The Roots - How I Got Over

The Roots
How I Got Over

(Def Jam)

First Appeared in The Music Box, March 2011, Volume 18, #3

Written by John Metzger

Thu March 3, 2011, 06:30 AM CST


Thank goodness The Roots didn’t fulfill its threat to end its career in the wake of its 2008 endeavor Rising Down. After a stint as the house band for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, the outfit has re-emerged with How I Got Over, a concise but potent set on which the collective sounds more confident, commanding, and accessible than ever. In fact, it wouldn’t be out of line to suspect that its portentous proclamation was nothing but a ruse that was designed to liberate The Roots from the dark and increasingly confining spaces in which it was choosing to operate. After all, it wouldn’t be the first collective in the history of rock ’n‘ roll to announce its retirement, only to turn around an issue a stellar, career-reconfiguring cycle of songs.

While working on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, The Roots had an opportunity to meet, greet, and support an array of bands from all walks of life. Although The Roots has always shown an enormous amount of versatility, its ability to adapt was strengthened and refined by its experiences. The outfit took many of the ideas that percolated through the program and assimilated them into its music. The result is a broader palette of textures that deepen the hues of The Roots’ output.

How I Got Over begins with A Peace of Light, a wordless tune featuring Dirty Projectors, that was built around jazzy chord changes and often sounds as if it sprang from David Crosby’s ouevre. Elsewhere, The Roots reconfigures material by John Legend, Joanna Newsom, and Monsters of Folk, while also tapping into a vein of guest MCs. The Roots’ dalliances with indie-rock and pop stars might make it seem as if the group is kowtowing to the desires of its label or attempting to pad its retirement fund. Yet, the collaborations with its guests never feel forced. In fact, How I Got Over often exudes the aura of a modernized, hip-hop-oriented rendition of Marvin Gaye’s seminal recording What’s Goin’ On.

Escaping from the spookily dark overtones that have dominated its recent work, The Roots embraced its soulful sense of melodic wonder, creating a soothingly cheerful balm of gospel-gleaned sunshine that dutifully counters the troubled times that typically have defined its reality-based lyrics. The Great Recession has left all but the wealthiest Americans to ponder their lots in life, and with How I Got Over, The Roots has delivered a rallying cry for the common man. There are plenty of doubts percolating through the affair, as introspective and global-minded concepts collide with spiritual questioning. Overall, though, the tone of the outing is less angry than it is empathetic.

Further bolstering the appeal as well as the importance of How I Got Over, The Roots succeeded in weaving its songs together to form a symphonic tapestry. As each track bleeds into its successor, the grooves become too intoxicating to resist. It has been a long time since The Roots has made an album that has sounded this accessible. Delivered with the perfect blend of confidence and maturity, How I Got Over surely ranks among the outfit’s best endeavors yet. starstarstarstar


Of Further Interest...

Arcade Fire - The Suburbs

Joss Stone - Introducing...Joss Stone

Peter Wolf - Midnight Souvenirs


How I Got Over is available from
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!


Copyright © 2011 The Music Box