Home
News
Foreign Office
Local
Metal
Punk/hc/emo
Live
Cinefreak
/
Books, magz
,
Special
A
Mp3s/Video
Atrakt-ed
Links
 

 

HOME GROWN! THE BEGINNERS GUIDE TO UNDERSTANDING THE ROOTS VOL. 1+2

THE ROOTS

16/04/2006

HOME GROWN! THE BEGINNERS GUIDE TO UNDERSTANDING THE ROOTS VOL. 1+2

THE ROOTS

Geffen

Ive got the feeling that The Roots could have become a truly great and influential band, and, although they may have achieved the former in terms ofrecord sales, Ive got my doubts about the latter. In theory, when still in the planning stage, certain things seem ideal, and, somehow, this was the case with The Roots on day one. Lets however start from the beginning, or rather, from the end. Their latest release is two CDs of more than 150 minutes, with the rather misleading title Home grown! The beginners guide to understanding the Roots. The material in these CDs is the usual leftovers from the clear-out of tracks before the release of an album, namely, alternative and live versions, unreleased tracks, etc. The reason why a beginner should enter the world of The Roots listening to this stuff, instead of, say, buying the first 2 albums, well, it has probably something to do with the way the bands marketing manager justifies the wages s/he earns.

In the beginning, back in the early 90s, The Roots had a clear and ambitious vision, to become a jazz-orientated hip-hop band. Instead of a DJ, decks, and sampler, they went for drums, double bass, and analogue synth. Well done! On top of that, the composition and the structure of the tracks had to refer back to the traditional jazz concept. This is clearly evident in the awesome live version of Essaywhuman?!!!!! in 1992. Tuning. The instruments entrance, closely tailing each other. And as the track builds up, a pause. Followed by a series of solos. And then, start all over again.

After listening though to both volumes, which represent the entire Roots history, it seems that, at some point, the band lost its aim and, therefore, its unique characteristics. One reason for that may have been the pressure for commercial success on the group. To grasp this, you dont need to read between the lines. In his extensive and detailed notes, their drummer ?uestlove, among other things, he points out that after Kurt Cobains suicide, Geffen found themselves confronted with the spectre of a sharp drop in their sales, and at that moment, the weight fell on the (commercially) promising Roots. The only way for the prototype drum n bass hip hop (which had an evident influence on the sound of The Last Poets) to find a place alongside the debased and hyped hip-hop of MTV is to smooth its sharp edges, and, sure enough, this is what seems to have happened (Drum n bass here is not to be confused with the occasional commercial uses of the term.)

To go on stage as a jazz band, it takes more than tuning the double-bass in front of the excited audience. You also need to be as daring as a jazz band, something that the Roots unfortunately didnt prove to be. However, the guts werent missing from Rahzel (member of the band from 1994 until 1999), who managed to lift Bjorks album Medulla with his vocalised basslines and beats, and does wonders teaming up with Mike Patton in front of audiences of friends and family (this is the price to pay for being daring).

But even as hip-hop entertainers (so that they could stand alongside ofthe mainstream hip-hop more easily), the Roots havent particularly made it, with the exception of a few bright moments, because they lacked the funk base and the essential explosive drive. With Sly and the Family Stones Everybody is a Star they manage to set fire to Star, but this is just one of those few bright moments.

Both volumes include several versions of songs, which couldve been omitted as they are almost the same to the original ones, so that the 150 minutes could be easily narrowed down to one decent volume of 60-70 minutes.

The tracks that stand out in volume I are the Curtis Mayfield-esque soulful What They Do and the dynamite Star, as well as one of the first tracks that feature the human beat box Rahzel, The Lesson.

Volume II is definitely better, as it contains the milestone track Essaywhuman!!!!!. Here also is found perhaps the only dub version of a Roots track in Break You Off.

The stripped down version of Aint Sayin Nothin New from Things Fall Apart gives new meaning to remixing. As most parts are removed, the main guitar theme remains, but, instead of a guitar, its played by a killing bass. The final Dont Say Nuthin hits you like a punch in the stomach (while in the previous version it felt more like a pat).

The old-school version of Pass the Pop Corn is equally tremendous, with its hilarious, but fine-sounding and particularly addictive rhyming lyrics "Pass the what? Pass the pop corn ". The top moment though is a 16 minute medley, recorded live for the John Peel of black music - Gilles Petersons show, where the burning Booker T and the MGs Melting Pot is poured over The Seed and Web, and whoever at that moment found themselves in the studios of the BBC must have definitely run towards the air conditioner ...

Giorgos Galanis

(Translation from Greek: Andreas Alexandridis)

ENGLISH Atrakt-ed
Interview with GIARDINI DI MIRO
Interview with Efterklang
INTERVIEW WITH THE PYRAMIDS
INTERVIEW WITH BETH IN BATTLE MODE
Interview with Chris Cornell
Ojos de Brujo, live in Thessaloniki
Interview with Frame 3-13
by Rhys Edwards
HOME GROWN! THE BEGINNERS GUIDE TO UNDERSTANDING THE ROOTS VOL. 1+2
THE ROOTS
Mark Arm (of Mudhoney) interview
An interview with Little Finger Little Finger