On this day, August 29, in hip-hop history…
2006: After leaving long-time home, Geffen Records, The Roots decided to sign with Def Jam Records in 2006. The group had been reeling in the wake of the death of long-time friend and collaborator, J Dilla, and as a result the change in their live was The Roots’ remarkable sixth studio album, Game Theory.
Game Theory is perhaps the darkest and most mature album in The Roots impressive discography. The album was grittier and more stripped to the bones than their previous two albums, Phrenology and Tipping Point. Instead, the album focuses on tight rhythms and Black Thought’s raw lyricism eschewing traditional hooks. The album deals with sociological themes like the war in Iraq, violence in music and the mainstream media’s abdication of duty to the public. Elements of J Dilla’s influence can be found throughout the album including an album closing tribute, “Can’t Stop This,” to the group’s deceased friend.
The album was met with near universal acclaim featuring rave reviews from outlets at the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Rolling Stone and Village Voice. Despite the acclaim, the album failed to catch on with fans only selling 61,000 copies in it’s first week before topping out at 200,000 copies. While the album may have failed to attract attention from fans, Game Theory remains one of the most accomplished efforts from one of hip-hop’s most accomplished groups.