesnuTT); and the opening section of "Water." The ten-minute "Water" is the album's centerpiece, a powerful look at former Roots MC Malik B.'s drug problems that morphs into a downright avant-garde sound collage. Similarly, lead single "Break You Off," a neo-soul duet with Musiq, winds up in a melange of drum'n'bass programming and live strings. If moves like those, or the speed-blur Bad Brains punk of "!!!!!!!," or the drum'n'bass backdrop of poet Amiri Baraka's "Something in the Way of Things (In Town)" can seem self-consciously eclectic, it's also true that Phrenology is one of those albums where the indulgences and far-out experiments make it that much more fascinating, whether they work or not. Plus, slamming grooves like "Rock You," "Thought @ Work," and the aforementioned "The Seed (2.0)" keep things exciting and vital. If this really is the future of hip-hop, then the sky is the limit. [The two hidden bonus tracks are "Rhymes and Ammo," the Talib Kweli collaboration that appeared on Soundbombing, Vol. 3, and "Something to See," another techno-inflected jam.] © Steve Huey /TiVo
From
CD$12.99

Hip-Hop/Rap - Released January 1, 2011 | Def Jam Recordings

The Roots' umpteenth album is titled after a Guess Who song mutilated by countless lounge bands since 1969. It incorporates a Sufjan Stevens recording, mixtape-style, for the purpose of starting a four-part instrumental suite that closes a program lasting only 40 minutes. Based on those details, it would not be irrational to think that the band’s well of inspiration might be dry or tainted. While the well might be slightly tainted, it is full. Undun is based on the life of Redford Stephens, a fictional product of inner-city New York who was born in the mid-‘70s and tragically passed in 1999, the point at which the album begins -- with a quiet EKG flatline. Appearances from MCs Big K.R.I.T., Dice Raw, Phonte, Greg Porn, and Truck North, as well as contributions by singers Aaron Earl Livingston and Bilal, flank principal voice Black Thought, yet this is no hip-hop opera or anything close to a typical concept album. The existential rhymes, seemingly created with a shared vision, avoid outlining specific events and focus on ruminations that are grave and penetrating, as if each vocalist saw elements of himself and those he has known in Redford. What’s more, Undun probably shatters the record for fewest proper nouns on a rap album, with the likes of Hammurabi, Santa Muerte, and Walter Cronkite mentioned rather than the names of those who are physically involved in Stephens’ life. (The album’s app, filled with video clips and interviews with Stephens’ aunt, teachers, and peers, provides much more typical biographical information.) Musically, Undun flows easier and slower than any other Roots album. The backdrops ramp up with slight gradations, from soft collisions of percussion and keys (“Sleep”), to balmy gospel-soul (“Make My”), to Sunday boom-bap (“One Time”). There's a slight drop into sinewy funk (“Kool On”) that leads into a sustained stretch of stern, hunched-shoulder productions, highlighted by the crisply roiling “Lighthouse,” that match the cold realism of the lyrics. The strings in the slightly wistful “I Remember” and completely grim “Tip the Scale” are a setup for the Redford suite, which is nothing like padding. It glides through the movements, involving mournful strings, a violent duel between drummer ?uestlove and guest pianist D.D. Jackson, and a lone death note that fades 37 seconds prior to silence. © Andy Kellman /TiVo
From
CD$12.99

