Grammy Award-winning Def Jam hip-hop pioneers the Roots are back in the spotlight as HOW I GOT OVER (released June 22nd) arrives at #6 on soundscan chart. The album received a giant kick-start on Friday night, June 18th when the Roots performed its first single, “Dear God 2.0” on NBC’s Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, where they have served as “the supremely flexible house band” (New York Times) since March 2009.
“Dear God 2.0” reworks Monsters Of Folk’s “Dear God (Sincerely M.O.F.)” and the Roots’ recording features MOF members Yim Yames (My Morning Jacket), Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes), and M. Ward. For the Late Night performance, the Roots were joined by Yim Yames and a 12-piece string section. Check out the performance at NBC.com: http://www.latenightwithjimmyfallon.com/blogs/2010/06/the-roots-dear-god-20.
HOW I GOT OVER takes its name from “How I Got Over,” the Clara Ward gospel classic (popularized by Mahalia Jackson), which the Roots have also performed on Late Night. The new album 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. John Legend has developed strong musical bonds with the Roots, who produced his entire upcoming release Wake Up. The album shares the socially conscious themes of HOW I GOT OVER and is comprised of late-’60s/early-’70s cover versions.
The songs on HOW I GOT OVER have been described by the group as “depicting the everyman’s search for hope in this dispiriting post-hope zeitgeist”. Other guests on the album include Joanna Newsom on “Right On” (which re-works her 2004 “The Book Of Right On”), Phonte Coleman (Little Brother, the Foreign Exchange), Blu (Blu & Exile), Peedi Peedi , Mercedes Martinez (Jazzyfatnastees), 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, during 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, the Roots’ 9th studio album (and third for Def Jam Recordings), is the follow-up to Rising Down (April 2008), praised by Rolling Stone more than a month before its 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, P.OR.N., and Peedi Peedi appear throughout, as well as Mercedes Martinez.
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 and 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 newest member Owen Biddle on bass (a producer on the 2006 Game Theory sessions).
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