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The Roots - The Tipping Point


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 and co.

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 the collaborations.

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.

Track listing:
1. Star/Pointro
2. I Don't Care
3. Don't Say Nuthin
4. Guns Are Drawn
5. Stay Cool
6. Web
7. Boom
8. Somebody's Gotta Do It
9. Duck Down
10. Why
11. Melting Pot

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