Being from the UK, there are three things that make me marvel that The Roots took 16 years and 8 albums to produce what has critically been received as their best: 1) When "˜How I Got Over' came out in my country, it barely made a ripple of crap hitting a shitstream; 2) When "˜How I Got Over' came out in the States, it debuted 6 in the Billboard 200 and 3 in the Rap Albums charts; 3) "˜How I Got Over' is The Roots' ninth studio record.
In my opinion, this is an ambitious hip-hop album. While The Roots have always pushed the boundaries in contrast to their peers (the band play their own instruments, and do so live, for example), they have never typically strayed beyond hip-hop and soul collaborations until now. Album opener "˜A Peace of Light' features harmonies from the girls of indie band Dirty Projectors - an unexpected collaboration, especially for The Roots. What's more is that later on, even Joanna Newsom joins the fun (that's right, a woman with giant harp).
All credit to The Roots then that this album carries no sniff of pretension. "˜How I Got Over' is more heartfelt, soulful and classy than any other Roots album, and less frantic and disparate. John Legend's feature on "˜Doin it Again', a cover of his jazz-ballad "˜Again', uses a laidback guitar melody under rolling rhymes. The Roots' quasi-political tracks are similarly chilled (for example the relaxed keys on "˜Now or Never'). If you think this is The Roots gone soft, it isn't. They still remain one of the most imaginative, talented and intelligent hip-hop acts of the next ten years (much as much as they were for the last ten years).
Lyrically, The Roots are doing what they always have and filling the pot-hole voids for subtly, soul and genius that are often missed by major-label hip-hop. "˜How I Got Over' is worthy of the mantle bestowed on albums "˜Things Fall Apart' and "˜Game Theory' that came before it. A great Roots record.