The Roots are “Livin’ In A New World”, “Baby”!

Well, I told y’all it was forthcoming, and after some time to imbibe the whole thing a couple of times through and digest what it all really means… here is my take on “Game Theory”; the newest album from my all time favorite hip-hop band, The Roots! I won’t get into much Roots history, I’ll leave that to you to find out by going here, here, and here!

So, on to the review… listen to it yourself for the deeper qualities and finer nuances of the music and lyrical interplay. I can’t begin to explain all of what this disc brings to the table, so if you’re intrigued… read on and find a way to listen. Maybe ya can give it a little peep here!

The title- “Game Theory” is a mathematics term usually applied to equations that determine outcomes and statistics of certain situations. (Sorry Chef if I’ve butchered that def.) What this exactly has to do with the album is beyond me. I’ll leave that to your own creative insight and dot-connecting capabilities. I like the album cover, it’s pensive and thought provoking. Hmmm… any ideas?
Here’s the track listing, as I will not be going track by track through the cd, I’ll just point out my personal high points.

114 Dilltastic Vol Won(derful)
115 False Media
116 Game Theory
117 Don’t Feel Right
118 In the Music
119 Take It There
120 Baby
121 Here I Come
122 Long Time
123 Livin’ in a New World
124 Clock With No Hands
125 Atonement
126 Can’t Stop This

Wondering why the tacks are numbered in the hundreds? Well, since back in the day The Roots have numbered their tracks for their albums in chronological order with each album succeeding the others. So, this album takes the natural progression 13 tracks further… thus ending at no. 126. Pretty cool huh, as this offers insight into the history of the band as a cohesive whole rather then as individual albums/ tracks/ and periods.

Basically, this album is like a finely sharpened knife slicing its way through the lifeline of an already suffering nation. Yes, if there’s one thing we know, it’s that this country isn’t always roses and butterflies. There’s corruption behind every oval office door, kevlar vest, and political pulpit. The Roots have always been known to touch on social and poitical subjects, but this album defies their past. All 6 members are now tipping the social/ political pot over rather than simply being content to just stir it.

Lead emcee Black Thought spits firey lyrics in each track here, sure to not be accused of mincing his words. Take the lyrics from “False Media”, calling out our whole society and the social ills that bleed througout each class/ race/ and sector of this nation: America’s lost somewhere inside of Littleton/ Eleven million children are on Ritalin/ That’s whay I don’t rhyme for the sake of riddlin/ False media, we don’t need it, do we?/ Pilgrims, Slaves, Indian, Mexican/ It looks real fucked up for your next of kin/ That’s why I don’t rhyme for the sake of riddlin/ False media
If those aren’t hard hitting, poignant, concise rhymes then I don’t know what is. Great addition to the track is from Wadud Ahmad who actually is the one rapping that chorus, but Black Thought doesn’t disappoint by chiming in quickly with; If I can’t work to make it, I’ll rob and take it/ Either that or me and my children are starving and naked/ Rather be a criminal pro than to follow the Matrix.
The song is an urgent sounding diatribe introduced by the pounding of ?uestlove’s drumkit and symbol crashes coupled with a slow rolling keyboard by Kamal. The sound here is hollow, but not because there’s no emotion… but because the emotion is palatable and the listener can just feel the sadness dripping from the lyrics. It starts and stops a few times in order to roll back forth towards the chorus. It’s cool, it’s urgent, it’s enlightening, it’s pure revolt!

Two tracks in particular (“In The Music”; “Take It There”) sound like they could have been created over a Linkin Park type undercurrent of industrial sounds and reverb. ?uestlove (drummer) layes down a bad-ass rhythm with Kamal (keys) and Knuckles (!!!!!). It’s something not heard everyday in hip-hop/ rap and is very assuredly one of the coolest part of this album- afterall, it’s The Roots and I’m not surprised… but am still delighted! These two songs could be described as scary even, maybe dark and mysterious too. It’s superbly planned and executed, the order of these songs flowing into one another is perfect… A stuttery intro paired with thumping drums introduces “In The Music”, which switches straight to short bursts of lyrics from Black Thought and a haunting chorus. “Take It There” starts off with a solo by Black Thought with simple female harmonies behind his vocals… leading to atmospheric keys by Kamal. All this lends itself to a clear channel for BT to voice his qualms and state his peace. Wadud Ahmad makes another appearance here with a grat lyric; Society’s time bomb laying dormant/ Our people disenfranchised for the free world/ Oil for food but they still hungry/ No democracy/ They said one vote equals one voice/ But he told you if he can’t work to make it/ He’ll rob to take it

