Having no real idea what the Roots mean when they describe their new album "How I got over" as "depicting the everyman's search for hope in this dispiriting post-hope zeitgeist" should not detract you from its brilliance. This seminal Philadelphia hip hop band, formed in the late eighties by Tariq "Black Thought" Trotter and Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson have produced nine fine albums (including an outright classic "Things fall apart") and are about as far from hip hop run of the mill braggadocio as you can get. Indeed check out the comments on the US Amazon site and the words "sell out" and "just make a rock album" are emblazoned on some angry reviews by those who do not like the progression the band is taking. Quite why some music fans want a band to make the same album over and over again remains one of life's great mysteries. Granted we must fully recognise that "rock music" does figure throughout "How I got over" with guest spots from various Dirty Projectors on the truly lovely jazzy opener "A piece of light", and samples drawn from Monsters of Folk and Johanna Newsom (how eclectic is that?), but in the final analysis this is a clearly definable and groundbreaking hip hop album albeit with a melancholy heart and a powerful view about our tough times.
The highlights come fast and thick.
- The sampling of Monsters of Folk "Dear God" works a treat since the Jim James original had a hip hop underpinning which is properly drawn out in The Roots version and the track broadly stays faithful to the original but with a rap which highlights impending ecological and economic disaster. A sort of hip hop "What's goin on"
- "Walk alone" ft Black Thought. Truck North, Porn and Dice Raw starts with loud piano chords, a storming rap and a hook laden chorus that echoes a phrase about "walking alone". It conveys that sort of urban atmosphere that Gil Scott Heron captures so brilliantly on his albums.
- The song "The Fire" featuring John Legend has single written all over it and could be a monster hit.
- You don't think that Joanna Newsom's voice would work in a hip hop song? Check out "Right on" which is classic rap duelling combined with the eerie sample of Newsom interspersing the Roots masters.
- "How I got over" - is a stunning hip hop crossover which sounds like a mix of Steely Dan and Curtis Mayfield. It is truly fabulous and the download starting point for the curious.
- "Now or never" is pure city beats and a rap/soul song of huge force infused with brilliant pop sensibilities.
Not unlike the music of The Roots this review is about highlighting samples but this is no substitute for listening to the unified whole of this exceptionally mature and polished album from a legendary outfit. Over the glorious sunshine weekend of late June 2010 this album has soundtracked just about every move and action in this humble abode and parameters beyond. As an album it clocks in at a relatively short 42 minutes which is almost a "single" when you bear in mind that previous Roots albums have been very long. The great news however is there is not a wasted minute to be found on here and after listening to this album by the these master musicians you sense a bar has been raised which others may not be able to get over.
on 7 September 2010
Still at the head of the game, The Roots produce consistantly good,rhythmic,intelligent,technical hip-hop.Aided by a lot of guest artists this album is one of the most soulful hip-hop jazz albums I have ever heard.Long may they keep pushing the boundaries of this artform without the mindless,raccist,sexist drivel of gangsta rap.If you like real Hip Hop like the late great,pioneering J.Dilla (a tribute track is on this set)along with acts like Talib Kweli,Dilated Peoples,Jurrasic 5 and Common then you will definately rate this album very highly.Buy it.
on 7 February 2014
I love The Roots, definitely one of my favourite bands of all time, and god knows I've had a few! This album has a cohesive tone and is, hmm, more obviously 'spiritual' perhaps that some of their other albums, very poignant.
on 10 July 2010
The Roots cement their place as the finest hip hop group of all time with this their follow up to the dark and broody Rising Down. Given that Rising Down's predecessor Game Theory was also a quite bleak affair it's heartening to see Philadelphia's finest in more upbeat mood on their latest release. From the off it's clear that the focus is on catchy hooks and haunting melodies rather than the stark production seen on the last two albums, for whatever reason The Roots seem to be in a good place in 2010 and How I Got Over is all the better for it.
Some may complain about the direction that the group has taken with this album but the days of Illadelph Halflife are long gone and a group of men fifteen years older and wiser can't be expected to stand still as the musical landscape changes around them. The Roots diversity and willingness to change is what has enabled them to have such longevitiy whilst maintaining a ridiculously high quality of output over the years.
How I Got Over is almost dreamlike and ethereal in it's vibe and I found myself listening to it in a dazed stupor of joy, however don't be fooled into thinking they've gone all soft because ?uestlove's trademark production is present and correct here. There's some classic Root's bangers in situ that will have you shaking and jiving in the manner that only a Roots track can!!
It's impossible to state where this album rates in relation to other Roots albums as in my opinion each and every release of theirs is a five star classic and stands on it's own as a work of genius, I actually don't think it's possible that they could ever release a poor album because there's just too much talent and ingenuity in their legendary crew.
Once again The Roots have shown why they are the last bastion of hope for hip hop and I personally expect to be still excitedly awaiting their new releases for years to come.
on 27 July 2010
oh well this is very very good. Having never been a full on The Roots fan, but having always keep an ear out for them, I was one over straight away with this album. Everything the BBC review says is spot on. The message is uplifting, the songs infectiously catchy, in fact theres nothing to dislike. (except maybe the short length of the album!)
Buy buy buy!
on 7 January 2011
What a way to conclude. Tight and well thought out!!! I love the way the whole album is one journey. it felt like i had listened to one song. very creative and well planned. BRAVO THE LEGENDARY 5TH DYNASTY. I would however recommend people new to the roots to also listen to their other stuff (do you want more, illadelph half life, things fall apart, phrenology, tipping point, game theory, rising down, the guides volumes 1 and 2). Great hiphop!!