Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Review: The Roots- How I Got Over

The worlds of hip hop and indie rock are coming closer together. Whether it's Jay-Z showing up at a Grizzly Bear gig, or Kid Cudi sampling Vampire Weekend, hip hop has finally taken a shine to something vastly different. The Roots on the other hand, have always been respected by anyone. They've built a reputation on great hooks, Black Thought's lyrics, and one of the best live acts around. So it wasn't really a surprise to see Jim James of My Morning Jacket and Joanna Newsom guest on the latest offering from the kings of Philadelphia.

How I Got Over is easily the best album they've done since "Things Falling Apart". Once again, the band is superb with their jazzy hooks and low tempo beats, but what shines on the album is the awareness of the lyrics. Black Thought has always been one of the best lyricists not only in hip hop, but in any genre of music, and though the band has always had some politically charged lyrics, they're at the top of their game, mostly because unlike most rappers trying to sound smart, Thought is and comes across as someone who could be on CNN's Crossfire.

Musically, the band can't be topped. The best thing about them has always been the addition of live insturmentation opposed to sampling the hell out of everything. Maybe it's the fact that they play five nights a week as Jimmy Fallon's backing band, but the band sounds tighter and as confident as ever, making for their best offering of jazz music in years.

And with everything on the table, those collaborations I mentioned earlier, they work. "Dear God 2.0" uses "Dear God" from last year's debut album from Monsters of Folk, complete with vocals by MoF/My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James. While a Joanna Newsom sample drives "Right On", making for two of the albums standout tracks.

If there's any problem with the album, it's the length, running way short of its 42 minute running time. But if there was any question if they could deliver another great album while constantly working on a late night show as a backing band, they've answered the call and up the ante again. We can only hope with their busy schedule, we don't have to wait too long for another album.

**** out of *****

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