How I Got Over
Jun 29, 2010 Web Exclusive
When The Roots signed on to be the house band for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, it promised to be the first domino to fall in the famously accomplished band's evolution from hyper-competent musical innovators to near-ubiquitous NPR-friendly hip-hop stars. After all, can you imagine Public Enemy showing up five nights a week to trade jokes with Jay Leno? But The Roots assuredly have charted their own path over the past 23 years, steadfastly expanding their lyrical and thematic scope while simultaneously broadening their commercial appeal. In 2010, if any act can descend in the belly of mainstream entertainment and emerge clean of contamination, it's them. How I Got Over is the sound of a band not ready to compromise.
Following 2008's uniformly overcast Rising Down —at the time reported to be the band's final album —The Roots push the pendulum toward collaboration and eclecticism with their ninth studio release. Drawing on outside MCs (Dice Raw, Truck North, Peedi Peedi) and a surprising number of indie rock royalty (Joanna Newsom, Monsters of Folk, Dirty Projectors), it's arguably their leanest, most economic release, using smoky jazz flourishes, aching soul, and lushly arranged backdrops to glide through a tight 14-song set. Despite the cast of guests, this is still The Roots' show, as Newsom and the Dirty Projectors' female chorus end up being unobtrusive supporting players more than centerpiece collaborators, and they lift the hook from Monsters of Folk's "Dear God" and replace its quiet longing with frustrated questioning. A bit slight to be among their best handful of releases, it's still their most immediate, another album that transcends any attempts at categorization. (www.theroots.com)
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