Album Review: The Roots – How I Got Over (Def Jam)


The Roots

by Rock ‘n Roll Ghost

The Roots' Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson

Leading up to the release of How I Got Over, The Roots’ ninth studio album, only two tracks had managed to leak.  In this day and age an artist has to be commended for being able to keep a lid on their music.  Especially when that music is as mind blowing as this.

Stepping out of the deep darkness that was their previous effort, 2008’s Rising Down, How I Got Over sounds positively life-affirming.  Don’t get me wrong, the album isn’t necessarily tailor made for parties.  And, even though the album is very introspective and starts off on a mellow vibe, things do begin to percolate midway through.

In an age where the single has become king and the focus on an album’s flow ditched for one big number after the next, The Roots take things slow.  On “Walk Alone”, a song so chill it feels like a day luxuriating in cold air conditioning, the line “there ain’t no hell like the hell I raise” is more effective for the laid back attitude of the music.

After “Dear God 2.0”, a reworking of the Monsters Of Folk tune that features that group’s (and My Morning Jacket’s) Jim James, the beats pick up on “Radio Daze”.  Producer/bandleader/drummer Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson laying down a steady groove with the sort of precision he’s renowned for.  “Now Or Never” features an even slinkier beat and the refrain of “everything’s changin’ around me/and I wanna change to/there’s one thing I know/it ain’t cool bein’ no fool”.

Frankie Knuckles’ percussion work gets the blood pumping on the title track, while Black Thought talks about how “no one gives a fuck” on “these cold streets”.  Tariq empowers the song with a strong defiance against apathy.

“The Day” is a smooth R&B number with a touch of a psychedelic vibe and a beautiful vocal turn by Patty Cash.  The song segues into “Right On” and makes the cloying Joanna Newsom somehow sound positively funky.  The next two tracks, “Doin’ It Again” and “The Fire” feature singer John Legend (who The Roots have an album coming out with in September) and elevate things even higher.

Things end on an unbelievable highlight with the bonus track “Hustla”.  Starting off with what sounds like a baby’s wail twisted, turned and processed into something catchy, the song is barn stormer, a party track to turn up full volume this summer.  Guest STS spits it out with a cool, wholly original flow.  “Please let it be a Hustla/Baby be a Hustla/Hope my baby girl grows up to be a Hustla”.

How I Got Over, out less than three weeks now is already my most listened to album of 2010.  Words can hardly convey how incredible The Roots’ latest is.  If another album comes out this year that somehow manages to usurp my love for what the Philadelphia band have done here, then that release will have to be something akin to the second coming.  Because, as it stands right now, The Roots’ How I Got Over is a lock for Best Album of 2010.  That, readers, is no joke.

The Roots

Official The Roots Website


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