Top 8 of 08 #1: The Roots – Rising Down

January 7th, 2009 by | Tags: , ,

I don’t think #1 could have been anything other than The Roots.

I’ve been a fan since Things Fall Apart. I think I got it off the strength of You Got Me and the fact that Mos Def was a feature and man, I got one incredible album for my money. Or my mom’s money. Whichever.

That album introduced me to Eve and Beanie Sigel and Jill Scott, forced me to listen to and gain an appreciation of Erykah Badu (she could miss me with that Call Tyrone business, I was a teenager and not trying to hear that), and pretty much solidified my taste in music. I stayed in that neo-soul/conscious rap vein for years, and never really left it.

(I have a spanish remix of You Got Me called Me Tienes. It’s just as good as the original.)

To say that I’m partial to The Legendary Roots Crew would be an understatement. When added into the mix with the Dungeon Family, Wu-Tang Clan, and Company Flow, you can pretty much decipher why I have the taste in music that I do. The Roots are a pillar for me.

Rising Down is easily their best effort since Things Fall Apart. There are a lot of features, but it isn’t just for the sake of sales. Each feature goes in on their respective verse, resulting in an album full of heavy songs.

One of the highlights is Black Thought’s solo joint, 75 Bars. He’s always been an underrated emcee, even though he’s a beast on the mic. He gets his Beanie Sigel on and delivers three minutes of free association raw rap. He rips it for every second of the three minutes, to the point where picking just a few lines to quote is a lost cause.

Peedi Crakk delivers one of the best verses on the album with his guest spot on Get Busy. Get Busy is also notable because it’s a Philly hometown pride track– DJ Jazzy Jeff, creator of one of my favorite albums from last year, is behind the scratches.

It’s Crakk man, used to back spin
Now I spend stacks and stacks
and Uncle Sam tryin’ to tax all my hard earned raps
Damn! We makin’ Yens, Pesos, Euros, we representin’

Wale, Chrisette Michelle, Saigon, Dice Raw, Styles P, Malik B, and Common are all some of the features on the album, and all are top notch. The actual production is up the the usual Roots quality. The album veers from laid back (Rising Down) to frantic (75 Bars) and it doesn’t hurt it any. The variety gives Rising Down legs, since there’s always a track for your current mood.

I couldn’t pick a favorite track on this album if I tried. It’s full of catchy choruses, great verses, and amazing beats. I sing off-key to Birthday Girl just like everyone else, and Singing Man is another one that brings out that kind of behavior.

It’s just like, man, could these guys be any more talented? Even bad Roots albums are just bad in the context of albums like Things Fall Apart and Come Alive and Do You Want More?!!??!. Why are so many rappers amazingly terrible?

Congratulations to The Roots for embarrassing rappers again. Keep on doing it until they all start coming correct.

The rest of y’all need to buy Rising Down and take notes.

Official videos:
75 Bars
Get Busy
Birthday Girl
Rising Up

(I’m gonna take a day or so and then get back to talking about comics. I haven’t been to the shop since before Christmas.)

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3 comments to “Top 8 of 08 #1: The Roots – Rising Down”

  1. Awesome.

    Have to say, I really enjoyed this feature, interesting stuff. I was also quite pleased that you showed Immortal Technique some love, which doesn’t happen nearly enough, in my opinion.

    I was actually planning to comment on some of the posts you made, but for some reason didn’t get around to it. One question I’m still wondering about is what you think of the third verse of Nas’s “Hero,” which I think is on a higher level than the first two (a question brought on by your writing that the track shouldn’t have been on the album). I suppose the third verse still doesn’t really link up with the main theme of the album that you talk about, but it does pertain to Nas’s reaction to the nixing of the album’s original title and what that means for him and other artists, which makes it relevant enough, in my mind.

  2. Well, this is the first album you’ve mentioned that I actually own. I am not a rap guy at all, but I do like me some Roots (since Phrenology), and I agree that this was a stellar album. I think the block in the middle from Criminal to Singing Man is as good a stretch of music as I heard this year. One thing: I don’t have a track called Birthday Girl on my version. What is this?

    Can’t believe you didn’t mention Porn!

  3. @clay: I know it’s an iTunes bonus. Check out the video, if you dig it, grab it for .99.

    I’d mention Porn, but this is a family site!

    @Derk van Santvoort: I dug that last verse, and thought it was the best part of the song. In a way, the third verse is about the album as a concept and Nas’s feelings on it. It’s “You’re not the boss of me” set to music, which displays an arrogance that I think Nas has to have to be at the level he’s on. He has to be dumb and arrogant enough to try and push against whatever is holding him back if he expects to keep being relevant.

    However, Killer Mike gave an interview some months back and said something I think is 100% true. If Nas really wanted to take the risk, he could’ve kept the title and released it digitally. Skip the majors, go to Amalgam Digital or straight to iTunes/AmazonMP3 and see what he sells. Put his money where his mouth is, so to speak.