by Nate McGregor
Y'all know the legendary Roots crew, or at least you should after their seventh album, The Tipping Point, in which the Roots display smooth, educated rhymes and solid, unique beats that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
The Philly-based group keeps true hip-hop alive with its modern rhythm and beats in tracks like "Don't Say Nuthin'," but also with its old-school jazz style in "Stay Cool," which has a feel similar to the group's 1999 album, Things Fall Apart. In The Tipping Point, the Roots lyrically criticize all the artists that are giving hip-hop a bad name -- namely, the artists who rap about "bitches" and the rims on their cars. Most rappers today are rapping about money and living the life but have forgotten about the true heart of hip-hop. Lead M.C. Black Thought considers these artists "fakes," and in "I Don't Care," he charges that "I knew a lot of men who did bids for mayhem / Made a lot of money, they money never made them."
Black Thought puts his heart into hip-hop showing his rhyming skills flat out in "Web," with just a simple drum beat and bass line for accompaniment, making the lyrics really stand out. The Roots also get in a few choice political jabs. In "Guns Are Drawn," Black Thought raps about the paranoia brought on by the Patriot Act: "What you gone do when the police state begin / Well, it already began but I guess it depends on what's really going on."
The Roots also display their collective musical-theory skills with some impressive drumming from the legendary Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson along with Black Thought's scat in "Why (What's Goin' On?)." For the most part, The Tipping Point maintains an upbeat attitude, thanks in part to the addition of a few hip-hop guests on the album, including popular comedian Dave Chappelle. The featured M.C.s are mostly from the underground hip-hop scene and include such artists as Jean Grae (featured in Somebody's Gotta Do It). Even by the Roots' high standards, she's one of the most talented rappers around.
The Tipping Point conveys the Roots' unique sound while retaining the same old Roots style. The album definitely will impress not only Roots fans but also all real hip-hop enthusiasts.
Publication date: 07/29/04