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Monday, June 2, 2008

The Roots

Rising Down (Def Jam)

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  As much as The Roots have undeniably revolutionized the genre, their records still sometimes succumb to hip-hop clichés. Maintaining a track-to-track flow, for example, remains an issue. However, unlike with other rap acts, the numerous guest appearances often provide their albums with a vital spark.

  On Rising Down, fans can expect to hear several guest voices, mostly belonging to unfamiliar artists, an approach that’s become somewhat of a Roots trademark as they continue to take up-and-coming artists under their wing and provide them with a platform. On recent releases, the band has delved into darker lyrical territory, and Rising Down continues that approach. In drummer ?uestlove’s own words, their latest offering is “probably the most bleak” material that The Roots have put out. “Between the greenhouse gasses and Earth spinnin’ off its axis,” rhymes Black Thought,“it ain’t hard to tell that the conditions is drastic.”

  The Roots, bluntly honest as they take listeners on a tour of urban blight, expertly capture a sense of mounting dread inside of skeletal synth soundscapes. Whereas the group’s previous album, Game Theory, juxtaposed some of its social concern with bright sonics, Rising Down grows more claustrophobic as it progresses. At the end of the day, The Roots, hell-bent on changing their sound with every album, have once again thrown listeners a curveball—one that’s worth checking out for its creative daring alone.

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