CD Review: The Roots, How I Got Over

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You see, The Roots, as frontman Black Thought is quick to tell you, are from Philadelphia, and there are few things I hate more than the Philadelphia Eagles. As a Dallas Cowboys fan since birth, this deep-seated displeasure is as natural as breathing. This is the city that cheered when my favorite player, Michael Irvin, lay paralyzed on the substandard turf of the now-demolished Veterans Stadium. I despise Philadelphia, and just about everything from it. I enjoy rooting against the Phillies and the 76ers. Cheese steaks are fine but throw a Philly in front of it and my appetite vanishes (no, really). My disdain runs so deep that whenever my travels bring me there I pack enough supplies so I don't have to buy anything and contribute to their economy. It's that serious.


But How I Got Over is so good I have to let this old grudge go. Once you get past the almost two-minute-long intro you can just let this whole CD ride out. Never ones to follow trends, The Roots went with featured guests on all but three tracks.  Unlike many of their counterparts, every collaboration seems well thought out, with good music as the goal instead of a forced marriage between them and the artist holding the biggest Billboard buzz.  "Now or Never," featuring Phonte, is a good example; both he and Black Thought get solemnly introspective yet hopeful.


"Doin It Again," which actually has no features, is my current favorite. After the obligatory hometown shout-out in the first verse, Black Thought  zones out in verse two, saying "I'm Like Martin Luther King, you like Rodney/The difference is I give it everything inside me/Dear Diary, the fans still swear by me/Even though I'm late night now, like here's Johnny."


That confidence extends to the production, too. You won't find any tracks crafted with the club in mind but "Hustla" will raise any hip-hop head's BPMs. They weave the cries of a baby with wailing horns as Black Thought and guest emcee STS talk about their shared desire to do right by their offspring by passing on to them the secrets of success. Supreme sonic synergy.


Whether you've been a fan for more than a decade, a closet hater, late to the party, or a little bit of all three, all you have to do is press Play. How I Got Over will get to you too.


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I have a small confession to make. I'm a longtime fan of The Roots, but I've always harbored a little hate towards these icons of hip-hop. It wasn't the sort of jealousy aspiring artists sometimes have towards people more successful or famous than themselves; I'm not that dude. And it certainly wasn't the music. How I Got Over is the ninth album in their impressive discography, and even surface-level hip-hop fans have heard about their legendary live show. Truthfully, The Roots' ability to deliver repeatedly is the only thing that has kept me from coming forward with my dark secret before.

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