Review Summary: Areegato, to all my people in Japan, whether you rockin Cartier or Pierre Cardan, I'm barging in like excuse, I beg your pardon, to crush carbon copy MC's wit clone jargon
If one is at all familiar with alternative hip-hop, it is a sure bet that he or she has heard of The Roots, if not heard a decent amount of their material. They are simply one of the most important bands in the genre, and have been exceptionally consistent throughout their career save for one album (The Tipping Point
), which was for the most part forgiven due to the excellence of its successor (Game Theory
). Their eclectic range of influences and styles are a large part of what keeps them interesting and original, and speaks for the popular opinion of them being one of the genre’s pioneers as well. I am always baffled when I recollect the fact that they have been around since 1987, nearly half a dozen years before my own inception, but I digress. Things Fall Apart
was the group’s senior effort, released a year after the now classic collaborative effort, Black Star
. Stacked up against such a fine album, The Roots did not disappoint, releasing possibly the finest album of their careers.
Things Fall Apart
truly does contain a plethora of hip-hop elements that mold it this way and that throughout its duration. The Next Movement
is the epitome of a popular song of the genre, containing excellent production from Jazzy Jeff (only featured on this track), a female vocal sample, and eloquent lyrics attempting to coax listeners towards enjoying their rhymes over the preferred gangsta style. Preferred in a popular sense; many would still rather listen to expressive poetry over sadistic rants any day of the week. The following tracks surprisingly feature a strong gangsta rap sound though, not so much in the lyrics but very evident in the overall tone. They pertain to rap battles and the like, but are done without the load of violence. The group goes on to incorporate a heavy dose of funk into the overall feel of the album, and then throw in the essential late-90’s/early 2000’s addition of Mos Def to at least one track (Double Trouble). It is the complete package, seeming to cover enough ground to keep fans of rap in general content.
The moody, atmospheric beats are always top notch, though not always fit for frequent radio play. The Roots include their own house band, lead by fan favorite "uestlove, who provides a solid rhythmic section that doesn’t need to be intricate in any way to be enjoyable. That statement really sums up the entire album; it isn’t anything over the top, and as dark and gloomy as it often gets, it is as infectious an album as any of its sort.
Up until the finale of the album, it as a collected work is nothing implausible. The subject matter, while presented smoothly and skillfully, is nothing profound, again primarily dealing with rap battles and boasts, etc. The beats are good time and time again, but rarely spectacular. When Return to Innocence Lost
kicked in, my entire position on the album changed drastically. Delivered by Ursula Rucker, the five-minute long, alarming account of an abusive father is easily one of the more powerful “songs” I have ever heard. The vulgarity used to depict the tragic tale is only the half of it, as the monotonous spoken words aren’t boring but impacting, because they illustrate the unbelievable horrors that would otherwise be ridiculously hard to describe. It is probably the only way to express the poem, seeing as any singing would render it nauseatingly pretentious. Ending on a lighter note, the hidden track is one of the more accessible straight-up rap songs on the album, although it does not stray from the depressing disposition of its predecessor.
The only significant flaw (if one can even call it that) in Things Fall Apart
is its 71-minute runtime. It is a massive collection of songs that will occasionally run dry when trying to down the entire disc in one sitting, but it would be well-suited for a nice long drive during an uneventful hour or after some rather unfortunate event had befallen the listener. It flawlessly merges a multitude of moods and styles, creating a superficially diverse album that, while not quite as varied underneath all the time, still manages to wow with witty and well-articulated rhymes. It is a magnificent achievement for the genre that I can see myself turning back to for quite some time.