Hip-Hop/Rap - Released January 1, 2009 | Def Jam Recordings

The not-very-hip-hop Dirty Projectors, Monsters of Folk, Patty Crash, and Joanna Newsom contribute one way or another to How I Got Over. Rest assured, the ninth studio album from the Late Night with Jimmy Fallon house band is very much its own, and skeptics should be reminded that hip-hop history is filled with figures as unlikely as Billy Squier (who probably did not bump into Run-D.M.C. backstage at The Alan Thicke Show). Very much in line with recent albums like Game Theory and Rising Down, neither of which was tailored for a good time, How I Got Over is the most subdued of the three. The blood doesn’t really get pumping until the fifth track. Up to that point, however, the band creates some of its most downcast and alluring material, covering solitude, self-destruction, and just about every planetary ill. It’s all vividly conveyed through pensive arrangements, sobering rhymes, spooky choruses, and even spookier backing vocals. Truck North, P.O.R.N., Dice Raw, and Blu make gripping contributions, but no one cuts to the chase quite like Black Thought, who can condense modern reality into one deftly delivered and commanding line, like “Got immunized for both flus, I’m still sick.” From there, the spirit lifts a little, though the songs are still deeply planted in realism. The title track is modern soul-blues that cooks, assisted by some serious singing from Black Thought and an inspiring chorus from Dice Raw. On “Now or Never,” Phonte’s dejection (“My role was cast before I even auditioned for it”) is tempered with Dice Raw's glints of determination. For good measure, or perhaps for the sake of a little balance, the back half also features a hardcore boast session between Thought, Peedi Peedi, and Truck North that cannot be disregarded. This is yet another Roots album that lends itself to repeated, beginning-to-end listening. It is gracefully and cleverly sequenced, from the way the tracks melt into each other to the way “Doin’ It Again” utilizes John Legend's anguished “Again” prior to transitioning into the subtly anthemic “The Fire,” which features a fresh collaboration with…John Legend. © Andy Kellman /TiVo
From
CD$12.99

Hip-Hop/Rap - Released January 1, 2006 | Def Jam Recordings

Game Theory is the Roots' equivalent of a Funkadelic playlist containing "Wars of Armageddon," "Cosmic Slop," "Maggot Brain," "March to the Witch's Castle," and "America Eats Its Young." It's a vivid reflector of the times, not an escape hatch (of which there are several readily available options). Spinning turbulence, paranoia, anger, and pain into some of the most exhilarating and startling music released in 2006, the group is audibly galvanized by the world's neverending tailspin and a sympathetic alignment with Def Jam. Batting around stray ideas and squeezing them into shape was clearly not part of the plan, and neither was getting on the radio. The songs flow into and out of one another to optimal effect, with an impossibly stern sense of peak-of-powers focus, as if the group and its collaborators instantly locked into place and simply knocked the thing out. With the exception of the elbow-throwing "Here I Come," nothing here is suitable for any kind of carefree activity. The extent of the album's caustic nature is tipped off early on, after glancing at the hangman on the cover and hearing Wadud Ahmad's penetrating voice run through lines like "Pilgrims, slaves, Indians, Mexicans/It looks real f*cked up for your next of kin." The point at which the album kicks into full gear, just a couple minutes later, arrives when tumbling bass drums and a Sly & the Family Stone sample ("This is a game/I'm your specimen") are suddenly overtaken by pure panic -- pulse-racing drums, anxious organ jabs, pent-up guitar snarls, and breathless rhyming from Black Thought and Malik B. "In the Music" exemplifies the deeply textured nature of the album's production work, with its rolling/roiling rhythm -- throbbing bass, clanging percussion, tight spirals of guitar -- made all the more claustrophobic by Porn's amorphous chorus and Black Thought's and Malik B.'s hunched-shoulder deliveries. Even "Baby," the closest thing to a breather in this patch of the album, arises from a sweltering jungle bog. After "Long Time," the ninth track, the levels of tension and volume decrease, yet the moods are no brighter, even if the surfaces leave a different impression. "Clock with No Hands" is introduced as a sweet slow jam with a light vocal hook from Mercedes Martinez, but it's as paranoid as anything else on the album. Jack Davey projects the chorus of the slower, Radiohead-sampling "Atonement" in a druggy haze while Black Thought speaks of "being faced with the weight of survival." The closer, an eight-minute suite titled "Can't Stop This," features a J Dilla production -- previewed on his Donuts, released the week he left this planet -- that opens and closes with testimonials to the musician's talent and humanity. Taken with or without this staggering finale, Game Theory is a heavy album, the Roots' sharpest work. It's destined to become one of Def Jam's proudest, if not most popular, moments. © Andy Kellman /TiVo
From
CD$12.99

