Up to here: Roots have had their fill

The Roots
The Tipping Point  (Geffen Records)

Never ones to settle, The Roots have continually explored the depths of what it is to be a live hip-hop band. Not only that, they're the only group of its kind to survive for longer than a one-album deal.

Maybe it's because The Roots have constantly changed their formula. Or maybe it's because the formula has always been the same, and they've just always been ahead of their time. No one knows, but that "keep 'em guessing" mentality appeals to a have-it-your-way generation that needs a new fix every six months.

By the same token, their lack of a consistent identity has been what has kept the mainstream from truly embracing them. Rap cats don't get them 'cause sometimes they rock, rock cats don't get them 'cause sometimes they're jazzy, jazz cats don't get them 'cause sometimes they're electronic.

Which leaves The Roots stuck trying to please that small demographic of the Generation X/Y that embraces all genres. Unfortunately, that same niche can also be the most picky bunch in the crowd.

That brings me to The Tipping Point, The Roots' most recent effort. This album may be the most underrated album of the year (or maybe tied for first with Wilco's A Ghost is Born). The album is 10 songs short– just enough to make you want to start the CD over as soon as it ends.

And why not? The first song is a remake of Sly and the Family Stone's classic "Everybody Wants To Be A Star." Really more of a reinterpretation, it nevertheless still sends chills up the spine, just like the original. From there, the album progresses into a funk/soul jam "I Don't Care" which features lyricist Black Thought laying down clever commentary about the lack of lyrical substance in music.

The Scott Storch-produced single, "Don't Say Nuthin,'" comes next. It features a guitar riff reminiscent of the theme music from Night Rider. The album just keeps getting better until the climactic final trilogy of songs. "Somebody's Gotta Do It," "Duck Down" and "Why?" ring out with the with a power and emotion seldom felt in modern hip hop tracks. "Why?" rides out into two bonus tracks that are well worth the few minutes of dead air.

I believe The Roots understand the old adage that you can't please all the people all the time (or even some of the people all the time), but they've done a great job pleasing some of us most of the time.

Although The Tipping Point may not receive the notoriety of their Grammy award-winning Things Fall Apart, it will strike a nerve in any music lover who truly takes the time to listen. There's no denying the artistry present on The Tipping Point. The time and effort taken to put together this album shows in every song. It very well could be the group's best record to date.

I struggled to understand the title of the album and was able to come to only one conclusion. The Tipping Point must be the time when fans of music finally get their fill of commercialized offerings and demand more from their artists– specifically, more intelligence and emotion.

The Tipping Point


The Rock Starr Showdown results from Saturday, July 24 at Starr Hill Music Hall:

Best Band- Starsky and Butch

Audience Favorite- Electric Company

Best Image- Radioactive Jumpsuit