Album: The Roots

Game Theory, DEF JAM
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The Independent Culture

Their first album for Def Jam is also The Roots' darkest - and more worryingly, their least diverse, as if they were under heavy manners at the venerable hip-hop label to come up with a more straightforward rap album than was the case at their previous home, Geffen Records. There's still room for the occasional left-field musical strategy, like the Radiohead samples in "Atonement" or the John Carpenter-style sinister synth-scape of "In The Music", but their brilliant wordsmith Tariq "Black Thought" Trotter seems to be working with a more restricted field of vision than usual. "If you ain't speaking your life, your rhymes [are] adopted/If it don't feel right, then stop it," he offers by way of justification, but although undoubtedly correct in principle, there's little here in such depressing depictions of fraying social fabric as "In The Music" to rival "Why (What's Going On)", his 16-minute epic on global imperialism from 2004's The Tipping Point, which remains one of hip-hop's high spots. By contrast, Game Theory is too focused on the 'hood.

DOWNLOAD THIS: 'Game Theory', 'Long Time', 'In The Music'