first day back in erie

…and I’m sure I could write about a whole heck of a lot, but I’m going to join the blogosphere buzz and talk about The Roots new album Game Theory.

For those of who are long time readers of my blog, you know I’m a HUGE Roots fan.  When I think about where my own musical style has gone and has been influenced over the last few years, few artists have as much sway with me as The Roots (maybe only Ben Folds and Sufjan Stevens have the cred in my mind equal).  The biggest reasons for my love is that they take hip-hop and apply creativity and intelligence to create art.  What makes them even more special is that they do it in a music genre that struggles for artistic relevancy.  This fall, I’m planning on FINALLY seeing them in concert.

Anyway.  On to Game Theory.  It’s coming out at the end of the month, but they released an EP, and I was able to snoop out a couple other tracks.  The drummer and musical genius of the group, Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson, said this would be their darkest album yet, and that the MC (which, in my and in others opinion, one of the best ever), Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter, is dropping back from is, diss-heavy, KRS-One spitting, and developing narratives and social commentary – a move that I think reflects the ethos of The Roots in general.  The Roots, and the group best associated with them (Common, Talib Kweli, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott) are thoughtful about the issues concerning race.  To be more forceful in their lyrics is a great transition.

I find as I’m listening to the couple tracks I have (specifically the EP, Baby, and Game Theory), I sense a couple things.  First, they’re forging new territory.  Don’t Feel Right, their first single, has a top-notch piano vamp that compliments BTs MCing.  Tariq has one of the best rhythmic senses of any hip-hop, and his ability to syncopate is second-to-none.  Secondly, they’ve brought some of the best pieces of old-school Roots (Malik B?  Rhazel?  Yes, I’ll have some of both.)  In Right, Rhazel’s doing his thing in the background.  Third, again, a stronger play on social issues in BT’s rap.  ie (emphasis mine, and ps – it’s explicit, and I edited for you… but I make no apologies for explicit lyrics… it’s art, man.  C’mon.):

[Chorus]
It don’t feel right, it don’t feel right
It don’t feel, it don’t feel, I can’t feel it no more
It don’t feel right, it don’t feel right
It don’t feel, it don’t feel, I don’t feel it no more
Things don’t feel right over here
Lately I ain’t been seein’ clear
It don’t feel right, it don’t feel right
It don’t feel, it don’t feel, I can’t feel it no more
It don’t feel right, it don’t feel right
It don’t feel, it don’t feel, I can’t feel it no more
Seems to me nowadays things have changed
I don’t know if I feel the same

[Verse 1-Black Thought]
Yo, in the land of the unseen hand, and hold trouble
Theorize your game, it’s difficult to roll a double
The struggle ain’t right up in your face, it’s more subtle
But it’s still comin’ across like the bridge and tunnel vision
I try to school these bucks, but they don’t wanna listen
That’s the reason the system makin’ its paper from the prison
And that’s the reason we livin’ where they don’t wanna visit
Where the dope slang and keep swayin’ like Sonny Liston
The money missin’ and there’s mouths to feed
Yet the brain kickin’, thinkin’ of a thousand things
Remember back in the days, when the kitchen had eggs
And pancakes, thicken and greens and Kool Aid
When the ‘fridgerator naked then the cupboard is bare
People got to strip naked, stick ‘em up in the air

Wasn’t lies when they told you wasn’t nothin’ to fear
Somethin’ don’t feel right out here, nahmsayin’? Check it out

[Chorus]

[Verse 2-Black Thought]
Look, my eyes open ‘cause I’m really a rocksmith
And when inviting me thoughts, I’m really unboxin’
My main adversary in this silly concoction
Freeze your face like bosilium toxin
If you ain’t tryin’ to get popped, then give me a option
Helicopters choppin’ from Philly to Compton
The Jones is the richest since dismissin’ the Johnson’s
If you ain’t sayin’ nothin’, you a system’s accomplice
It should play with your conscience, do away with the nonsense
I’m overseeing anything within my circumference
This ain’t a press junket, I ain’t seekin’ responses
I stand where the people got the heat in they pocket
You mesmerized by the calm nonchalant-ness
I spit a dart, rub on some John Hitchcock s***
If you ain’t speakin’ your life, your rhyme’s adopted
If it don’t feel right, then stop it, you nahmsayin’?

[Chorus]

[Verse 3-Black Thought]
Yo, field you work in, weapon producin’
Natural disaster got the planet in a panic
We all gots to make that livin’
Sex, drugs, murder, politics and religion
Forms of hustlin’, watch who you put all your trust in
Worldwide, we coincide with who sufferin’
Who never had shit and ain’t got nothin’

But most strugglin’, and make you wanna run up in the ma’ f*****’
With hots on for a piece of the cake back
I can’t work for it, I can certainly take that
I’m fired up, thinkin’ about the payback, except
You f*** around and be a enemy of the state, black
Ill, but that’d be too real for TV
It’s crazy when you too real to be free
If you ain’t got no paper then steal this CD
Listen man, I’ll let you know how it feel to be me, it don’t feel

[Chorus]

There’s an angry fist being raised, and I think this is going to turn some heads.  Also, this isn’t to say they weren’t thinking about this stuff before, but I like they’re making it a point on their first single.  Speaking of, now that they’ve moved from Geffen to Def Jam and Jay-Z, I think there will be a better distribution, and finally we might see The Roots get the public accolade they so sincerely deserve.

But I don’t know if they will.  Folks who were die hard fans in the 90s and albums such as Illadelph Halflife, and Do You Want More?!!!?? are often jaded by Phrenology and The Tipping Point, saying the former are “true hip-hop”, and the latter are just sell out albums.  Me?  I love the latter stuff.  For the same reason I love The Roots – progressive thinkers.  Which really, might be the best way to describe The Roots – the thinking man’s hip-hop.  So, please.  Take a listen.  Go to ?uestlove’s MySpace page and download the latest track.

On a more current note, it’s about 90 degrees in my apartment tonight.  I’m going to remedy this by taking a trip with Hernandez to the Hookah bar in town.  High fives.

Much love to the people still reading my blog.   I’m back.  And this year is going to be huge.   I can feel it.

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