Monday, October 22, 2007

[Honorable Mention] Part 2 of 3

Album: Things Fall Apart
Artist: The Roots
Release Date: February 1999
Label: MCA
Producers: The Grand Wizzards (The Roots, Richard Nichols, Kelo, Chaos, Scott Storch, James Poyser, Dice Raw, & Wigs), with Jay Dee (a.k.a. J Dilla)

"Inevitably, Hip-Hop records are treated as though they are disposable. They're not maximized as product even, you know, not to mention as art."
- from "Act Won (Things Fall Apart)"

In my entry for Sonic Youth's Sister, I mentioned its late inclusion into this list, and that I had to drop an album to make room for it. This is that album. The reason I decided Things Fall Apart was the one to go was because I felt that the style of a lot of the music on it is done elsewhere on other albums included in this project. Also, Black Thought is an amazing MC, but he can occasionally be impenetrable and one-dimensional. Now, don't let that take away from this record's greatness. In a pivotal year for Hip-Hop, when both the commercial overground, represented by Jay-Z, Dre 2001, and the debut of Eminem, and the creative underground, represented by Mos Def's incredible Black On Both Sides and the Rawkus family, excelled, The Roots still had the finest Hip-Hop release. Things Fall Apart is a tour de force of boundary-destroying Rap music, and an essential companion piece to D'Angelo's Voodoo; If ever I revise this list in a different venue, you might see this included at the expense of another album.

One of the most important things to note about TFA is that it's one of the best produced albums of all time, from any genre. Roots drummer and de facto mouthpiece ?uestlove puts as much care into the cavernous sonics as he does into his lengthy liner-notes essays. It's the distance in "Table Of Contents (Part 1)". It's the operatic backing vocals on "Next Movement". It's the fade-in-fade-out of the mournful piano and beat in "Step Into The Realm". And that's only the first three songs. The most famous step is the skittering jungle beats that close their breakthrough hit "You Got Me". Keyboardist Kamal Gray takes control on many tracks with his infinite catalog of otherworldly sounds; "Double Trouble" draws breath from what sounds like xylophones and percussive bamboo chutes. On "100% Dundee", Gray picks up where Pink Floyd left off over a steam-propelled bass throb. Common, Erykah Badu & Mos Def all swing through to help The Roots birth the New Native Tongues. And don't think it doesn't bump hard. "Dynamite" and "Don't See Us" revisit The Roots' earlier jazzy style, but with more bite, "Without A Doubt" flips Schooly D's old school "Saturday Night" beat, and the live favorite "Adrenaline" introduces future Roc-a-Fella star Beanie Sigel. Things Fall Apart remains The Roots' most complete vision, and a masterfully orchestrated Hip-Hop classic that is one of the few Rap albums to justify its hour-plus length, It can envelope even the most vocal detractors, and change their mind. It's simply that good.

01. “Act Won (Things Fall Apart)” [interlude]
02. “Table Of Contents (Parts 1 & 2)”
03. “The Next Movement” [feat. The Jazzyfatnastees & DJ Jazzy Jeff]
04. “Step Into The Realm”
05. “The Spark"
06. “Dynamite!”
07. “Without A Doubt”
08. “Ain’t Sayin’ Nothin’ New” [feat. Dice Raw]
09. “Double Trouble” [feat. Mos Def]
10. “Act Too (The Love Of My Life)” [feat. Common]
11. “100% Dundee”
12. “Diedre Vs. Dice” [interlude]
13. “Adrenaline!” [feat. Beanie Sigel]
14. “3rd Acts: ? Vs. Scratch 2…Electric Boogaloo” [interlude]
15. “You Got Me” [feat. Erykah Badu & Eve]
16. “Don’t See Us” [feat. Dice Raw]
17. “The Return To Innocence Lost” [feat. Ursula Rucker]
18. “Act Fore (…)”*
* hidden track

"You Got Me" [video]

"The Next Movement" [video]

- BONUS: "Without A Doubt" [audio]
- BONUS: "Ain't Sayin' Nothin' New" [audio]
- BONUS: "Double Trouble" [audio]
- BONUS: "The Love Of My Life" [audio]
- BONUS: "100% Dundee" [audio]
- BONUS: "Adrenaline!" [live at Woodstock 99]
- BONUS: "You Got Me" [feat. Jill Scott; live on MTV, 2002]

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