November 14, 2015

The Roots "Illadelph Halflife" (CMJ, 12/96)

"While many hip-hop and jazz artists were exploring the common ground between the genres, Philadelphia's Roots went one stop further by combining them, approaching the languages of rap and jazz as equal counterparts instead of distant relatives on Do You Want More?!!!??! Eschewing samplers and turntables in favor of a live band, the Roots had the tricky task of winning respect as qualified rappers despite folding their rhymes in abstract, yet forceful jazz motifs. On Illadelph Halflife, the group has, praise God, decided not to make the same record twice. Busting out of the shady corner of a jazz club, Malik B. and Black Thought have made an album that's an unrelenting display of chest-beating rhymes at the fore, with occasional bizarre production twists tossed in for depth and complexity." Check out the visuals to their hit single, "What They Do," cont'd below...

"Right off the bat, "Respond React" keys the listener into its cerebral street style: With titanic beats and a light, melodic layer of jazzy sounds, the cut, like much of the album, features atmospheres in which Malik and Black Thought exhibit their supreme skills, presenting universal hip-hop themes while illustrating life on South Philly streets. Although it's not immediately evident, this is a deep, complex work for the group, and it's the Roots' insatiable desire to grow that makes this such a triumphant release." - CMJ New Music Monthly (November 1996). Revisit the album HERE.