Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Roots

The Roots
Rising Down

I want to like the Roots more than I do. Their 1999 album, Things Fall Apart, is considered a masterpiece, and they get constant praise from the critical community. They do angry but positive hip hop grounded in live instruments, and they are said to be the best live act in hip hop. Unfortunately, they kind of bore the hell out of me. I’ve listened to Things Fall Apart a million times, and while it’s ok, it just doesn’t excite me.

I bought their new disc, Rising Down, after hearing “75 Bars.” It is exactly that, 75 bars of Black Thought spitting absolute fire over a hammering, funky drum beat. I always wonder why more rappers don’t create their own funky breaks rather than paying a million dollars to sample them, and producer/drummer ?uestlove does exactly that on this track – he lays down the funkiest, dirtiest break this side of the Funky Drummer.
Black Thought also wins awards for most uses of the word “nigga” in a song:

I'm a modern day saint; I'm a modern day king My definition I can finally explain Cold smooth like that dud Sean Connery was playing I just got to be the man, I'm the father figure and When I spit it's something like a psychology exam If you stand where I stood, you could probably understand How that mic feeling like a million dollars in my hand It's the silence of the lamb, go and cop another gram And twist with your zanny, work your set, work it down What's your net working plan? You better look alive Cause them niggas outside looking desperate again nigga And the blunts and liquor killing our lungs and liver The asthmatic drug addict I function with it I put a rapper in a hole where the dust will sit For spitting played out patterns that once was hitting I got news for you all, let me show you how to ball See the legendary fall? I ain't heard of that Y'all niggas is off the wall like Aresnio Hall I'm a put you right back where the dirt is at 450 fahrenheit on the thermostat Somebody starving like a white girl? that But she not a earner yet, she couldn't put in no work, Not earning that, the black microphone murder vet

The rest of the album is strong, although it can’t maintain the fire of the first few tracks. Some of the guest rappers are less than genius, and there are some cheesy moments. Still, it’s worth the price of admission just to hear Mos Def spit fire on the title track. The boom bap of “Get Busy,” the sinister funk of “I Will Not Apologize,” Talib Kweli’s guest verses on the hard hitting “Lost Desire,” and Wale’s guest appearance on “Rising Up.” I don’t know that Rising Down has converted me to being a hardore Roots fan, but I am starting to understand what the fuss is about.

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