Dic 13 2011, 4:21

The Roots becoming Jimmy Fallon’s late night house band was equal parts good-for-you-guys-make-money as it was a symbolic move away from actual musical relevance. Perhaps not even a conscious move so much as doing so much that they burn out some of their creativity. In fact, the entire band seems to have listened to everything Kanye West ever produced and tried to throw it in the mix somewhere. I’m not sure if that says more about Kanye’s breadth of work or The Roots’ running out of new things to do.

Don’t let that keep you from second track Sleep. “Sleep” comes after the obligatory intro track and brings with it Aaron Livingston’s beautiful soul. “I’ve lost a lot of sleep to dreams,” he sings on the hook while Black Thought delivers adequate verses, and the track itself delivers a fittingly restless-but-can’t-sleep feel underneath.

The next few tracks are passable, and that’s the problem—they’re well-produced but ultimately fail to attract. Make My features a surprisingly witty Big K.R.I.T. rapping "It's called cream 'cause when it rises to the top, you get the finer things" and One Time features Dice Raw rapping "If too much money talking, we make ‘em economize," and both feature smooth tracks and soul hooks but still come out lacking.

Kool On follows with one of those repetitive raspy soul vocal samples cycling through the whole song that Kanye loves, but it ultimately distracts from the song. Likewise, “The Other Side” features a churchy organ on the hook and an at-first catchy piano twinkle with—you guessed it—another soul hook.

Thankfully, Stomp, even after an annoying hey-it-sounds-like-I’m-screaming-through-a-radio intro, turns things up slightly, only to segue into Lighthouse, which would’ve probably worked out as a Lupe Fiasco or B.o.B hit but just doesn’t belong on a Roots album. If it makes it to the radio, too, my broken radio won’t know the difference.

I Remember features another generic soul hook, but this time, it’s a female vocal, catchy, and not distracted by the music underneath it. Actually, the punchy drums really help here, and the string bridge two minutes in makes the song—yes—memorable.

The strings return on Tip The Scale and, playing throughout, also keep things memorable. Plus, Dice Raw riffs on prison to great effect with lines like "A lot of n****s go to prison. How many come out Malcolm X?" and “I got a brother on the run and one in./ Wrote me a letter said, ‘When you comin’?’”. “I thought the goal was to stay out,” he answers.

The rest of the album is short instrumentals, like something you might hear in a stage play. Apparently, this was supposed to be some sort of concept album. Luckily, there are enough good tracks and passable ones to make that forgivable. Pretty good for an album named after one of The Guess Who’s worst singles.

Favorites: “Sleep,” “Tip the Scale,” “I Remember”
Album Rating: 3.3/5

Daniel J DeMersseman


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