What's the deal peoples?! This salute highlights a group that can go down in history as one of the greatest acts in all of hip-hop. Their level of consistency matches other legendary acts such as Outkast or Public Enemy or EPMD. From the moment we got introduced to these guys with their underground album, Organix, we knew this was something different. Then came their major label debut, Do You Want More?!!?!!, which brought forth live instrumentation and solid lyricism from an actual hip-hop band, much like Stetsasonic only completely next level. Their singles of "Proceed" and "Distortion To Static" were experimental with jazz much like earlier albums from Tribe and Digable Planets, and they worked. From there, they reached an even higher plateau with the simple amazing spectacle that was Illadelph Halflife, a underappreciated classic that remains as one of hip-hop's true gems and truly showed the level of exquisite talent everybody in this group played. They would elevate their name from here, as they delivered an album that has been argued to be every bit as exceptional as Illadelph Halflife, and officially put them into mainstream's consciousness by earning Grammy wins and nominations. We knew the brilliance of this group has legitimately been noticed by the world. We salute The Roots and their fourth album, Things Fall Apart.
It had to be an uphill battle trying to outdo the prodigious nature of Do You Want More and the legit brilliance of Illadelph Halflife, but the attempt resulted in them delivering their breakout album, their first platinum plaque, and as was mentioned earlier, Grammy nominations and awards. The album's first single, the melancholy-sounding yet heavily refreshing "You Got Me" features a guest lyrical appearance from fellow Philly native Eve and the divine Erykah Badu on the hook. This alone made fans and critics turn their ears up in anticipation for a new Roots album. From there, the next single was just incredible. The DJ Jazzy Jeff (another Philly native) scratched "The Next Movement". Here is where we see the great Black Thought exercise his lyrical muscles even more than we saw on prior projects. This was one of the major stories throughout this album. If Thought had arrived on Illadelph, he set up shop and placed his foot in the ground of superior hip-hop lyricists on Things Fall Apart. This highly infectious cut is one of an album's worth of spectacular tracks that was the perfect album for those who wanted to hear The Roots for the first time in their ascent to mainstream stardom.
The sounds and production on this album is of magic, as this still continued the jazzy stylings of previous work and their ever noted live instrumentation, but added even more slick grooves and more overall cohesiveness. On cuts like "Double Trouble" with Mos Def and "Act Too (Love Of My Life)" with Common, they resonate their obsession with hip-hop with old school images that made them fall in love with the culture and artform in the first place. When they're not conjuring eighties-type raw passion with other sizzlers like "100% Dundee", the Beanie Sigel-assisted "Adrenaline", and the Dilla-crafted "Dynamite", their getting stuff of their chest (by 'they' I mean Thought mostly) and start letting you into their thought process with cuts like "Ain't Saying Nothing New" and "Don't See Us". Of course the closer with famed spoken word artist Ursela Rucker "Return To Innocence Lost" is just an amazing closeout.
What The Roots accomplished with Things Fall Apart is a portrayal of a group coming into their own without sacrificing any inkling of what got them their acclaim in the first place. This is an album that somewhat still stands as that certified album to truly get to know The Roots better, whereas Illadelph and Do You Want More were more introductions lyrically and artistically from them, with astounding results. It goes without saying that other subsequent efforts such as Phrenology, Game Theory, The Tipping Point, Rising Down, the awe-inspiring How I Got Over, and Undun all walk within the same class of constant greatness and legitimizes them as the most consistently acclaimed act (not named Outkast) in hip-hop. With Things Fall Apart, they gave us a project that let us all know once and for all, The legendary Roots crew wasn't going anywhere. Happy twentieth to this scintillating album.