As I have written more reviews for Sound the Sirens Magazine, covering many different genres of music including country, jazz, rap and alternative music, the word has spread throughout the rhythm and blues community that I am indeed the coolest Mac-Daddy around when it comes to evaluating what can certainly be classified as the street poetry of our time. And when it comes to bitch slapping players that can’t deliver the word, my pimp hand is empathetic but strong.
The Roots are a Grammy Award winning, platinum record selling ensemble who have entrusted me to be one of the mavens to review their latest opus titled The Tipping Point. So as the serious, cognoscenti, hip cat that I am, I will carry out this awesome responsibility with gameness and reverence. For example, this disc begins with the nostalgic, scratchy sound of “Everybody is a Star,” by Sly and the Family Stone, which is the intro for a track appropriately called “Star.” This opener is cool, jazzy, well enunciated poetry, building a great groove upon the sampling of a classic soul track.
“I Don’t Care” offers a melodic chorus refrain, reinforced by rhythmic guitar and bass lines with rapid fire lyrics about mechanics of the inner city drug and party culture of Philadelphia. For sheer groove power, this song has enough fuel to fly a 747 around the globe a few times. “Guns Are Drawn” offers these interesting lines; “Tell me what you would do with no phone pagers / no Kinko’s / no Fed-Ex and no ATM’s / what you gone do when the police state begins?” With the chorus and vamp parts of this track displaying a dub reggae influence, the overall effect is highly creative and original.
“Why,” the last track on the record is an impressive combination of several jams that while tightly arranged, also possesses a startling improvisational quality where elements reminded me of an updated version of “Time Has Come Today” by the Chambers Brothers. The climax of the nearly 17 minute suite features a wonderfully percussive drum solo augmented percussive vocal passages. It is a remarkable synthesis of modern hip-hop technology intermingling with the exploratory quality of early seventies soul produced by great artists like Marvin Gaye, Gil Scott-Heron and Curtis Mayfield.
The Tipping Point is the 7th record by Roots and it is a confident collection of songs that offer no shortage of compelling, superbly crafted lyrics and imaginative musical arrangements. The flavor of music is high energy but never feels frantic or contrived. The writing chores have been divided up so that almost every track showcases a different composer, yet the record flows extremely well while maintaining overall momentum. From both a musical and artistic standpoint, it is clear that a monumental effort was put into making this record; and I hope it gets the attention that quality work deserves.