The Roots: How I Got Over

Categories: CD Preview
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​There may not be a track released the rest of the year that has an ounce of the substance and effortless polish of "Dear God 2.0" off of How I got Over -- the long-awaited new album from The Roots.

The song employs a genius guest vocal from Jim James of My Morning Jacket and Monsters of Folk fame splayed over a smooth, downtempo beat that is indicative of vintage "What They Do" mid-1990s Roots. It's the perfect song for an impressive album from the hardest-working band in show business.

It seems like The Roots' last album, 2008's Rising Down, came out a decade ago, but this wait has been very much well worth it. How I Got Over features an embarrassment of guest spots -- ranging from Dirty Projectors' female accompaniment, Joanna Newsom, John Legend and Dice Raw. What comes together is perhaps The Roots finest work since 1999's bona fide classic Things Fall Apart.

What the critics are saying:

The New York Times: "How I Got Over" ignores hip-hop's fantasies of fame, lust and strip-club V.I.P. rooms. "You came to celebrate/I came to cerebrate," Black Thought declares in "The Fire." The music also spurns current programmed beats and Auto-Tuned choruses (until the final track, "Hustla"). The Roots prefer Ahmir (Questlove) Thompson's sinewy boom-bap drumming, voices that sound human and vintage-style soul vamps played by the band itself (though there are samples, too).

Entertainment Weekly: Has working for Jimmy Fallon dulled the Roots' edge? Not a bit. The venerable hip-hop band's first effort since joining NBC's late-night lineup delivers all the funk/soul/jazz vibes fans have come to expect. Plus it features their most successful forays yet into the world of indie rock -- not least the plaintive Monsters of Folk collab ''Dear God 2.0.''

AP: But life is a journey, and so is "How I Got Over." The gloom lifts halfway through on "The Day," where self-reflection creates good results, and some vintage battle rhymes come later. Musically, it's full of soulful pianos and ripe orchestration propelled by ?uestlove's boom-bap. Many predicted the end of The Roots when they took a job as house band for silly Jimmy Fallon's late-night TV show. Perhaps that marked a new opportunity for the band to escape their inhuman touring schedule and focus on finally making a memorable, mature album worthy of their enormous talent.

URB: Consistency versus growth is a trap that so many groups and artists fall into: either they branch out but have major peaks and valleys or they are solidly consistent because each album feels the same. It's incredible that ?uest, Thought and the rest of dem boys have successfully avoided this trap. While How I Got Over is cut from the same cloth as their last album, Rising Down , the fabric of it is unique to itself. It's dark and tragic in places, but also enlightening and empowering. It's short and sweet and demands to be played more than once.

How I Got Over is out now via Def Jam.

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