My easy favorite on this disc is the singalong 50’s styled and flavored “Baby” which is at the midpoint of this great collection of songs. It starts with a chant like “ohhhhm” from the rest of the band and a great catchy sound and groove; and then Thought comes in with: Your ma don’t like to jitterbug, said this unholy music/ Hip hop just so ridiculous, everything sounds so confusing/ Nowadays ain’t nothing like it was, one thing that showed the blues/ Is this system so mysterious, can’t let that stop the movement/ Can’t get no satisfaction, they all laughing, glad it’s happening/ All wings hot for the main attraction/ Acting a fool with a lust for action/ Young girl caught in a crime of passion/ Sitting there crying in designer fashion/ Didn’t blow, didn’t have time for asking/ Somebody call for the ambulance, girl
The material being rapped about seems a bit stereotypical of rap music, but upon further review seems to be a calling out of those stereotypes and a breaking down of that old archetype. Black Thought is rapping about rap music being “so confusing” in the eyes of the older folks in our society, while at the same time telling a story of a sex crime being committed against a girl on the streets. It’s “typical” hip-hop material if you read the words in a vacuum, but when taken into context it’s easy to see they’re calling out these crimes and distancing themselves from those certain atrocities. It’s The Roots we’re talkin’ about, this aint no G Unit….

“Here I Come” is as much a radio sing-a-long as The Legendary Roots Crew will ever get. Fast, furious, pounding, and urgent is the only way to describe the sound of this one. It’s a fun song, albeit about draggin’ out imposters and exposing them for what they really are. It’s a respond/ react type track, and almost seems as though there should be ‘copters and search lights spinning around in the dark air beyond these guys when they perform the track. Got a fast pace and heavy beat that just kind of gets your blood movin’.

“Long Time” is a great guest laden track that has a collaborative feel to it and very catchy chorus. Peedi Peedi & Bunny Sigler take the mike for some chorus and rhymin’ with Black Thought, and it all comes out fun and hard hitting at the same time. The best lyric here, one that portrays where these guys come from and why they do things “right” is; They used to sing it on the corner Where I come from/ Making somethin outta nothing/ Because everybody fifty cents/ From a quarter/ Where I come from/ Yeah

“Livin’ In A New World” is another call from Black Thought for everyone to pay attention and start making a decision to change the world. Lyrics like, Yo, they got high-powered lenses on the cameras outside/ It ain’t nowhere to run it ain’t hardly nowhere to hide/ They hear you when you whisperin so try to keep quiet/ You don’t even realize that youse a twinkle in the all, seein eye/ From the time you in the bar gettin high/ To havin conversations on your phone through the wire
really make you feel like these guys have a grip on what’s really going on in the world. Instead of rappin’ about bitches and ho’s and bling and cars, they provide insight into what’s affecting so many blue collar people in this country and world. They’re famous indeed, but they stay true to their roots and bring it hard and real!

“Can’t Stop This” is a lengthy tribute to the late J Dilla, a producer/ MC that died tragically of Lupus earlier this year. It’s a roll call of sorts, where answering machine messages left on Dilla’s machine after his death are played back during the song. It’s moving, it’s hard hitting, and it’s poignant because The Roots are stepping out and giving the spotlight to their own inspiration and friend. It’s a true show of humanity and a classy act on the part of The Roots. Weather I or anyone likes/ dislike J Dilla, it’s admirable that he made such a humble impact upon The Roots that they would see fit to offer tribute his soul like this. Gotta respect that!

Overall, I’d easily give this record 5 ?uesties out of 5! (Note: A questie is akin to a star which is normally used to rate albums, etc. At a popular Roots message board, okayplayer, they use questies to rate instead of stars. A questie is a small image of a black man with an afro- a tribute to Roots drummer & musicologist, Questlove!)

It’s a short disc, for sure, but it packs a whole lotta messages and swipes at the government, society, money, war, drugs, war, and general brutality. Anyone who knows me will recognize those attributes as something endearing to my soul, so naturally I will gravitate to an album full of said subject matter. It helps that “Game Theory” was created by The Roots… but regardless, this shit is damned near flawless. I could probably do without some of the female rap vocals and harmonizing (no offense intended), but other than that one gripe I absolutely adore this record! Awesome job to The Roots, this shit came at me hard and made me think… what a way to enjoy life!

Sorry if this was long, overdrawn, or convoluted… it’s tough to articulate my thoughts on something that makes me so emotional. Give it a listen, I hope I have’t bored the heck out of ya so much as to turn you off of the album, haha!

Peace

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One Response to “The Roots are “Livin’ In A New World”, “Baby”!”

  1. […] The Roots- Game Theory 9.0 If I wasn’t so biased, I’d immediately vote for this disc as best of 06. Read my review from a few weeks ago for a better grasp, but this album, this band, they’re just so damn good! […]

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