The Roots: How I Got Over


The Roots
How I Got Over
(Def Jam)

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Right now, The Roots are probably most notable for being the house band on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, filling the talk show’s interludes with a mixture of funk and soul. However, in the record world the band proves to be a prolific force, with more than a dozen releases to their name since the early 1990s. The Roots move from strength to strength, and How I Got Over demonstrates that their staying power comes from their ability to stay fresh and use guest artists the right way.

By all means, this album shouldn’t work. Guest artists span genres like the obvious rap (including long-time collaborator Dice Raw), R&B (John Legend), indie rock (Haley Dekle of Dirty Projectors), folk (the aptly-named Monsters of Folk), and the quirky (Joanna Newsom). When guests are singers rather than rappers, they tend to deliver the hook, with rapped verses that focus on modern life and the state of the world. There’s an overwhelming sense of understanding one’s position in the world and the responsibility not just for one’s own actions (“Even the three-legged dog got three legs left to lose,” as “The Day” says) but for the entire world (“If everything’s made in China, are we Chinese?” asks “Dear God 2.0”). Of course the musical layer is as tight as ever, with drummer ?uestlove proving time and again that a great Roots song is built from the beat up.

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