Hip-Hop/Rap - Released February 23, 1999 | Geffen

One of the cornerstone albums of alternative rap's second wave, Things Fall Apart was the point where the Roots' tremendous potential finally coalesced into a structured album that maintained its focus from top to bottom. If the group sacrifices a little of the unpredictability of its jam sessions, the resulting consistency more than makes up for it, since the record flows from track to track so effortlessly. Taking its title from the Chinua Achebe novel credited with revitalizing African fiction, Things Fall Apart announces its ambition right upfront, and reinforces it in the opening sound collage. Dialogue sampled from Spike Lee's Mo' Better Blues implies a comparison to abstract modern jazz that lost its audience, and there's another quote about hip-hop records being treated as disposable, that they aren't maximized as product or as art. That's the framework in which the album operates, and while there's a definite unity counteracting the second observation, the artistic ambition actually helped gain the Roots a whole new audience ("coffeehouse chicks and white dudes," as Common puts it in the liner notes). The backing tracks are jazzy and reflective, filled with subtly unpredictable instrumental lines, and the band also shows a strong affinity for the neo-soul movement, which they actually had a hand in kick-starting via their supporting work on Erykah Badu's Baduizm. Badu returns the favor by guesting on the album's breakthrough single, "You Got Me," an involved love story that also features a rap from Eve, co-writing from Jill Scott, and an unexpected drum'n'bass breakbeat in the outro. Other notables include Mos Def on the playful old-school rhymefest "Double Trouble," Slum Village superproducer Jay Dee on "Dynamite!," and Philly native DJ Jazzy Jeff on "The Next Movement." But the real stars are Black Thought and Malik B, who drop such consistently nimble rhymes throughout the record that picking highlights is extremely difficult. Along with works by Lauryn Hill, Common, and Black Star, Things Fall Apart is essential listening for anyone interested in the new breed of mainstream conscious rap. © Steve Huey /TiVo
From
CD$8.99

Hip-Hop/Rap - Released January 1, 1994 | Geffen

From
CD$12.99

Hip-Hop/Rap - Released January 1, 2008 | Def Jam Recordings

It would've been easy for the Roots to sell out. Already one of the few groups whose fans extend beyond the typical alternative rap base, tacking on the acoustic-guitary pop-rap song "Birthday Girl" -- which leaked the month before Rising Down's release and features Patrick Stump crooning "What is it we want to do, now that I'm allowed to be alone with you?" -- could've been a natural, and maybe even excusable move. Excusable as a way to show that the Roots can be lighthearted, fun, and tongue-in-cheek (though anyone who's heard any of their interviews or has frequented ?uestlove's blog already knows this to be true); not excusable, however, as the crossover track the label wanted it to be (and in fact, in Japan and Europe, as well as digitally, it remains as such). Fortunately, the Roots were smart and thoughtful enough -- the very qualities of whose criticism led to the creation of "Birthday Girl" -- to realize that its inclusion, even as an afterthought, a bonus track, was detrimental to the effect of the entire album, dumbing down their thoughts on poverty and race and politics with poppy melodies and creepy (albeit ironic) jokes about statutory rape and predatory old men. Because as it stands, Rising Down acts as a powerful statement on contemporary society, a society in which even though the specific issues may have changed (global warming, BET, new technologies), the problems remain the same. For this reason the album begins and ends with a discussion from 1994, where Black Thought and ?uestlove are arguing about then-label Geffen with their managers, and other bits of the past are also spread throughout -- the 1987 freestyle "@15," which complements "75 Bars (Black's Reconstruction)," the reflection found in "Unwritten" and especially in the cover itself, which nods to the crude caricatures from early America, the black devil wreaking havoc on the white pilgrims below. But it is these very reminders that make the Roots and their message in 2008 so much more relevant: they give context. So when Black Thought says "It is what it is, because of what it was/I did what I did 'cause it does what it does" in "Criminal," he's not just looking as his character's current situation, he's drawing from history, and his conclusions are based upon lifetimes of "it being it" and "doing what it does," of struggling and fighting and trying to get by, to make it however he can. These same thoughts are echoed by the Roots' MC and the myriad talented guests who add their own equally hard-hitting verses to the album's tracks. "My life is on a flight that's going down/My mother had an abortion for the wrong child/...I felt love, that's gone now" Porn rhymes in the disquieting "I Can't Help It" (the other rappers on the song tackle ideas of chemical and monetary addictions), while on "Singing Man," the dark, reticent production gurgles with the pain and anger heard and stated more overtly in the three MCs' voices (Porn, Black Thought, and Truck North) as they present the sympathetic -- but not condoning -- perspectives of suicide bombers and campus shooters and child soldiers. It's dark and serious and intense, but Rising Down does offer hope, too, mostly in the form of the closing track, "Rising Up," which features Def Jam backing vocals queen Chrisette Michele, D.C. upstart Wale, and a Jay-Z-friendly beat. "We 'bout to dominate the world like Oprah did it," Black Thought says to end the song, an optimism that's far more powerful than anything "Birthday Girl" can provide. Those words, confident but not cocky, are the final punctuation -- an ellipsis, though, leading to a yet-completed thought -- on an album that's both revelatory and full of questions, an album that understands its spot in the Roots' history and American history, and an album that continues to place the group as one of the country's most talented and relevant in any genre, no calculated crossover necessary. © Marisa Brown /TiVo
From
CD$12.99

