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4.29.2008

This may or may or may not become a regular thing, but I felt another Un-Review was in order for The Legendary Roots Crew. Previously... Un-Review; 'New Amerykah' Here's the thing. I found The Roots not through Things Fall Apart, or even Phrenology (though, like everyone else, I thought "Break You Off" was cool). In 2004, I fell for The Tipping Point, which, as a friend pointed out to me, is "like, everyone's least favorite album!" But "Star/Pointro" with the fuzzy Sly & the Family Stone sample ("everybody is a star / I love you for who you are") and Thought's laid-back flow sucked me in. While it may be everyone's least favorite album, The Tipping Point is a great example of what they do best: groove. I knew very little about The Roots when I listened to that album; for some reason, I thought they were a band that had guest rappers (this is probably Jay-Z's fault), but then I heard Black Thought's tight, "technical" flow, which may not be uber-charismatic, but is highly effective. Anyway, I worked my way backward to Phrenology, and fell in love with what is now one of my favorite songs of all time: "The Seed 2.0." In fact, after I had given Phrenology enough time to settle, "Break You Off" became the most frequently skipped track, while "Rolling With Heat," "Thought @ Work," and "Pussy Galore" got the glory of being on repeat. Snap my fingers, make you mine If not, I'll snap a second time After that, I guarantee You will be standing next to me Game Theory came next, and was well-deserving of the critical acclaim. Only, it wasn't long enough. After that, I went backward again, working my way through Things Fall Apart and Illadelph Halflife. More good-to-great music and rhymes. Things Fall Apart, while it's still miles ahead of its contemporaries, is probably my least favorite album, despite Erykah's presence on "You Got Me." So, today, Rising Down comes out, and I will purposely avoid all the reviews (although I will peep at Metacritic, just to see the aggregate) because I hate reading about how The Roots' music is hip-hop for people who "don't like hip-hop," or as I like to call them: white people. (Note: that was a conflation of "hip-hop" and "rap.") And it's endlessly frustrating to see talented artists get little recognition from blacks — like, how, at the Lupe Fiasco show, the majority of the audience was white high schoolers. But I like hip-hop. A lot of black people like hip-hop. However, music critics are largely white, and largely concerned with their own demo — as am I, so I don't blame them — and they underplay the love Mos, and The Roots, and Lu get from their own. There's a paradox there, and it's beyond me to sort it all out. I will say that if Black Thought started rapping about the travails of "typical white middle class life" (a lot of which was also my own experience, FYI), The Roots probably wouldn't be very popular with anyone. (Imagine you know, Thought being like: "my mom wants me to clean my room again / she ain't tryna hear I gotta chill with my friends" or "damn, these mutual funds make my head spin / my broker gon' have to say that one mo' 'gin.") At any rate, Rising Down is dope. Mos killed his verse on "Rising Down," Common did his thing on "The Show" and the go-go beat on "Rising Up" makes me homesick for D.C. Oh, and Black is deadly on "75 Bars." Go forth and purchase! I leave you with the video for "Rising Up."

4 new thought(s):

jameil1922 said...

oooh! muy interessante! lmao @ hip-hop for people who "don't like hip-hop," or as I like to call them: white people.

seriously.

Stacie von Kutieboots said...

i liked tipping point too! i LOOOOOVE 'Stay Cool', think 'Web' is awesome, and 'Boom' is the bomb! You know what the deal is with the Roots? They can't and don't try to please everyone or anyone. But that is the hardest working band in the world and I LOVE them for that!

Yellow Rebel said...

I'm semi-interested in copping Rising Down. I still stick to Illadelph Halflife though.

Speaking on your little paragraph about the complexities of being an act like The Roots and their hotly debated audience...if you get a chance take a look at Stuff White People Like--in particular this link http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.wordpress.com/2008/02/17/69-mos-def/

If there's anything I learned, The Roots, Lupe, and Mos are not going to complain about that audience. Surprisingly, that audience has possibly been one of its most loyal (and possibly the most willing to purchase their music).

shani-o said...

Jam- I was being quippy, but yeah.

Stace- Soooo true! I'm glad you like The Tipping Point! That album is bomb.

YR- (I saw that Mos Def post before dude got a book deal, and it's soooo true.) Ya know, like I said, there's a paradox. I don't think that hip-hop artists with a loyal white fanbase should distance themselves, because that's what puts food on the table, and if you can reach a certain audience with your music, where's the harm in that?

But sometimes, it's kind of lonely being a black hip-hop fan (though I suppose you know something about that), and it feels wrong. I don't begrudge them the white fans. I'm saddened (though I understand why) that so many black people prefer to listen to "aspirational rap" (ice, cash, hoes) instead of something with more substance.