released June 22nd, 2010

from the album - Dear God 2.0

from all music

Though popular success has largely eluded the Roots, the Philadelphia group showed the way for live rap, building on Stetsasonic's "hip-hop band" philosophy of the mid-'80s by focusing on live instrumentation at their concerts and in the studio. Though their album works have been inconsistent affairs, more intent on building grooves than pushing songs, the Roots' live shows are among the best in the business.

The Roots' focus on live music began back in 1987 when rapper Black Thought (Tariq Trotter) and drummer ?uestlove (Ahmir Khalib Thompson) became friends at the Philadelphia High School for Creative Performing Arts. Playing around school, on the sidewalk, and later at talent shows (with ?uestlove's drum kit backing Black Thought's rhymes), the pair began to earn money and hooked up with bassist Hub (Leon Hubbard) and rapper Malik B. Moving from the street to local clubs, the Roots became a highly tipped underground act around Philadelphia and New York. When they were invited to represent stateside hip-hop at a concert in Germany, the Roots recorded an album to sell at shows; the result, Organix, was released in 1993 on Remedy Records. With a music industry buzz surrounding their activities, the Roots entertained offers from several labels before signing with DGC that same year.

The Roots' first major-label album, Do You Want More?!!!??!, was released in January 1995; forsaking usual hip-hop protocol, the album was produced without any samples or previously recorded material. It peaked just outside the Top 100, but was mostly ignored by fans of hip-hop. Instead, Do You Want More?!!!??! made more tracks in alternative circles, partly due to the Roots playing the second stage at Lollapalooza that summer. The band also journeyed to the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. Two of the guests on the album who had toured around with the band, human beatbox Rahzel the Godfather of Noyze — previously a performer with Grandmaster Flash and LL Cool J — and Scott Storch (later Kamal), became permanent members of the group.

Early in 1996, the Roots released Clones, the trailer single for their second album. It hit the rap Top Five, and created a good buzz for the album. The following September, Illadelph Halflife appeared and made number 21 on the album charts. Much like its predecessor, though, the Roots' second LP was a difficult listen. It made several very small concessions to mainstream rap — the bandmembers sampled material that they had recorded earlier at jam sessions — but failed to make a hit of their unique sound. The Roots' third album, 1999's Things Fall Apart, was easily their biggest critical and commercial success; The Roots Come Alive followed later that year.

The long-awaited Phrenology was released in late November 2002 amid rumors of the Roots losing interest in their label arrangements with MCA. In 2004, the band remedied the situation by creating the Okayplayer company. Named after their website, Okayplayer included a record label and a production/promotion company. The same year, the band held a series of jam sessions to give their next album a looser feel. The results were edited down to ten tracks and released as The Tipping Point in July of 2004. A 2004 concert from Manhattan's Webster Hall with special guests like Mobb Deep, Young Gunz, and Jean Grae was released in early 2005 as The Roots Present in both CD and DVD formats. Two volumes of the rarities-collecting Home Grown! The Beginner's Guide to Understanding the Roots appeared at the end of the year. A deal with Def Jam fostered three riveting, often grim sets: Game Theory (2006), Rising Down (2008), and How I Got Over (2010). Through 2009 and 2010, the Roots expanded their reach as the house band on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.

album review

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.

Track Listing

1 A Peace of Light 1:50
2 Walk Alone Jenkins, Trotter 3:54
3 Dear God 2.0 J. James, Nichols, Trotter 3:51
4 Radio Daze Barnes, Jenkins, Trotter 4:16
5 Now or Never Coleman, Jenkins, Trotter 4:34
6 How I Got Over Jenkins, Trotter 3:33
7 DillaTUDE: The Flight of Titus :42
8 The Day Barnes, Coleman, Jenkins ... 3:44
9 Right On Price, Trotter 3:36
10 Doin' It Again Stephens, Trotter 2:23
11 The Fire Jenkins, Trotter 3:41
12 Tunnel Vision :40
13 Web 20/20 Trotter 2:46
14 Hustla Price, Trotter 2:56