Roots hope to ‘tip’ scales in their favor

Brian Pauline and Brian Pauline

Change — an undying force that shapes the world around us — transforms ideas, people, and structures resulting in a better social and physical environment. Widespread adjustment requires reaching a point of critical mass. A series of small changes can have little or no effect on a system until a final small change becomes a tipping point and pushes an epidemic over the edge. Philadelphia natives “The Roots” hope their sixth and latest record becomes a catalyst that brings change to musical mediocrity.

“The Tipping Point”, released by Geffen Records, is a ten song compilation of rugged beats, fat grooves, smooth keyboard, brass and guitar melodies that reach into the soul of this generation. Searching for peace through freedom of expression, Tariq ‘Black Thought’ Trotter leads the lyrical assault as members of his poetic posse speak their minds on issues of love, oppression, fear, and pride.

The record began as nightly impromptu jam sessions with an array of guest rappers –called the session benchwarmers or illadelphonics — dropping science overtop music provided by drummer ?uestlove, bassist Leonard ‘Hub’ Hubbard, and keyboardist Kamal Gray. One lays the melodic foundation as each member chimes in on their perspective instrument forming raw ideas. Those raw ideas were sifted through by prominent industry producers who eventually rerecorded and mixed the songs deciding which ones to keep.

Deep hard-hitting issues of equality are the undercurrent of the album. In “Somebody’s Gotta Do It,” guest rapper Jean Grae addresses these and other concerns that effect her people.

Mic malevolence defies violence I inherited/ Others just rentin’ it like rooms at the Sheraton/ I gotta jones like Vanessa in the devil in-/ And y’all cold like a show in the Netherlands/ Cold shoulders and frozen aortic valves -/ So I don’t form pals — conform to norms — morals different/ Gifted — use it to shift s— a mutant shape shifter when I spit it I’m liquid/ Since a minor I walked with the spine upstraight/ I learned to rhyme to feed the dinner plate/ I scraped barrel — even dined up on wine and steaks/ Cuz’ in the bone same marrow that apartheid chased.

A strong response echoes the sentiment by Grae in the song’s hook.

Somebody’s gotta be there when it gets ugly, when it starts to get muddy and somebody’s gotta get their hands dirty, somebody’s gotta do it.

While edgier numbers make up the bulk of the record, some party songs are lighter and make the listener feel upbeat and positive.

In “I Don’t Care,” the hook lies atop a happy rhythm and pumps a dance-along groove while the last line heeds a warning. The third verse accentuates the party attitude and sound.

The waist line thumpin’/ The face kind jumpin’, The game looking sweeter than a bass line bumpin’/ Don’t come around these parts and waste time frontin’/ It ain’t really about nothin’/ Philly just love cuttin’.

Overall the album never strays from one central sound or groove style. The pattern of live drums, thick bass guitar, keys or guitar to form the melody never really breaks out and pushes the level of creativity past a certain point. But if listeners are looking for something to dance to or just sit back and relax to this is it.