From those opening, gorgeous, chords – their sultry delivery, their soulful demeanor, their jazzy glean, everything – signals that The Roots are back. “A Peace of Light” isn’t just one of their best openers to date but introducing How I Got Over with such a reaffirming, calming ray of light never carried so much peace of mind before. All puns aside, those are very surely the women of Dirty Projectors singing on the aforementioned, manipulated in a manner that speaks paramount to what the working band from Philly have created.
Diligence and determination always sounded so fitting when describing The Roots genuine way of making music. They are a band, first and foremost, with their drummer being not only the most talented member of the band but one of the most talented musicians in music today, and they always rely on solid basics to propel their music forward. Jazz has always been on the foreground, with a strong sense of story-telling and a mixture of R&B beats, with the smoothness of socially-conscious hip-hop. The same holds true with How I Got Over, except that everything is multiplied to the nth degree and blanketed by a strong attention to spirituality.
The guest artists will garner much deserved attention and well, it’s definitely warranted. Each one brings a new color to the palette in adding much needed range to the band’s unifying sound. But though they may have their own reliable career to fall back on, when appearing on a Roots album you follow their guidelines. “Dear God 2.0” leads on top of one of Phrenology’s best songs, “The Seed 2.0,” but although Jim James is singing a breathtaking melody, what he’s singing about is even more shocking. Openly asking for his creator to answer him, these are reflective times for Black Thought and his bandmates and it couldn’t sound any better than this.
After the brief nod to Jay Dee (whose legacy will forever remain significant) on “DillaTUDE: The Flight of Titus,” Blu, Phonte and Patty Crash lend their pipes to a blend of soul and sunny hip-hop on “The Day.” Like Common’s “Come Close,” it’s about opening your eyes and embracing the new shining sun and its surrounding day – Crash’s vocals, especially, remark on a wistful feeling of nostalgia and relaxation. The band’s musicianship is skillfully displayed with the transition that it provides into How I Got Over’s best song, “Right On.” Admitting, “It’s a cold world, I’m not fronting like it isn’t,” ?uestlove’s pounding drums give way to the prolific MCing (STS guests here), with a superb choice of sample with Joanna Newsom’s “The Book of Right On.” Classy (“Show my benevolence”) and cleverly smooth (“For this love, I go above and beyond the limit,”) the stomping bangers are back.
One of The Roots most engaging aspects is their catering to the times around them. When we look back and think of them, we’ll always be able to pinpoint exactly what was going on around them, topically. 2008’s Rising Down presented a darkly optimistic band that was quick to point out that while some global problems remain stagnant, our own society is crumbling around us. How I Got Over stirs the pot on what post-Obama’s victory sounds and feels like: hoping for the best while staying focused. If there was one song we always wanted from them, to jubilantly declare to the world, “Now or Never” is the gift. Putting your life in order is the only way you can move above and The Roots lift our spirits on high; what a wonderful way to motivate.
The production is definitely much like the early 2000s, with The Tipping Point presenting a strong reference point, and their tenure as the best house band on TV hasn’t deterred them from what they always knew how to do best: writing from the heart and soul. Music this good is a blessing because it’s coming from such a gifted source and after so many consistent hits (an album, practically every two years, since 1993,) it’s always welcomed. Singular, The Legendary Roots Crew sound is still one of the deepest movers in terms of emotion, How I Got Over is an impressive showing of just that.