Album Remarks & Appraisals:
How I Got Over is the ninth studio album by American hip hop band The Roots, released June 22, 2010 on Def Jam Recordings. Production for the album was primarily handled by band members Black Thought and Questlove during 2008 to 2009. It contains a subtle, somber sound that incorporates musical elements of soul, jazz, indie rock, and gospel music, and features lyrics concerning themes of existentialism, perseverance, and modern society.
The album debuted at number six on the US Billboard 200 chart, selling 51,000 copies in its first week. Upon its release, How I Got Over received general acclaim from most music critics, earning praise for its eclectic, cohesive style and profound lyrical themes. It has been nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rap Album, set to be presented at the 53rd Grammy Awards in 2011.
"" The cover gives the title away. On the front of The Roots' ninth studio album 11 silhouetted people run from darkness into bright light. It's as if Philadelphia's finest rap crew are saying, "This is how we got over bad times: with the help from our nearest and dearest." While that sentiment might seem glib, it comes alive on this staggering record.
Although drummer/producer ?uestlove (Ahmir Thompson) and MC/producer Black Thought (Tariq Trotter) are again the central protagonists, the importance of collaborators is paramount. Anyone who has seen the band perform their role as house band on US chat show Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, backing the likes ofHot Chip and Eminem, will be aware of their versatility, and here the boys always deliver in conjunction with their guests.
From the album's opener, a stylish blend of echo-y, almost psychedelic Hammond and improvised crooning from the ladies of Brooklyn's Dirty Projectors, an almost impossibly high level of quality is maintained. Dear God 2.0 sees My Morning Jacket/Monsters of Folk singer Jim James contribute a devastating vocal, while The Day, a nostalgic De La Soul-flavoured number, welcomes Patty Crash for a sweet chirrup, coming over like a kind of trainee Macy Gray.
How I Got Over's finest track, Right On, is built around a sample from celebrated Californian harpist Joanna Newsom's The Book of Right-On. It's hard to imagine many 2010 hip hop tunes topping the blend of Newsom's otherworldly vocal, strident ?uestlove beat and typically honest Black Thought rhyming.
This is swiftly followed by The Fire, a sonically arresting track that marshals aJohn Legend vocal with keys reminiscent of Air's Venus and yet more solid work from the consistent ?uestlove. It's easy to imagine future producers seeking inspiration from the beats and ideas on this album, as avidly as elements of James Brown and Curtis Mayfield have been utilised by contemporary rap artists.
On some of their best work, on albums such as 1999's Things Fall Apart and 2006's brooding Game Theory, The Roots have lived up to Chuck D's "black CNN" definition of hip hop. Here, while socially conscious rhymes are the order of the day, it's impossible not to be reminded of Mayfield's Superfly soundtrack. The message is, essentially, "Times are hard, but let's make things better". As honest and uplifting statements of intent go, it's hard to fault - just like this album." - BBC
"Their ninth album finds the Philadelphia veterans a unique voice in hip-hop. Becoming house band on Jimmy Fallon's US chatshow has led them to embrace indie culture, sculpting hard-hitting rap from a Joanna Newsom sample (Right On) and a Monsters of Folk song (the startling cry for help of Dear God 2.0). Elsewhere, the album is something of a rap equivalent of Marvin Gaye's era-addressing What's Going On. Global problems are played off against depictions of ordinary lives ("walk alone, work alone ... I'll die in the bed I made"), capturing a world facing one last shot at redemption, and their rejections of negativity and belief in humanity are inspiring: the pumping John Legend-sung The Fire delivers a manifesto of triumph over tragedy with such urgent gusto that you hope the world" - Guardian
Rolling Stone (p.100) - 3.5 stars out of 5 -- "On HOW I GOT OVER, they cover Monsters of Folk, scat like the Dirty Projectors and -- most thrillingly -- make Joanna Newsom sound as funky as Erykah Badu..."
Spin - "There are pleasures here, especially with ?uestlove's restless studio assemblages and coproducer Dice Raw's yearning hooks."
Entertainment Weekly (p.71) - "[The album] delivers all the funk/soul/jazz vibes fans have come to expect." -- Grade: A-
CMJ - "[T]he hooks, however somber they may sound, have got enough 'stickability' to make for an albums worth of singles....The Roots have clearly approached HOW I GOT OVER as a cohesive collection."
Billboard (p.48) - "[I]ts mix of nifty experiments and straightforward rap eliminates any sense of predictability."
Mojo (Publisher) (p.52) - Ranked #33 in Mojo's "The 50 Best Albums Of 2010" -- "[A] tight, driving 45-minutes that again saw The Roots raise hip hop quality control to new levels."
Pitchfork (Website) - "[A] particularly efficient album. It's the Roots' shortest, one of their most lyrically straightforward, and a work of strong stylistic cohesion."
Recording information: A House Called Quest, Philadelphia, PA; Fruity Loops, Philadelphia, PA; MSR Studios, New York, NY; The Boom Room, Philadelphia, PA; The Studio, Philadelphia, PA.
Photographer: Ben Watts.
The not-very-hip-hop Dirty Projectors, Monsters of Folk, Patty Crash, and Joanna Newsom contribute one way or another to How I Got Over. Rest assured, the ninth studio album from the Late Night with Jimmy Fallon house band is very much its own, and skeptics should be reminded that hip-hop history is filled with figures as unlikely as Billy Squier (who probably did not bump into Run-D.M.C. backstage at The Alan Thicke Show). Very much in line with recent albums like Game Theory and Rising Down, neither of which was tailored for a good time, How I Got Over is the most subdued of the three. The blood doesn't really get pumping until the fifth track. Up to that point, however, the band creates some of its most downcast and alluring material, covering solitude, self-destruction, and just about every planetary ill. It's all vividly conveyed through pensive arrangements, sobering rhymes, spooky choruses, and even spookier backing vocals. Truck North, P.O.R.N., Dice Raw, and Blu make gripping contributions, but no one cuts to the chase quite like Black Thought, who can condense modern reality into one deftly delivered and commanding line, like "Got immunized for both flus, I'm still sick." From there, the spirit lifts a little, though the songs are still deeply planted in realism. The title track is modern soul-blues that cooks, assisted by some serious singing from Black Thought and an inspiring chorus from Dice Raw. On "Now or Never," Phonte's dejection ("My role was cast before I even auditioned for it") is tempered with Dice Raw's glints of determination. For good measure, or perhaps for the sake of a little balance, the back half also features a hardcore boast session between Thought, Peedi Peedi, and Truck North that cannot be disregarded. This is yet another Roots album that lends itself to repeated, beginning-to-end listening. It is gracefully and cleverly sequenced, from the way the tracks melt into each other to the way "Doin' It Again" utilizes John Legend's anguished "Again" prior to transitioning into the subtly anthemic "The Fire," which features a fresh collaboration with.John Legend. ~ Andy Kellman