To call it “long-awaited” or “eagerly anticipated” would be the understatement of the year – as hip-hop’s most daring pioneers the Roots release their 9th studio album (and third for Def Jam Recordings) on June 22nd, HOW I GOT OVER. The album, which takes its name from Clara Ward’s gospel classic (made popular by Mahalia Jackson), is the Roots’ first new release since joining Late Night with Jimmy Fallon for a full time gig as the show’s house band. Grammy Award winners the Roots characterize the songs on HOW I GOT OVER as “depicting the everyman’s search for hope in this dispiriting post-hope zeitgeist”.
The lead single from the Roots new set will be “Dear God 2.0.” The track re-imagines the Monsters Of Folk song “Dear God” and features MOF members Yim Yames from My Morning Jacket, Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis from Bright Eyes and M. Ward. HOW I GOT OVER also includes two appearances from Grammy-winning soul man John Legend: “Doin’ It Again” a re-working of his track “Again,” and “The Fire,” an original song written for the Roots’ 2010 Olympic concert performance.
The Roots and Legend have developed a strong musical bond, as the group has produced John’s entire upcoming release Wake Up, which shares the socially conscious themes of the “How I Got Over” set and is comprised of late sixties/early seventies covers.
Other guests on HIGO include Joanna Newsom on “Right On,” Phonte Coleman (Little Brother, The Foreign Exchange), Blu (Blu & Exile), Peedi Peedi , Mercedes Martinez, Icelandic alt-pop singer Patty Crash, newcomer Sugar Tongue Slim as well as long time Roots’ Crew members Dice Raw, Truck North and P.O.R.N.
More than two decades after ‘?uestlove’ and ‘Black Thought’ first met under nefarious circumstances in the principal’s office of Philadelphia’s High School For the Creative and Performing Arts – and over 15 years since the Roots recorded their indie debut album in 1993, in preparation for a year-long European sojourn – the group and its intelligent school of jazz-inflected hip-hop are more relevant than ever.
HOW I GOT OVER is the follow-up to Rising Down (released April 2008), praised by Rolling Stone more than a month before the album’s release, for spewing “rhymes from the perspective of the poor and the dispossessed, from North Philly to Liberia.” Rising Down’s guests list included Common on “The Show” (with Dice Raw); original Roots rapper Malik B. on “Lost Desire” (with Brooklyn’s Talib Kweli) and “I Can’t Help It”; and fellow Def Jam R&B singer Chrisette Michele and Washington D.C. rapper Wale on the lighthearted closing track, “Rising Up.” Philadelphia hip-hop voices Dice Raw, Truck North, Porn, and Peedi Peedi appear throughout, as well as Mercedes Martinez of the Jazzyfatnastees.
The Roots’ previous Def Jam album was their label debut, Game Theory (August 2006) which was nominated for a Grammy Award as Best Rap Album. Its first single, “Don’t Feel Right” was nominated the same year for Best Rap Performance By a Duo/Group. The Roots won their first Grammy Award, Best Rap Performance By a Duo/Group, for 1999’s “You Got Me” (featuring Erykah Badu and Eve) from the album Things Fall Apart.
Today’s Roots are vocalist ‘Black Thought’ and drummer ‘?uestlove,’ long-time keyboardist Kamal Gray (a member since 1996’s Illadelph Halflife), Brooklyn-based guitarist Kirk ‘Captain Kirk’ Douglas, percussionist Frank Knuckles (both members since 2003-2004’s The Tipping Point sessions), Damon ‘Tuba Gooding Jr.’ Bryson, who joined the lineup after touring with the band in 2007 and the bands newest member Owen Biddle on bass (a producer on the 2006 Game Theory sessions, the Roots’ Def Jam debut).
1) Walk Alone (Truck North, Porn, Dice Raw,Mercedes Martinez)
2) Dear God 2.0 (Jim James, MOF)
3) Radio Daze (Blu, Porn, Dice Raw, Mercedes Martinez)
4) Now Or Never (Phonte Coleman, Dice Raw)
5 )How I Got Over (Dice Raw)
6) The Day (Blu, Phonte Coleman, Patty Crash)
7) Right On (Joanna Newsom, Sugar Tongue Slim)
8) Doin It Again (John Legend)
9) The Fire (John Legend, Rick Friedrich)