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28 June, 2010@12:00 am

It’s sad to say, but even in this day and age, some people need to be convinced that “rap music” actually deserves its label. Fortunately, it’s easy to point them to The Roots, as the Philly collective always shows off plenty of musicianship, and point man Black Thought can rhyme with the best of them.

The group’s latest effort, How I Got Over, is no exception. Tightly crafted as always – though a little short at just over 42 minutes – the new album showcases all of the traits that have made the group one of hip hop’s most consistent creative forces since the mid-90s (as well as the lone reason for regular viewing of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon).

Few lyricists are as good at summing up the various ills facing modern society as Black Thought, and he starts off in that same vein with tracks like “Walk Alone,” “Dear God 2.0” and “Radio Daze.” The general sound is fittingly sparse, propelled by percussion and bass from Questlove and company with the addition of a piano or organ here and a flute there.

Thought has help too, with longtime collaborator Dice Raw making a number of appearances and more recent compatriots Truck North and Peedi Peedi in the fold as well. It’s also great to here Phonte of Little Brother on several songs, as his style is a great match to The Roots’ sensibilities.

The second half of the album takes a more positive turn, exemplified by “The Day.” Assisted by Blu and Phonte and a chorus by Patty Crash, Black Thought lays down a mantra for perseverance: “Checking the breath, take a view from this high rise. / Feeling like I’m checking out a game from the sidelines. / I got to try different things in these trying times. / 2010 is different than it was in 9-5. / It’s come alive time. I picked a fine time, / For getting open off life like a fine wine.”

Yet while there’s plenty of goodness in How I Got Over, you can’t help but think there’s just a little something missing that would elevate it from “very well done” to “classic.” Maybe it’s that thematically, it feels pretty similar to Rising Down: show all the ways that the current state of things is fucked up, then explain how we can still pull through.

Or it could be that you’re left wanting more aggressive tracks where Black Thought and friends just go for it. There’s really only one, “Web 20/20,” and it comes right at the end of the album. In some ways, though, that’s kind of nitpicking. The Roots don’t seem capable of making a bad album, so while this might not be rap music at its very best, it’s still awfully damn good.

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19 Responses to "The Roots – "How I Got Over" – @@@@ (Review)"
  • A/DC/B says:


    Fair rating for this one. No matter what Drake, Nas & Jr. Gong and Roc Marciano got, this here was a good review. Hope that continues.

  • Ming says:

    Thus is definitely the best since they joined Def Jam. A much better album than Rising Down. With its musical coherent and subject matter. I’d give a 5 star, classic !

  • Reveralmachine says:

    4 Sounds about right to me. Good thing we still have artists like The Roots to bring us a perfect dose of quality hiphop in a “Justin Bieber featuring Ludacris” world.

  • Jerware says:

    I don’t know man, I haven’t been addicted to a Roots album like this since way back with Things Fall Apart. This whole disc plays like a single groove and I don’t want to skip a single track. Like KC said, it’s exactly what I wanted to hear from them. Five @ from me, that’s fo’sho. Love it!

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