Many groups have come along in the last few years attempting to inject that ‘Organic’ sound into their music, how many are around now? This doesn’t apply to the Roots cos of the simple fact that they actually know how to create hip hop with instruments, instead of actually trying to sound like they are a band playing live. Its also cos of the fact they have the most underrated emcees, Black Thought & Malik B have yet to see their moment of glory in all of us so longevity will continue to prevail. The last album ‘Illadelph halflife’ was a taste of what was to come and that album alone shook the foundations of hip hop in 1996. After fucked up record companies and rumors of Malik leaving the group (Untrue, its just he didn’t want to tour, shame as the Roots are a live band who actually bring more to a show), they now return on MCA with high expectations, and you know what? They don’t disappoint.
After all the strong war imagery being used in promotional adverts for the album there was a hint from the start that this would blow us away. After ‘Act won’ a mish mash of vocal attributes to hip hop, again similar to the last album we get the 2 part adventure of ‘Table of contents’, letting you know straight from the beginning we’re in for treats. My first highlight comes in the form of ‘Next movement’ a funky slice of Illadelph ill shit, the music on here is so well constructed like only the Roots know how, its mood is added to with scratching and some great backing vocals. ‘Step into the realm’ has to be mentioned for its dark sounds which fade out completely but the vocals are kept steady, leaving you thinking the track is finishing but it just comes right back in, a nice original touch. ‘Double Trouble’ with Mos Def wasn’t really appealing to me when I heard it on the EP but on here it sounds fresher, maybe because it fits in with the album and made more sense to me with its xylophone tripping over the vocals.
‘Act Too. The Love Of My Life’ is the track that’s creating a buzz and yeah its definitely worthy of a listen. You all know it’s the sequel to commons 1994 track ‘I Used To Love H.E.R.’ (And if you don’t know that stands for Hip Hop in its Essence & Real), its simplistic backing makes you stand up and listen to how they break things down in the way Common did originally. ‘100% Dundee’ kicks in with a deep sounding loop of beats covered in beat boxing, this is the hype track that’s challenging ‘Adrenaline’ as one of my favorites. You all should know ‘adrenaline’ by now, it’s a f**king masterpiece and fits nicely as a sequel to the last albums ‘Clones’. ‘You got me’ and ‘Don’t see us’ are also well known so I ain’t got to get into how great they are. This album is scattered with a few sequels and re-appearances and one of them is the spoken word ‘Return to Innocence lost’ a poem over basic beats fuzzing away in the background, that’s right Ursula Rucker who also got down on ‘Illadelph halflife’ also appears here for more mind provoking literature.
This album proves a point that hip hop in no matter what form is still alive out there, and you need to stop ignoring this group because one way or another they are gonna hit you and you’ll be wondering why you slept so damn long. If you didn’t know better you would think they were using drum machines and samplers, which is proving that both originality and creativity is alive in the blood of these Philadelphia kids. If there is one album you pick up this year, make sure its this one - its gonna be hard to top.