Monday, June 28, 2010

First Listen: The Roots, How I Got Over

The Roots have been doing what they do for more than 20 years. They're one of the few true hip-hop bands in the world - they use real instruments to back up their rhymes, and the musicians in the band are extraordinary. The public is finally catching on, thanks to their nightly stint on Jimmy Fallon's show, and How I Got Over, the first Roots album since they accepted that post, should be the album that introduces them to the big time. But if ?uestlove and his crew are feeling the pressure, you can't tell on this wonderful little disc.

How I Got Over is a concept album about overcoming, and its very format tells the story. The album's first half is slow and spectral. The first sounds you hear come from a choir of voices, delivered by the three female members of Dirty Projectors, and the beats from there crawl along, quietly mulling over Black Thought's lyrics. But when you get to the awesome title track, things explode, and they don't come back down. How I Got Over ends in joy and triumph.

Along the way, the Roots collaborate with some fascinating guests. John Legend does his soulful thing on "The Fire," the Monsters of Folk (Conor Oberst, M. Ward, Jim James and Mike Mogis) contribute their song "Dear God" for a remake, and the band samples Joanna Newsom for "Right On." How I Got Over, at a trim 42:25, easily establishes the Roots as one of the finest and most creative hip-hop acts on the planet. This one's well worth your money, folks.

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