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The Roots
Tipping Point
by: Sun-J

The Roots have been a mainstay in hip hop for the passed ten years. Where the average life of a rapper is around two years, The Roots have surpassed acts from different movements and generations with their fundamental believe in music. Rather than compromising and commercializing, The Roots have stuck to their mesh of jazz, funk and soul, waiting for listeners to come around, rather than morphing the sonic to appease the corporate. Their seventh album, Tipping Point, is named after a sociologically aware novel by Malcolm Caldwell, who explains how business and social concepts can change dramatically by the most miniscule of events. The album doesn't seem to follow the thesis of Caldwell's novel as a concept album, but instead interweaves the knowledge diffused in the novel. As the worlds premiere hip hop band, the Philadelphian natives again focus more on the neo-soul elements of hip hop (as found on Phrenology), yet still maintain an ambient gorge of hip hop embodiment without convoluting the genre. Furthermore, on Tipping Point The Roots have enlisted the services of commercially inspired producers and guest rappers without destroying the atmospheric vibe we have come to expect and embrace from The Roots.

The album opens with "Star/Pointro," a track which implements a Sly and The Family Stone sample (from "Everybody is a Star"). The track has an Arrested Development sound to it and socially aware lyrics, "Kids calls themselves killers, let their hands do the talking, don't even know the meaning of life, ain't seen a thing, and you dreaming, flooding the scenery, with yayo and greenery, but for now, you stickin' em with the heavy machinery." The next song, "I don't Care" attacks the radio driven summer hits while a simple drum break shifts around a soft bassline and a staccato guitar lick. The chorus is sung by a neo-soul singer (not Cody Chestnutt), "I don't care as long as the bass line thumping, the drum line banging, make one move and I'll throw you away, one false move and I'll blow you away." The first single off the album, "Don't Say Nuthin'" has a chorus of shuffled drum claps and snares with threatening mumbles. Scott Storch produced the track, and Black Thought dominates the drums with his thorough lyrics. Imagine if Black Thought had been on "Fire" instead of Loyd Banks, that is what this song sounds like. "Guns are Drawn" has a reggae intro sung by Aaron Livingston over a hi-hat driven drum break preceding political verses courtesy of Black Thought. "Stay Cool" is the best track in my opinion. The song borrows a sample from De La Soul's "Ego Trippin'Part 2" and features a unique melody of horns in the chorus as Black Thought is in constructive interference with the beat, amplifying the intensity of the cut. "Web" has very subtle instrumentation, but Black Thought drops arguably his best verses of all time with lines like, "I'm a big bounty hunter like Boba Fett, ya'll more shell shocked than a soldier get." "Boom!" is an old school track with its filtered drums. In fact, Black Thought tributes two verses to the old school movement by imitating the flow of Big Daddy Kane and Kool G. Rap down to every syllable. The track is a reflection of Thought's versatility. "Somebody's Gotta Do It" has a Devin the Dude supplied hook with contributing verses from Jean Grae and Mac Dubb. "Duck Down" is another Scott Storch produced track which features the same compressed kick drums that can be found on the Terror Squad single, "Lean Back." The song is packed with plenty of lyrical ammunition, "It's Black Thought, he rock it sharp so speakers can bleed, I run a triathlon you wouldn't see the fatigue." The final track, "Why," addresses the state of the nation, "Young teen joins the marines says he'll die for the core, Inducted up into the governments war as if the land of money and oil, Funny that ain't none of it yours, I can't sleep yo I'm paranoid, it's code orange, It's far from right I guess that's why it feels so wrong, To see the world get stripped out of every resource, And people pray to Coca Cola instead of the gods, What's goin' on?, Them old heads say we need a modern day Moses, Where the leaders is posers we needing some soldiers."

The album also features two bonus tracks, and word on the street is the UK version has a third bonus track. On the North American version, the first bonus track, "The Mic," features funny-man Dave Chappelle and contains a witty cipher between Black Thought and guest rapper, Skillz. The other bonus track, "Din Da Da" is The Roots first studio instrumental track, and essentially is a remake of a George Karnz song. ?uestlove displays his tenacious drum skills pairing up against synthetic drummers. The absence of Scratch was of course noticeable, but The Roots have once again dropped a dynamic flurry of static hip hop elements breaking down the dichotomy of legal and ethical. Fans expecting an album on par with Things Fall Apart will be disappointed, but in the end, Tipping Point further magnifies the success of hip hop's groundbreaking innovators.


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