Album Reviews


The Roots

Illadelph Halflife  Hear it Now

RS: 3.5of 5 Stars


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The roots have never been your average rap crew. Paced by lead lyricist Black Thought and ?uestlove, the group's drummer, the Roots are to hip-hop culture what Bob Dole thought he would be to this year's presidential election: a breath of fresh air. When the Philadelphia-based band first hit the scene, heads weren't really checking for homeys who could flow with the best freestylers and play real instruments. But the Roots can play, and their independent debut, Organix, paved the way for 1995's Do You Want More?!!!??!, a record that was sample-free and smart, and gave rap purists plenty of street flavor. Illadelph Halflife solidifies the Roots' place in the new wave of rap – still highlighting urban blight but not drowning in despair and hopelessness. Determined to reach a wider audience, the Roots have made their sound (much of it produced by the band's home-grown collective, the Grand Negaz) more spare this go-round. The lyrics are stripped to the bone as well.

Illadelph opens with the proclamation, "Coming from a hip-hop standpoint, there are no boundaries," and it is more than a homeboy boast; it is the Roots' manifesto. The group covers the state of urban America, while the music swings from the ethereal "Hypnotic" to the rock-opera stylin' of "Concerto of the Desperado." "Clones" is a funky, percussion-driven attack on wack rappers. "What They Do," a sweet, hypnotic cut, features background vocals by Tony Toni Toné's Raphael Saadiq. Indeed, the Roots are a musical magnet: Illadelph also showcases the skills of rappers Q-Tip of A Tribe Called Quest, Common Sense, Philly's own Bahamadia and Grammy nominee D'Angelo. Jazz luminaries on the record include vocalist Cassandra Wilson and the saxophonists Steve Coleman and David Murray.

On Illadelph Halflife, the Roots are not afraid to take rap to places it's never been. Hip-hop manifested for the new millennium, the Roots are spontaneous, innovative and all the way live.


(Posted: Oct 24, 1996)


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