I’ve always viewed The Roots as a serious hipty-hop band. First and foremost they’re superb musicians, producers and performers with a reputation for fantastically tight live shows. They also rap about serious shit; none of the shallow, vacuous, sentiment which makes up the narrative of most mainstream hip-hop.
How I Got Over is closest in style to the mellow, soulful, laid back sounds of their most successful record to date, Things Fall Apart. There are some beautiful tracks here; none quite reaching the heights of Erykah Badu singing on You Got Me but it’s still full of memorable moments featuring an array of guest collaborators and samples. Joanna Newsom’s unmistakeable warblings and harp are borrowed for Right On and Dear God 2.0 samples a Monsters of Folk song. Minor keys dominate, creating a sombre pessimistic mood.
The Fire featuring John Legend is the most radio friendly track and perhaps feels a little out of place on an album of understated coolness. Herein lies the genius of The Roots – they have never dabbled too long with the mainstream. They’ve had massive success in terms of record sales, consistent critical acclaim, have a loyal fan base but this has not stopped them reinventing themselves every few years. Their sound is as fresh and interesting as it’s ever been.
It’s a bit short though.
Listen: The Roots HOW I GOT OVER