In a little over 42 minutes, The Roots may have hit us off with the best album of 2010. ‘How I Got Over’ should easily stay in rotation throughout the summer and long after. In fact, it’s one of the group’s best albums and will stand the test of time. Like many of their albums, the lyricism and the tone of this album are representative of the mood of the surrounding environment. Produced over the past few years, this album is reflective of the national ups and downs experienced during this time.
Taking into account the end of the Bush presidency, the recession, the election of President Obama and even the recent signs of economic relief, the tone of the album ranges from dark and even depressed to uplifting and triumphant.
The band has undergone changes rivaling those of the country. Over the years many of their members and frequent contributors – Malik B., Scott Storch, Tuba Gooding, Jr. to name a few – have moved on. They’re also one of the few artists fortunate enough to work with J. Dilla while he was alive.
The stripped down band, plus their ongoing stint as the house band for “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” gives the album a ‘live performance feel.’ In other words, many of the songs on the album are taylor-made for the band’s legendary live performances. You could easily see several of these songs thrown into their concert rotation.
As a result, this album has a sound that’s less edgy than their earlier work. Despite going with a smoother, more radio friendly sound musically, the lyrics are still powerful. The album is so smooth from a musical standpoint that some of the lyrics might go over your head during the first few listens.
Some gripes about the album have been the length and frequent quest appearances, which some people attribute to the band being focused on other things instead of the album. I actually prefer albums without filler tracks, so the length of the album doesn’t bother me at all.
While I’m usually not a fan of albums with a ton of guest appearances, the band did a good job of selecting who to collaborate with. The features probably added more to the album than was taken away.
Most of the features on the album are from frequent collaborators like Dice Raw, PORN, Truck North and Peedi Peedi. Aside from them, they did a few tracks with Phonte from Little Brother, worked with west coast rapper Blu, and did 1.5 songs with John Legend (the .5 comes from the track “Doin It Again,” which has a crazy sample of Legend’s song “Again”).
Out of the fourteen tracks, there are a few standouts. “Dear God 2.0” is a collaboration/cover with Monsters of Folk of their song by the same name. One of the more mellow tracks on the album, it could definitely be on the soundtrack for the Great Recession.
The two tracks done with Phonte were also dope. “Now or Never” features Dice Raw as well and has an exultant sound that masks the pain of the three verses. “The Day’ features Patty Crash on the hook and is the feel good record of the album. As mentioned earlier, “Doin It Again,” has a sick beat and is one of the strongest records of the year so far.
The title track might be the best of them all. “How I Got Over” has all the elements of a classic Roots song, from the percussion to the messages packed in Black Thought and Dice Raw’s verses.
You’ll be hard pressed to find a negative review of this album. If you’re a fan of The Roots, you won’t be disappointed. If you’ve never been into The Roots, this might be the album to win you over. 2010 has been a resurgent year for hip-hop, but five years from now this might be the only album of this year you’re still listening to.