words by Preach Jacobs
I dare you to find a list of emcees that’s better than Black Thought or even a list of drummers that can out-drum ?uestlove. I dare you to find a hip-hop act with a better live show or another band with this much versatility. Still we feel as if The Roots are still underdogs even with the new Fallon gig on Late Night, but with How I Got Over, it feels as if they don’t care. They sound comfortable with where they are (and it maybe something that only job security can offer).
The Roots, or the last black American band, start the album off with a “Peace of Light” beginning with an eerie a capella followed by ?uest’s masterful timing (imagine the intros at the beginning of Outkast albums of yesteryear). It casually stools into “Walk Alone” which begins with introspective pianos and more of a solemn tone that reoccurs throughout the album.
Records like “Now Or Never” with Phonte, “Right On” and “Radio Daze” with Blu, P.O.R.N. and Dice Raw share a common theme. There’s no attempts at radio play here (which is good).
The incredible “Dear God 2.0” shows Black Thought at his most vulnerable with lines like “they say he busy hold the line please, call me crazy but I thought that he could mind read” shows an emcee doing more reflecting on a career more than looking ahead.
Ultimately that’s where The Roots are. The album is more melancholy but not depressing, drenched in realism but still optimistic. The album is a display of survival in a musical climate that will make these guys (as criminally gifted as they are) difficult to bring platinum plaques home. Fortunately for us, the abilities of Black Thought aren’t slipping with songs like “Doin It Again” (sampling a John Legend song and then ironically following the song with a track actually featuring him). With Thought unleashing his onslaught to would be challengers with quotes like “I’m like Martin Luther King, you’re like Rodney”.
Sure these guys despite having a Grammy and the respect from just about anyone in the industry from Jay-Z to Bono, won’t have the sales of a Drake but they have something that tons of these other artists don’t have: A career. This is my favorite band that’s defined my childhood and I’m lucky to grow up with artists like this to nurture who I am as a contributor to hip-hop culture. It’s great to know they are still at this level but wonder who will step up to the plate next. There needs to be more black musicianship not only in hip-hop but in music in general. As of now, The Roots are the reigning champs of the past two decades. Salute. -PJ