On this day, Sept. 24, in hip-hop history...

Geffen Records
Geffen Records

1996: The Roots drop off Illadelph Halflife, a third studio album that helped reinforce the group's reputation for wholesome music while bolstering Black Thought's status as a premier lyricist.

At 20 tracks, Illadelph Halflife is a sizable LP filled with bars and a soundscape that marked the group's shift to a more straightforward, East Coast rap aesthetic. With examples of lyrical exercise from Black Thought and Malik Abdul Basit and more and beats that would make any rap purist happy, the LP was seen by many as an improvement over their previous two efforts, Organix (1993) and Do You Want More?!!!??! (1995).

Thematically, Illadelph Halflife is a project that finds The Roots touching on everything from societal ills ("It Just Don't Stop") to their own flat-out lyrical supremacy ("Clones"). The latter track, which would become the most popular on the LP, features a dark instrumental and some ferocious bars from Black Thought and guest verses from M.A.R.S. and Dice Raw.

On "Clones," Black Thought lets off a series of fiery stanzas. "I use the mic to slap you in the face and erase your taste/Disgrace your date put your title to waste/Dominant lyrical grace, from a place called wild/Illadelph Isle Pensy, that's the residency/Consistent currency, my pockets never empty," the Philly stalwart spits over an ominous Kelo-produced beat.

While Black Thought definitely brought the edge for this effort, he still manages to turn his lens toward the ills of his native Philly. On "Panic!!!!!" Black Thought recalls the death of a young man he'd warned about delving into the street life.

"I tried to tell him to stop cuz yo, it's ghetto red hot/Similar to the blood now floodin his top/I take a step out the spot, to the point of attack/And see the shorty wop heart blast out his back," raps the artist born Tariq Luqmaan Trotter. There are more emotional bars where those come from, too.

While Illadelph Halflife isn't the most commercially successful of LPs, it was a project that earned critical acclaim while solidifying The Roots as an emblem of top-shelf hip-hop. Eight albums later, all you can do is salute.

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