Album Reviews: Game Theory by The RootsOver the past decade, The Roots have positioned themselves as a great band who remain true to their "roots" even if it means less than stellar sales. So when they signed with Jay-Z and Def Jam Records last September, it was clear they were going for the kind of commercial success Jay-Z has. The question: Would they have to lose what made them special to take the step up in appeal? The answer: Absolutely not.
In Game Theory, the Roots prove you can change teams without changing uniforms. What the Roots have produced is something timely and meaningful, a commentary on the sad state of affairs in America today. As we approach the crucial mid-term elections this November, there is good reason to sit down, clear the decks, and listen to the message the Roots have delivered. It more than worth listening to. It has to be listened to.
A group's most charismatic member is traditionally the MC, but not this group. Roots drummer ?uestlove is the larger than life personality, with appearances on the Dave Chappelle Show and a 'fro only rivaled by Ben Wallace. And he always seems to come up with the freshest beats and rhythms on every Roots release. He is also the group's media front, sharing his thoughts with each interview.
MC Black Thought is the Root's other major player. And while ?uestlove is routinely original, Thought is too often just routine, one of the main reasons for the group's less than stellar sales history. His flow is strong, but never dynamic. His lyrics are on point, but never truly shocking. That's all changed in Game Theory.
Thought may shy from interviews, but on the mic he is one of hip-hop's best social commentators, and the time couldn't be more right for him to hit his stride. The current unrest in political and social state of affairs have brought out some of the sharpest barbs he has ever rapped. "False Media" finds him mocking the president and prescription pills. "I don't rhyme for the sake of riddling," he proclaims. As the true album opener (after a short intro), it makes it clear that this album will make a statement.
The rest of the album's tracks follow a similar format to the opener. ?uestlove and company lay down smooth beats on "In the Music" and "Atonement." Black Thought's lends his insight into every nook of these soundscapes, and guest rappers Malik B and Porn jump on many tracks to add extra energy.
The term "Game Theory" stands for the study of strategic situations, where players choose different actions in an attempt to maximize their returns. It seems that's what all have done here. The Roots cut out some experimentation for more clarity. Black Thought gave some mic time to other rappers to bring a bit more energy. Jay-Z signed hip-hop's most credible band to balance out his label's bling. The Roots signed to get artistic freedom and bigger promotion. It has led to a like a win-win situation for all. Everyone played the game right and surpassed all expectations. It remains to be seen if the album sells like most Def Jam releases, but it is sure to be an instant classic that will stand as a testament to current state of America. - David Pessah, kNewIt06
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