The Roots know that…Things Fall Apart

3rd January 2016

Label: Music On Vinyl

Format: Vinyl

A significant hip-hop ‘band’ and album from 1999. The Roots might not be megastars in their field but they certainly deserve respect for what they do and how they do it. Featuring live instrumentation, unusual for any hip-hop outfit to begin with, the outfit has sometimes struggled to maintain consistency when producing albums, being better known for the powerful live stage work. That live music began in 1987 as a duo but grew to a four piece and now features seven members. Their drive for genre purity and direction was sealed on the major label release Do You Want More?!!!??! (1995) in which, unusually, their music eschewed samples or previously recorded material. This made for a interesting, even refreshing, listen while the band ignored mainstream rap.

This album, the band’s fourth, was their most successful to date and was the release that saw the band’s vision and implementation finally organised into a coherent whole.

Taking its title from the Chinua Achebe novel credited with revitalizing African fiction, the album rests on the assertion that  hip-hop records are treated as disposable, that they aren’t maximized as product or as art. This forthright philosophy gained the outfit a new audience. In terms of the musical arrangement, the backing is rather jazzy in tone with a certain neo-soul vibe running throughout. The band, in fact, helped to start the movement, working closely with Erykah Badu. In fact, Badu appears on this LP, on the single, You Got Me, co-written by Jill Scott.

Also listen out for Mos Def on Double Trouble, a real rhymefest, Jay Dee appears on Dynamite! and DJ Jazzy Jeff pops up on The Next Movement.

Anyone interested in intelligent rap should give it some room in their collection.