Hip-Hop/Rap - Released January 1, 2006 | Def Jam Recordings

Game Theory is the Roots' equivalent of a Funkadelic playlist containing "Wars of Armageddon," "Cosmic Slop," "Maggot Brain," "March to the Witch's Castle," and "America Eats Its Young." It's a vivid reflector of the times, not an escape hatch (of which there are several readily available options). Spinning turbulence, paranoia, anger, and pain into some of the most exhilarating and startling music released in 2006, the group is audibly galvanized by the world's neverending tailspin and a sympathetic alignment with Def Jam. Batting around stray ideas and squeezing them into shape was clearly not part of the plan, and neither was getting on the radio. The songs flow into and out of one another to optimal effect, with an impossibly stern sense of peak-of-powers focus, as if the group and its collaborators instantly locked into place and simply knocked the thing out. With the exception of the elbow-throwing "Here I Come," nothing here is suitable for any kind of carefree activity. The extent of the album's caustic nature is tipped off early on, after glancing at the hangman on the cover and hearing Wadud Ahmad's penetrating voice run through lines like "Pilgrims, slaves, Indians, Mexicans/It looks real f*cked up for your next of kin." The point at which the album kicks into full gear, just a couple minutes later, arrives when tumbling bass drums and a Sly & the Family Stone sample ("This is a game/I'm your specimen") are suddenly overtaken by pure panic -- pulse-racing drums, anxious organ jabs, pent-up guitar snarls, and breathless rhyming from Black Thought and Malik B. "In the Music" exemplifies the deeply textured nature of the album's production work, with its rolling/roiling rhythm -- throbbing bass, clanging percussion, tight spirals of guitar -- made all the more claustrophobic by Porn's amorphous chorus and Black Thought's and Malik B.'s hunched-shoulder deliveries. Even "Baby," the closest thing to a breather in this patch of the album, arises from a sweltering jungle bog. After "Long Time," the ninth track, the levels of tension and volume decrease, yet the moods are no brighter, even if the surfaces leave a different impression. "Clock with No Hands" is introduced as a sweet slow jam with a light vocal hook from Mercedes Martinez, but it's as paranoid as anything else on the album. Jack Davey projects the chorus of the slower, Radiohead-sampling "Atonement" in a druggy haze while Black Thought speaks of "being faced with the weight of survival." The closer, an eight-minute suite titled "Can't Stop This," features a J Dilla production -- previewed on his Donuts, released the week he left this planet -- that opens and closes with testimonials to the musician's talent and humanity. Taken with or without this staggering finale, Game Theory is a heavy album, the Roots' sharpest work. It's destined to become one of Def Jam's proudest, if not most popular, moments. © Andy Kellman /TiVo

Artist

The Roots in the magazine