Friday, October 08, 2010

Album Review: The Roots - How I Got Over (4.5/5)

I'm looking at Metacritic's best reviewed albums of the year so far and so far, I've reviewed and really liked only two albums inside the top forty, Janelle Monae and The National. There's a handful in there I want to check out soon including LCD Soundsystem, Erykah Badu and Laura Marling, however leading the pack is How I Got Over, the ninth album from American hip-hop band The Roots.

Yeah, Eminem's served up one of the years best and most successful hip-hop albums so far, but it pales in comparison when compared to a less radio friendly, beat and lyrics focused set such as How I Got Over, exhibiting intricate and sometimes complex arrangements, exuding a more vintage sense of hip-hop. The first four tracks showcase the album's more somber moments, it doesn't really kick into gear until the fifth track, but still delivers four striking tracks along the way.

The aptly titled "A Peace of Light," is an enticing opener, shadowed with layers of harmonies over burnishing keyboards before live sounding drums kick in, it's a short 2 minute opener swiftly followed by the throwback jazz inspired "Walk Alone," aligned with different layers of sound, adding to the fun of the alighting mid-tempo. Laced with indistinct piano keys, orchestratic strings and jazzy guitar chords and tambourines clamped in its enchanting backdrop.

Slow burning "Dear God 2.0," follows, bass-driven and jolting with percussion and drums, it features American hip-hop group Monsters of Folk, they sound like an awesome group, which features Jim James of rock band My Morning Jacket. My friend owns their album Evil Urges he's been trying to get me to listen to their work for a long time now, I guess this is the closest I've gotten. "Radio Daze" is a laid back groove highlighting the cruising swag of the '90s, backed with drums and overhang with underlining piano keys.

Fifth track "Now or Never," kicks up the tempo, with a more invigorating drum driven composition, exuding energy on the verses that highlight the swift turn up in intense. Title track "How I Got Over," clocks in the heavy melody, eclipsed by bursts of melodic layered vocals and what I think is a sample buried in old fashioned radio static, I guess to exude that vintage effect. It works very well. It's also the first track not to have any features.

After a quick interlude "Dillatude: The Flight of Titus," angelically swaying with intricate beats, harps and harmonies, we proceed into the albums second half--which exudes more energy than its first. "The Day," a swaggering mid-tempo, laced with guitar strings, flutes and bass. "Right On," is among my favorites on here, provoking thundering, harsh hip-hop bass lines under solid energetic verses by S.T.S, one of the handful here stripping down to aggressive '90s hip-hop.

"Doin' It Again," clambering with hi-hats, drums and a hollowing backdrop. I'm not sure if it's suppose to be sampling LL Cool J's "Doin' It," it kind of sounds like it. Darkening "The Fire" pounces with aphotic strung piano keys and bass. I love the extravagant production on interlude "Tunnel Vision," drum-driven, stuttering horns and bursts of melody. Whilst keeping up a high level of consistence throughout, the album ends on bum note, with bland tongue-clicking coasted bass of "Web 20/20."

The Roots have been dubbed underdogs for awhile now, it's weird title to have over 10 years and 9 albums into your career and it's also a shame too, with the quality hip-hop they make, they deserve to be put on the same pedestal with the likes of Jay-Z and Eminem, especially with this album.

Best: Right On, Walk Alone, Dear God 2.0, How I Got Over, Radio Daze, Doin' It Again


Don said...

Great review. I too agree that The Roots dropped a classic effort with their latest album. Rapper Black Thought leads me to believe that he is the most underrated rap artist in the entire industry.

J.Mensah said...

Thanks dude! I want to listen to more of Black Thought's work, I love his production on this record. It's a shame he (or the band) haven't gotten the attention they deserve.