Review: The Roots

by eric thompson

The Roots: the best hip-hop group of all time? There is no better place to put your bet down than this hip-hop band from Philadelphia, who have done it all and done it well. Jazz and hip-hop fusion? The Roots ask “Do You Want More?!!!??!”. Experimental rock and neo-soul? “Phrenology” proved there was no limit to the crew’s sound. Hell, you want a Grammy? Fine! The Eryka Badu laced “You Got Me” won a best single statue for these collective media darlings. And then, this year, The Roots prove that when there’s no where else to go, you go back to your…well…roots. “The Tipping Point” is a slimmed down, no frills, ten track offering of straight-up Illadelph home cooking. While the world’s greatest drummer, Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson, and his crew of live musicians are subdued a bit for a more traditional flavor, it works for the mission of just laying down raw shit. Surprisingly, the sound is as open as the free-flowing organic jam sessions that made such recordings as the previously mentioned “Do You Want More?!!!??!” and “Illadelph Halflife” such liberating experiences. “Star/Pointro” opens things with beautiful layering of Sly & the Family Stone’s “Everybody Is A Star” all around emcee Black Thought’s poignant and hopeful rhymes. That’s right, they’re sampling now, and it works! “Stay Cool” is as fresh as that apple pie your ma sits on the window sill on Sunday morning, with its airy horns and Teddy Pendergrass-like hook. And if you’re worried that you’ll be missing ?ueslove’s rough, break-neck boom-bap, fear not. The militant, Bob Marley-esque, “Guns Are Drawn”, sounds like the volume got turned up ten times higher from previous songs, with ?uest boomin’ and bappin’ all over the reggae-flavored guitars. “Web” takes everything away with ?uesto’s cymbal-tastic flavor as Black Thought rips into the drums and bass with three minutes of non-stop rapping. Two words for “The Tipping Point” via “Web? “Ice cold!” While it’s hard to make arguments against A Tribe Called Quest, Eric B. & Rakim, or De La Soul for the greatest hip-hop group ever, it’s even harder to say that anyone has done as much, as well as The Roots have. And while history, and the endurance of their music, will be the ultimate indicator, it’s clear that the world’s greatest hip-hop band is a musical crew to be reckoned with for years to come.