Label: Music On 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.
Gabriel12th December 2022 at 9:44 am
This review reminds me of a Jay Z lyric, “How you rate music that thugs with nothin’ relate to it?/ I help them see they way through it, not you”. The review seemed all good until the end when you wrote “Anyone interested in intelligent rap…” Is that a snarky way to say that much of what is out there in rap is not intelligent? Is that another iteration of telling a black kid “you’re so articulate”? Your review was well stated and contextualized, so how did that last line end up there? I still think you should continue reviewing hip hop, but maybe that last line was a fluke. I hope you don’t feel that rap as a genre is unintelligent. I don’t think you would’ve said the same thing for a rock album – “Anyone interested in intelligent rock…”
Paul Rigby12th December 2022 at 10:42 am
Hi Gabriel – I think you’re reading something into my use of the term ‘intelligent’ that just isn’t there. Why should that word trigger a defensive mechanism, anyway? Isn’t ‘intelligence’ a positive in anything we do? Shouldn’t we live life intelligently?
I see intelligent anything in any genre of music or art in general as a positive not as a veiled insult.
The opposite, my opposite to intelligent art is lazy art. So-called art that is produced with a profit-motive in mind, for example. Worse, ‘Art’ that is phoned in.
Intelligent art comes from the heart, from the gut, from experience and is then translated, articulated and presented to allow the message to sink into your head, either directly or with subtle finesse. I was last stunned by hip hop on, of all places, Twitter when I saw a video of Riz Ahmed performing and conveying his thoughts on immigration, “Where I’m from is not your problem, bruh!”. That is intelligent hip hop.
Gabriel12th December 2022 at 11:45 am
Thanks for your reply. Honestly, I’ve read so many of these audiophile reviews of hip hop albums and I feel they come off as pedantic and inauthentic so I was being extra (maybe too) sensitive to your use of “intelligent”. I see your point. I could get behind this idea of intelligent art being the opposite to lazy. Actually, I believe that wholeheartedly, too. Again, thanks for your thoughtful reply and I look forward to reviewing other albums (maybe some more hip hop in the future).
Gabriel12th December 2022 at 11:47 am
*Typo: I meant to say “I look forward to reading your reviews of other albums (maybe some more hip hop in the future).