Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Best Albums of 2010, No 2 - The Roots' How I Got Over

There are no bad Roots records. There are only ones that don't appeal to you. Like that underground spaced out sound? You're probably an Illadelph Halflife. The rockier side of live instrumentation hip hop? Phrenology. Aggressive no holds barred We're The greatest boasting? Well, that's Things Fall Apart.

?uestlove even took umbrage with haters this summer on Twitter, essentially saying over a series of posts that each album is different and if you don't like it, tough.

So it would seem fitting that with How I Got Over, a collective that's been together for over 20 years turns in an album more introspective than the rest. For that's what happens when you get old, you get prone to take stock.

How I Got Over is more thematically consistent than any other work they've put out. It's dark and Black Thought is going places that hit as hard as ?uestlove on that kit. The stellar Dear God 2.0 is an anthem for urban recession sufferers (backed by a sample from Jim James of Monsters of Folk), a prayer to God to fix the world he's let go completely awry. "Why is the world ugly when You made it in your image? And why is living life such a fight to the finish?" The Roots are like a hip hop version of Springsteen on this album. But instead of speaking to a Jersey working class, it's Philly black inner city that frames it. HIGO at each turn perfectly captures what it means to work extra hard and try and live right and still feel like you're three steps behind. On Walk Alone, our hero walks alone, cos he's always been alone.

There are no clever by half rhymes here (sorry Drake and Weezy fans). A tip to Julliard is about all you'll get. This realism in hiphop trend (see J Cole, Wale to some extent) is refreshing. On Now Or Never, Black Thought grapples with the success and questions of if he deserved it "What's the saying, bygone be bygones? Niggas who used to be the underdogs now icons." (I mean, you are on TV every night, so it's a fair question).

There's no need to discuss the musical chops. Every Roots album is flawless in that regard, and this is no exception. A perfectionist, ?uestlove produced all but one of the tracks, and there's not a note or high hat out of place. The echoes and haunting piano keys match perfectly. And the collab with James on Dear God 2.0 and Joanna Newsom on Right On shows that after 20 years there are still ways to innovate and stay fresh (Though the Bon Iver/ Kanye cowork on Monster and Lost in the Woods is AMAZING).

You shouldn't own this album because it's the best hip hop album out this year. You should own it because it's hands down a classic.

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