Not to throw all you okay players off your hater game, but I have to admit that I like the new Roots album. Actually, I don’t just like it—I like it like it.
Granted, it’s not an easy album to listen to. It’s dark and disturbing and dense and angry. Over the course of thirteen tracks, The Roots work through the loss of J Dilla, the atrocity that was Katrina, and the sorry state that America is in. It’s not club music (obviously). It’s not radio music. It’s not music for your car. It’s not even music for your crib. It’s an album crafted for meditation—an outing destined to be bumped in headphones as you roam the city streets and ride the trains. It’s a solitary venture.
And it’s a giant relief. Let’s be honest: the world is going to hell in a handbasket right now. Headlines bombard us daily with death and destruction. Iraq is more of a nightmare than the protesters predicted it would be. Israel and Lebanon are at each other’s throats. Africa is dying of AIDS. The threat of terrorism haunts the collective consciousness, and even when we suspect it’s a whole lot of hype, we get shook anyway. Meanwhile, the richest and most powerful nation on the planet would prefer to spend its ample funds spying on its citizens, as opposed to saving their lives when disasters like Katrina hit. The poor get poorer and the rich make vapid pop albums.
All of this is why Game Theory needs to be. The project proves utterly cathartic. The tracks are drenched in naked emotion: rage, grief, confusion. (I’ve never been one to buy into the theory that Black Thought is not charismatic enough for his band. Dude has never been boring to me. Still, his lyrics have never revealed much about his inner life. It’s just so fitting that he would open up for this particular project.)
To me, Game Theory is among the first in hip-hop to really capture what it feels like to be alive in this bizarre, sad moment in human history—what it feels like to talk, think, work, eat, sleep, and love in the midst of this post-millennial chaos. It’s no wonder ?uestlove almost had a breakdown making it.