In their early days, as the drummer Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson explains in his detailed annotations, The Roots suffered somewhat from their decision to use real instruments rather than rely solely on samples, an approach that many hardcore hip-hoppers apparently thought "too soft". But it has paid off artistically a hundredfold since then, as this matched pair of compilations demonstrates. Certainly, there are few other rap crews whose assorted out-takes, abandoned experiments, soundcheck jams and radio broadcasts would prove as fascinating as these. There's still room for samples notably, the Sly Stone groove behind "Star" but there are great instrumental flourishes throughout, many from guests, such as the glistening vibes runs that Roy Ayers adds to "Proceed 2", and gorgeous soul guitar fills that Spanky Chalmer entwines around " What They Do". And not content with having such an articulate rapper in frontman Tariq "Black Thought" Trotter, vocal collaborators abound: Common, Mos Def, D'Angelo and Jill Scott, among others.
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