Review Summary: A different but worthy addition to the most consistent discography of all time."[Grizzly Bear is] an incredible band. The thing I want to say to everyone-- I hope this happens because it will push rap, it will push hip-hop to go even further-- what the indie rock movement is doing right now is very inspiring. It felt like us in the beginning. These concerts, they're not on the radio, no one hears about them, and there's 12,000 people in attendance. And the music that they're making and the connection they're making to people is really inspiring. So I hope that they have a run where they push hip-hop back a little bit, so it will force hip-hop to fight to make better music. Because it can happen. Because that's what rap did to rock." - Jay-Z
HOVA isn't just a run of the mill rapper that rides on a few singles and basks in his flavor of the day fame. He is not only one of the most consistent artists of the past 20 years, but also a brilliant investor and executive. One common thread between successful executives, regardless of industry, is the ability to foresee trends and bring strategies to the table that keep their investments relevant. Jay's prophecy makes complete sense, and needs
to happen for hip-hop to stay relevant this decade and beyond.
So what does this have to do with The Roots latest offering? For starters, it is a prime example of this push-back from indie-rock; The Roots crew has always strived to evolve, be it subtle or extreme. In the case of How I Got Over
, the latter prevails more often than not with an extension of their typical focus on composition. But where over the past three records the crew has focused on making their traditional rock instrumentation emulate their electronic counterparts in hip-hop, this time around they look to more organic inspiration. ?uestlove seems more comfortable behind the kit (and happier) than he has since Things Fall Apart
. Black Thought continues with his trademark consistent lyricism, deceitful in its verbal simplicity. The keys, guitars, and percussion identify less with a particular branding of hip-hop and more-so with music as a whole.
And that's exactly why How I Got Over
appeals to so many more listeners, comparatively... of course being the pit band of a certain late night show has its perks as well (Jimmy Fallon's for the international audience). But this new found pop-culture awareness means less when one realizes two coinciding points: (1) The Roots' pockets are lined quite nicely with cash, and therefore (2) there is no hidden fiscal motive behind this latest release. Yes, Monsters of Folk are featured in "Dear God", as is Joanna Newsom on "Right On"; but as much as any long time fan would like to stamp the red-lettered "sellout" label on each disc, it can't really be disputed how effective each traditionally non-hip-hop musician truly is. The former encapsulates Black Thought's clinic on human suffering with a complementary bleak chorus, while the latter has a much lighter-hearted feel with Newsom's echoed vocals amidst a vibrant rhythm section. Regardless of indie-hipster appeal, the real star of this show is "The Fire", a laid back minor-key jam featuring a decidedly post-Evolver John Legend. I don't really even care what this song is about; the melodies and wordplay leave one begging for the upcoming John Legend/The Roots callabo, Wake Up Sessions
With respect to haters, the negative criticism is indeed founded, to an extent. Some tracks come off as "light" on the beats spectrum and slightly unfocused filler, while the album's two closers are curious selections to say the least. Even though this content may not have turned out the way Jay-Z envisioned, the album as a whole is at least a step in a different direction, further reinforcing The Roots' place amongst the greatest discographies of all time. Some might even venture to say that this is amongst the forebears of a new school Americana movement, drawing from the modern as opposed to the retro. Whatever it may be How I Got Over
is a great record and stands proud next to its contemporaries.