Review: Jack Foley
HAVING reached the pinnacle of their powers with last year's
Grammy-winning Phrenology, The Roots now take their foot
off the pedal, somewhat, with this more old-school effort.
The experimentation evidenced on Phrenology takes a
back seat to more basic hip-hop with The Tipping Point,
while also keeping its eye on the mainstream.
Described by founding member and drummer, Ahmir Thompson, as
'the sum of our six records and 12 years as a band', the album
is notable for marking the return of original keyboardist turned
A-list producer, Scott Storch, as well as providing the usual
showcases for drummer, Ahmir 'Questlove' Thompson, keyboardist,
Kamal Gray, and bassist, Leonard 'Hub' Hubbard.
Storch contributes to two tracks - first single Don't Say
Nothing and Duck Down - and there is certainly
a slickness about them, born out of the confidence he has no doubt
gained from working with the likes of Dr Dre, Beyonce Knowles
But there is plenty to admire throughout, particularly in the
diversity of styles.
Stay Cool is a truly hip effort, that seems destined
to provoke comparisons with the vocal style of Outkast (particularly
during its jazzy chorus), while the hard-driving Guns are
Drawn contains a raw, retro-beat that's difficult not to
get caught up in.
There will, no doubt, be those who feel disappointed that The
Roots haven't opted to follow in Outkast's footsteps and truly
re-invent the hip-hop genre, but they don't seem interested in
doing that right now, even though Thompson adds that it represents
'our biggest step yet'.
What is worth concentrating on is some of Tariq's fast-talking
lyrics, with classic lines such as 'I'm a big bounty hunter like
Bobba Fett' (on Web), worthy of particular praise, and
Comedian Dave Chappelle makes an appearance on In Love With (The
Mic), while Jean Grae, Martin Luther, Devin The Dude and Captain
Kirk Douglas all provide telling contributions.
There are a few below-par tracks, such as the tiresome Boom!,
but these are in short supply.
Album opener, Star, and the funky Somebody's Gotta
Do It, provide genuine highlights, and the album finale (and
bonus track), Melting Pot, contains enough hammond organ
moments and Seventies-schooled funk to land it firmly on the middle
of a Starsky and Hutch soundtrack.
It probably won't be remembered as fondly as Phrenology
in years to come, and there is nothing to rival the out-and-out
joy of tracks like The Seed, but The Tipping Point
is still the sort of old-school hip-hop album that puts the young,
and commercially-fixated, pretenders to shame.
2. I Don't Care
3. Don't Say Nuthin
4. Guns Are Drawn
5. Stay Cool
8. Somebody's Gotta Do It
9. Duck Down
11. Melting Pot