RATE HOW I GOT OVER:
The idea of an album being a grower – one that doesn’t strike you on first listen, but worms its way into your subconscious with every subsequent spin – is an overused trope. More often than not, I find it to be a half-assed attempt to explain away a mediocre album. “It’s a grower,” they say, meaning, “It’s just not that good.” Every now and then, though, an album that truly needs some time to blossom will come along. These are the albums that stick with you like a good friend, the albums that keep their complexities in reserve, revealing them across the course of weeks and months rather than seconds and minutes. You can probably predict the next sentence of this review. You guessed it: The Roots’ How I Got Over is a real grower.
There has been a lot of buzz about the indie collaborations on How I Got Over – the ladies from Dirty Projectors open the album with “A Peace of Light,” Monsters of Folk reprise “Dear God (Sincerely M.O.F.)” on HIGO’s third track, and Joanna Newsom adds some angelic texture to “Right On” on the album’s back half. The collaborations, while wonderful, are not the central focus of How I Got Over. Then again, the focus isn’t squarely on emcee Black Thought, either. He’s a strong rapper in short, swift bursts, but he shares the spotlight with long-time Roots friends Dice Raw, P.O.R.N., Phonte Coleman, and John Legend, among others. The album is a three-part symbiosis; Black Thought’s gruff, brusque delivery pairs perfectly with the jazzy, drum-heavy beats of the legendary Roots crew, and the multitude of guests give the record depth to match its scope.
How I Got Over, like most Roots albums, is a lesson in balance. It’s hip hop with staying power, evidence that an ensemble can make a rap album without relying on a single member to be the figurehead. ?uestlove dictates as much from behind the drums as Black Thought does on the microphone, but neither feels the need to shout to be heard. The verses aren’t always the strongest (“If everything is made in China, are we Chinese?”) and the beats aren’t always immediately infectious. Give this album time, though, and you’ll be rewarded with a new old friend.
83 — [Rating Scale]
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