The Roots are hip hop’s greatest band; hey they may be hip hop’s only band. The Legendary Roots crew are 8 members, 11 albums and two EPs strong. From guys named ?uestlove to ‘Tuba Gooding Jnr’ and iconic albums like Things Fall Apart and their wonderful Wake Up collaboration with soul icon John Legend, there really are no acts like this band. The collective have even spawned Incubus members and Rahzel, one of the best beat-boxers of all time. If that wasn’t enough, they also act as the house band for the ‘Late Night With Jimmy Fallon’ show, which is getting even better by the day. Their musical accompaniment has brought the best out of guest artists from all genres, ranging from soul icon R. Kelly to the legendary boss himself Bruce Springsteen and his E Street band. If you didn’t think greats like that could sound better, then look up their performances with this group.
As if that wasn’t enough, The Roots are now back with their third album since their late night gig … and people said their output would wane with their new job. ‘Undun’ may be one of their best sets yet. This live act really come through the speakers from the Dun intro to the Possibility, Will To Power, Movement interludes and the Finality outro. In all its movements, this concept album feels like a classic. Sleep is a track that gets up where Wake Up left off. If you can’t open up your eyes and ears to this number, then you probably don’t like music.
Lead M.C. Black Thought’s lyrical skills are kept in the forefront of his mind as he stands next to Big K.R.I.T. & Dice Raw perfectly on Make My, before having his day on One Time with Phonte & Dice Raw. Greg Porn and Truck North join the group on the classy Kool On, while Greg Porn gets down again with the beautiful voice of neo-soul leading man Bilal on The OtherSide, an album standout. Featuring great lyrics like “Yo, we obviously need to tone it down a bit/Running round town spending time like”, Black Thought’s rhymes on Roots classic The Seed (2.0), You Got Me and Boom may have met their battle-worthy match.
Porn’s good enough for a third look on the Just Blaze assisted Stomp, which is ready for the conscious clubs. This big number is followed by another look-out from Dice Raw on Lighthouse, a far-reaching effort that shines brightly with beautiful, introspective lyrics like “I’ll leave the memories here, I won’t need them/ If I stop thinking and lie, now that’s freedom”. Dice Raw becomes a collaborating heavyweight on Tip the Scale, which is Tipping Point (look up that back catalogue classic if you haven’t already) good. Singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens handles the writing on Redford, a beautiful dedication attributed to Yia-Yia and Pappou in the credits which begins with some awesome orchestration, only from a band like this.
This is a fitting finale to this aforementioned concept album about the death of Redford Stevens in reverse. This story rap is socially conscious, thought-provoking and influential. This fictional character is reportedly based on a few real people, so there is something here everyone can relate to. From the struggle to the closure, this narrative not only makes for great music, it makes for great storytelling. After all, isn’t that what rap is all about? Not many paint a picture through hip hop scriptures better than The Roots of rap. TIM DAVID HARVEY.