Under Review/Streets Of My Town: The Roots – How I Got Over

In a hip-hop world dominated by mass-pandering performers and numb-skulled lyrics, The Roots stand head and shoulders above their commercially successful peers.  The legendary Philadelphia crew has a lot to be happy about, despite their more discerning fanbase.  Aside from (finally) achieving national recognition as Jimmy Fallon’s house band, they’ve laid down another masterful album, How I Got Over.  The record’s full of those idiosyncrasies that have made the group so beloved to their fans and so out of bounds to the mainstream.  The songs work in many voices from the indie pop community (some sampled, some live), beginning with the ladies of the Dirty Projectors on the cooing opening fanfare, “A Peace Of Light.”  Monsters Of Folk’s “Dear God” is reworked as “Dear God 2.0,” featuring some of Black Thought’s most intriguing and stimulating rhymes on the disc.  While there are still reflections on some of the weightier elements of modern life (as on the band’s last two albums), How I Got Over maintains an air of hope and optimism, culminating in the title track, where Dice Raw declares “Whatever don’t break me, it make me stronger.”  Personal triumph in the face of various hardships is a big theme throughout the album, and the music reflects those hopeful messages.  “The Fire,” a collaboration with John Legend, is one of the album’s finest and most effortlessly cool moments.  It’s a kind of sneak peek of Legend and The Roots’ forthcoming album-length collab, and it only serves to further whet the musical appetite.  Some of ?uestlove’s production quirks often get a bit out-there, even by his standards.  A snippet of Major Lazer’s “Baby” works its way into closer “Hustla,” and Joanna Newsom’s unintelligible warble leads “Right On,” marking one of the few times her voice guides an upbeat song.  Even counting the two short interludes (The Roots seem to have some obsession with their inclusion), How I Got Over is a beginning-to-end masterpiece; an album that will impress those who only know them for an hour each weeknight as well as those who’ve been listening all along.

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~ by E. on July 20, 2010.

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