The Roots, Things Fall Apart

Christina Lee

By Christina Lee

on 01.04.12 in Reviews

The Roots
More commercial attention than they’ve ever received

In February 2000, the Roots won their first and only Grammy for “You Got Me,” the lead single from fourth studio effort Things Fall Apart. In its chorus, Erykah Badu sings as if she’s already lost hope in her tour-diary romance; remorse breaks her words into two. But Things‘ Grammy-winning single barely indicates just how much the Roots had learned to illustrate the hip-hop stories they’d grown so adept in telling — tales of a pained, conscious existence rather than a drugged-up one, orchestrated by mellowed-out arrangements far more nuanced than even Badu’s masterful aching. In “Table of Contents (Parts 1 & 2),” ?uestlove’s cymbals whirr as if being sucked into a vacuum cleaner as Black Thought ricochets across his retelling of the band’s origins in South Philadelphia. A playful tit-for-tat with Mos Def (“Double Trouble”) simmers and pops around gently pulsing chimes. Scott Storch’s fingers listlessly drag their way through a keyboard melody over which a fraught Black Thought cries: “Building his fifth foundation in the wilderness/ thoughtless, trespassing into the Thought’s fortress.” “You Got Me” helped the Roots sell more than 900,000 copies of Things Fall Apart — more commercial attention than the Philadelphia band’s ever received before. But as soon as the Grammy-winning single thrust the Roots into mainstream airwaves, the band decided to stray as far from Top 40 territory as possible. The result? The genre-bending Phrenology.