Classic single taken from Illadelph Halflife, the third studio album by American hip hop band The Roots, released September 24, 1996 on Geffen Records. It features a tougher and broader sound than their previous album, Do You Want More?!!!??! (1995). The album also contains integration of programmed drums and guest contributions by R&B musicians such as Amel Larrieux and D’Angelo, as well as jazz musicians such as David Murray, Steve Coleman, Cassandra Wilson, Graham Haynes. In 1998, the album was selected as one of The Source’s 100 Best Rap Albums. In 2006, the album was selected as one of Hip-Hop Connection’s 100 Best Rap Albums from 1995 to 2005.
The New York Times writer Neil Strauss called the album “one of the year’s best rap offerings” and wrote that “The Roots move indiscriminately from politically conscious lyrics (not just about black America but also about Bosnia, the Olympics and terrorism) to silly rhymes (‘roam like a cellular phone/far from home’)”. The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote that “while it doesn’t sacrifice a smidgen of street-level intensity, it reaffirms just how far-reaching (and how far removed from the gangsta stereotype) hip-hop can be”. The Source magazine called it “a thoughtful musical endeavor … an emotional and spiritually fulfilling aural experience”. Spin described it as “an artistic progression, and added confirmation of the Roots’ place at hip-hop’s vanguard”. The San Diego Union-Tribune’s Jeff Niesel stated “the Roots find the perfect mixture of jazz and hip-hop for their songs about the hardships of urban life”.
The Village Voice’s Robert Christgau gave the album a neither rating, which indicates a record that “may impress once or twice with consistent craft or an arresting track or two. Then it won’t.”. However, Illadelph Halflife was ranked number 33 on The Village Voice’s Pazz & Jop critics’ poll of 1996. A 2004 retrospective review by Rolling Stone rates the album perceives it as an improvement over The Roots’s previous work, stating “The messages grew more focused on 1996’s Illadelph Halflife, which includes several strident anti-gangsta tirades and taunts. Black Thought replaced the bellicose, confrontational bravado of so many rappers with discussions of fidelity and responsibility”.
This article uses material from the Wikipedia article “Illadelph Halflife”, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.