HEAR YE: The Roots Rising Down


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URBAN MUSIC: On April 29, the Roots will unveil Rising Down — the latest step in the six-member Philadelphia hip-hop band’s 15-year evolution on record. The darkly funky, politically charged project is now almost done after more than a year of recording, though it is currently missing contributions from planned guest artists Common, Lupe Fiasco, and Q-Tip.Earlier this week, EW stopped by therootspicnic.gif Manhattan studio where rapper Tariq ”Black Thought” Trotter, 35, and drummer/producer Ahmir ”?uestlove” Thompson, 37, are working on some final touches, and scored an early listen to the still unsequenced 12-track set.

RISING DOWN” (possible alternate title: ”Humdrum”) Guest rappers Mos Def and Styles P join Trotter in unleashing a slew of dystopian imagery over heavy, atmospheric synths. ”It’s not an intro, but more an introduction to the topical theme of the album,” Trotter says. ”Mos kicks it off from one perspective. My verse is about global warming and how the world is all haywire. And Styles P is rapping about prescription-drug campaigns, the stuff they advertise on TV, all the crazy side effects. We’re all dealing with different aspects of the state of the world.”

GET BUSY” It’s a Philly celebration, with verses from longtime protégé Dice Raw (”kinda like W.E.B. DuBois/Meets Heavy D and the Boys”) and more recent associate Peedi Peedi as well as scratches from DJ Jazzy Jeff. The beat’s driven by an aggressive, grinding bassline. ”That’s the return of the boom-bap,” says Trotter. ”We’re revisiting golden-era East Coast hip-hop, but the synthesizers make it modern.” Adds an oracular Thompson: ”What was 20 years ago is also tomorrow.”

alienonacid.gifBLACK’S RECONSTRUCTION” Trotter raps for 75 bars straight on this lyrical exercise, spitting effortless game (”Smooth like the dude Sean Connery was playing”) over a dirty drumbeat and foghorn-like tuba moans. ”It was a first take,” notes Trotter. (Show-off!) ”That’s a song in the tradition of ‘Web’ and ‘Thought @ Work.” It’s become something that die-hard fans check for, that extended freestyle, minimal chorus, hard-hitting lyrical joint.” MORE

THE ROOTS: 75 Bars (Black’s Reconstruction)

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