The Roots How I Got Over

The Roots How I Got Over
Given its title, one would think How I Got Over, the 11th studio album issued by Philadelphia, PA's the Roots, could be an affair full of self-applied, celebratory back-slapping. After years of incessant touring, the stalwart hip-hop band landed a cushy gig on Jimmy Fallon's late night show, backing up the often hapless comic's music guests and smirking at his weak material. But this is the Roots we are speaking about and despite the recipe for a downward trajectory all around them, they've responded with one of their deep and already impressive catalogue's high watermarks. Resisting the urge to be sated by their late night ubiquity, ?uestlove and company mine internal dialogues of self-doubt, perseverance and, ultimately, triumph with their unquestionably assured, layered musicianship. "Dear God 2.0" is a haunting retread of the Monsters of Folk track, with Black Thought's soliloquy underlining the precisely chiselled thematic narratives that nary waste a single word throughout. Black Thought, ironically, has plenty of collective help on How I Got Over. Here, the critically acclaimed MC cedes the mic and spotlight to others more often than in the past, only to return with a jaw-dropping verse. Lauded underground MCs Blu and Phonte excel on their verses, admirably subsuming egos and resisting the urge to veer from the thematic focus, while the appearances of Joanna Newsom and vocalists from Dirty Projectors are seamlessly incorporated into How I Got Over's notable cohesiveness. Yet while these newer acquaintances make their mark, the Roots are hardly shirking their hip-hop origins, with nods to their ongoing relevance ("Do It Again" and "Web 20/20") and inspirations, such as original Slum Village members J Dilla and Baatin (who died last year) on "DillaTUDE (The Flight of Titus)." While it may seem like they've achieved the recognition their proficiency always warranted, the group's wizened, sobering outlook on How I Got Over is highly cognizant that this doesn't happen without a lot of support from others and a path often riddled by difficult, yet character-building, obstacles. (Def Jam/Universal)