Things Fall Apart

The Roots

MCA Records, 1999

REVIEW BY: Shane M. Liebler


“Inevitably, hip-hop records are treated as if they are disposable. They’re not maximized as product, even, you know? Not to mention, as art.”my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

It’s an appropriate opening quip for an album that does exactly the opposite. Things Fall Apart was more than a breakthrough for The Roots, it attempted to set a bar for hip-hop in the late ’90s. It may not have been all that influential, but it certainly resonates as a memorable collection.

Lead MC Black Thought rages through a rant and a half on the frantic “Table O’ Contents Pts. 1 & 2,” which sets the stage well for the subtle anger with mainstream hip-hop that permeates this sometimes pretentious, but always accessible offering.

Form there, you’re instantly launched into the organ-laden, funky-drummed lament “The Next Movement.” Most of the LP finds the Roots playing catch-up with group leader/drummer ?uestlove, who’s on a mission to make black people love black music again.

Things Fall Apart takes A Tribe Called Quest’s love of beats and jazz samples and cranks it up about 10 notches. There’s virtually no fat as Black Thought and Malik B cut through self-praising flows.  For its part, “Act Too (The Love of My Life)” may be the greatest love letter to hip-hop ever recorded.

This disc’s hit single “You Got Me,” featuring the neo-soulstress Erykah Badu, rightfully won the act numerous new fans, but the Jay Dee-produced “Dynamite” is the true standout here with its crisp jazz sample and well-finessed flow.

At its core, Things Fall Apart is one of the best LP experiences you could hope to find in any genre. Solid, yet still relevant.  I’d qualify it as art, but hardly a chore to listen to.

Rating: A-

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© 2006 Shane M. Liebler and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of MCA Records, and is used for informational purposes only.