The Roots – How I Got Over | Album Review

For the past two decades, the hip-hop ensemble known as The Roots has produced a sundry, quintessential sound for the music masses. They’re regarded in many circles as the best Hip Hop band in the history of Hip Hop music and their 11th album overall [9th studio album], How I Got Over may be their best work of music since Things Fall Apart. They’ve been classified in their own category over the years and recently many thought their demise was on the horizon due to them agreeing to be the band for the Late Night With Jimmy Fallon TV Show. But as usual they’ve proven to be the exception to the rule.

Through their time on the music scene, they’ve developed an eclectic following to match their eclectic sound. It is well known that their live shows are unparalleled in the music industry today. Their previous albums have been notorious for the showmanship and production genius of Ahmir ‘?uestlove’ Thompson and the lyrical acumen displayed by Tariq ‘Black Thought’ Trotter. Some would argue that Black Thought’s rhyming savvy on previous albums such as Tipping Point, Game Theory or Rising Down was overshadowed by the production.

Gone are the synths and piercing rawness of the aforementioned three albums and it’s a welcomed return to the traditional jazzy, eclectic approach that made The Roots a well-known commodity in the music landscape for the past 20 years. How I Got Over brings Black Thought back to the forefront and the soulful production of ?uestlove serves as the perfect backdrop to his storytelling.

Amber Coffman, Haley Dekle and Angel Deradoorian of Dirty Projectors open the album with a harmonious sketch, and the album samples Monsters of Folk, John Legend and Joanna Newsom. The indie rock sampling on this album is something to treasure due to the seamless transition it makes into the world of Hip Hop.

Perhaps, the gems of this entire album are “Now or Never” featuring Phonte from Little Brother and Dice Raw, “How I Got Over” featuring Dice Raw, “Dear God 2.0” featuring Monsters of Folk and “Doing It Again” featuring the vocals of R&B stalwart John Legend.

John Legend is also featured on a track entitled “The Fire.” The deep introspection and cutting edge social commentary delivered by Black Thought will leave the average listener hanging on for more after each verse.

Lyrics such as “Technology turning the planet into zombies, Everybody all in everybody’s dirty laundry, Acid rain, earthquakes, hurricane, tsunamis… Why is the world ugly when you made it in your image? And why is livin’ life such a fight to the finish? For this high percentage, When the sky’s the limit, A second is a minute, every hour’s infinite…” deliver a message of harsh truth and a depiction of our worldly imperfections.

It’s widely known that Black Thought is regarded as one of the most underrated emcees in the industry, but among his peers he stands head and shoulders above the competition. After the release of this album, his status should be elevated to one of the best emcees to have ever graced a microphone.

In an era where Hip Hop and rap are dominated by mediocre talent, The Roots are a breath of fresh air because they simply don’t make albums like this anymore. From the gospel tinged influence to the gritty soul rock combination, it’s no wonder why The Roots are able to continue to push the creative envelope.

Nowadays, it’s a rarity to play an album from track one until the end without skipping over a few in the process. The musical direction is stellar and in particular the bass lines and drumming patterns are mind blowing. The Roots’ catalog is two decades strong and if this album is any indication of where their tenth studio album is headed musically, then it will be well worth the wait.

There is good music, and then you have The Roots – timeless.

–Chris Williams

How I Got Over is out now on Def Jam.

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