The Roots from Philadelphia were on the first "hip-hop band", emphasizing live instruments instead of samples.
Rappers Tariq "Black Thought" Trotter and Malik "B." Abdul-Bait were complemented by the rhythm section of drummer Ahmir-Khalib "?uestlove" Thompson and bassist Leon "Hub" Hubbard, the real soul of the band.
a tentative Organix (1993) was vastly improved by
Do You Want More (1994), which features
keyboardist Scott Storch, trombonist Joshua Roseman, saxophonist Steve Coleman,
vocalist Cassandra Wilson and introduced Ursula Rucker.
After the disappointing Illadelph Halflife (1996), the first recording
without Storch and with new keyboardist Kamal, the Roots crafted
Things Fall Apart (1999), their most successful album, featuring
the soul crossover hit You Got Me (with Erykah Badu).
A quantum jump in production made Phrenology (2002), the first album
without Malik B,
a case in point for the marriage of technology, composition and performance,
besides the usual trans-stylistic approach (that now expands beyond hip-hop and
jazz towards progressive rock as well).
The 10-minute three-movement Water, in particular, is many things into
one, and all of them quite appealing: recitation, abstract instrumental
composition, construction and deconstruction.
Each of the more regular songs attempts a different kind of synthesis:
Break You Off (with soul crooner Musiq and neoclassical cellos),
Sacrifice (Nelly Furtado), The Seed v. 2.0 (Cody Chesnutt),
Rolling With Heat (Talib Kweli).
This was much less "rap" music than avantgarde architecture.
Compared with the experimental orgy of its predecessor,
Tipping Point (2004) sounded like a transitional album.
Besides being ruined by too much filler, it pulled back from most of the
innovations and retrenched around its core "roots".
rather uninspired and commercial (Don't Say Nothing).
Philadelphia-born Roots collaborator
Ursula Rucker is a black spoken-word artist who coined a new form of art
with her single Supernatural (1994), a dance hit created by a-capella
vocals. After being a mere novelty on other people's songs, she emancipated
her voice and her stories on
Supa Sista (2001), Silver or Lead (2003) and
Ma' at Mama (2006).
The Roots' Game Theory (2006) managed to wed those lush production
values with dark, high-energy vibrations.
That album and its successor Rising Down (2008), that
featured Common, Malik B, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Styles Wale, DJ Jazzy
Jeff, and was highlighted by Get Busy and Criminal,
refined their invention (catchy, agitprop beat-based cross-stylistic music) with subtler
arrangements, notably James "Kamal" Gray's synthesizers.
How I Got Over (2010) is adult hip-hop music that shuns the traditional
themes of the genre.
Undun (Def Jam, 2011) was a more ambitious concept album, featuring
several guest rappers (for no apparent purpose), a relatively faceless
keyboards-based work that is often reminiscent of the funk-soul hybrids of
the 1970s, such as Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder.
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