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How I Got Over
The Roots’ ninth studio album is what we’ve come to expect: thought-provoking, serious and immaculately presented, with this one especially introspective.
When Vibe Magazine recently suggested to The Roots‘ iconic drummer Questlove that their new release How I Got Over is one of a few recent hip-hop albums that deal with approaching the tender age of 40, Quest responded: “The Roots’ 40 is definitely one long, hard look in the mirror… this album asks some serious questions.”
How I Got Over is not polished. In fact, the audio is at times so raw it barely seems mixed. The music conveys the struggles of worn blue-collar souls; music industry workers taking two minutes to behold their stained garments and anguished bodies in the mirror, splashing water in their faces to summon the energy to continue their search for inspiration and purpose. They do get over—but they’re always walking alone.
Really, the indignant music we’re served carries on from instrumental hip-hop crews previous two releases, Game Theory and Rising Down. These have not been albums so much as efforts to reach the airwaves before the Western world implodes (as on Rising Down), or before motivation and sheer tiredness puts and end to the group’s plight (on Game Theory and HIGO).
This stoic theme is interwoven beautifully throughout the album, but do the individual tracks hold up? Certainly, Black Thought’s venture into singing his vocals on ‘How I Got Over‘ had us all exited that his raspy stem would be exercised more on the new release. Alas, Black has stayed on his MC tip, and done it well, but he’s also deprived the record of some exciting innovation.
After a solitary beginning, the record takes off with ‘Radio Daze,’ which has Blu, P.O.R.N. and Dice Raw spill food for thought over a subdued piano. Following ‘Now or Never‘ is dope, but has Dice Raw rather than Black Thought or featured Phonte sing the hook. Is that strange to anyone else? ‘The Day‘ has Patty Cash single-track the hook instead, and together with Blu, Phonte and Black Thought’s verses we have ourselves a highlight. ‘Right On‘ is the least elaborate mix Joana Newsom has ever been heard on, but the on-the-spot vibe suits her well. It’s also reassuring to know that Quest and Black Thought could not help but hip-hop the shit out of at least one track, Peedi Crack and Truck North turning up as partners in rhyme on ‘Web 20/20‘.
The Roots’ ninth studio album is what we’ve come to expect: thought-provoking, serious and immaculately presented, with this one especially introspective. We have another relevant and solid Roots album, but in light of their huge catalogue, not all tracks can stand out. In a way, they’re vicitims of their own previous efforts, but that doesn’t mean we should stop listening.
Words Sven Carlsson
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