On album number eight, the Roots continue to pursue their more nihilistic tendencies in the same vein as 2006's exceptional GAME THEORY. With a title inspired by W.T. Vollman's voluminous history of violence, RISING DOWN sees Black Thought (alongside Malik B, Dice Raw and a thick list of formidable guest MCs and vocalists, including Mos Def, Styles P, Talib Kweli, Common, Peedi Peedi, Saigon, Truck North, and Mercedes Martinez, among others) examining violence, oppression, and the pollution of the American Dream in a variety of places and circumstances. The grim subject matter goes hand-in-hand with a noticeably darker production approach. Largely absent are the lighter, electric piano-driven tracks (a longtime Roots trademark). they've given way to murky synthesizers and noisy, distortion-filled instrumentation. The album intro (a band conference call that quickly devolves into an impassioned shouting match) bluntly lets listeners know what they're in for. Mounting frustration, apprehension, outrage, and anger pervade virtually every track, making RISING DOWN anything but a feel-good record. What it is instead is one of the most compelling and urgent hip-hop albums in years. Or, as Dice Raw puts it on "Get Busy," "Kinda like W.E.B. Dubois meets Heavy D and the Boyz."
Rolling Stone (p.66) - 3.5 stars out of 5 -- "RISING DOWN is the Roots' most political album....Rapper Black Thought is in his comfort zone playing the firebrand..."
Spin (p.50) - Ranked #17 in Spin's "40 Best Albums Of 2008" -- "As hip-hop's anxious elders, the Philly crew hum with a riveting focus..."
Entertainment Weekly (p.117) - "[T]he listener is rewarded with 'Rising Up,' in which the Fender Rhodes jazzmatazz of earlier records segues into bell-rocking go-go."
The Wire (p.66) - "MC Black Thought and drummer ?uestlove sound sonically aware and full of righteous anger....RISING DOWN's most immediate qualities are the raw aesthetic and the burning importance of its messages."
Vibe (p.65) - "[T]he Roots rise above on this album, bravely pushing themselves at every turn, proving, in an era full of froth and fancy, that sometimes nightmares are the most important kind of dreams."
Paste (magazine) (p.63) - "[The songs] deliver an honest and abrasive diatribe within The Roots' legacy of civil commentary and inspired musicianship."
Pow Wow, The
Rising Down - (featuring Mos Def/Styles P)
Get Busy - (featuring DJ Jazzy Jeff/Dice Raw/Peedi Crakk/Peedi Peedi)
75 Bars (Black's Reconstruction)
Criminal - (featuring Saigon/Truck North)
I Will Not Apologize - (featuring Porn/Dice Raw)
I Can't Help It - (featuring Porn/Mercedes Martinez/Dice Raw/Malik B.)
Singing Man - (featuring Porn/Dice Raw/Truck North)
Unwritten - (featuring Mercedes Martinez)
Lost Desire - (featuring Mailk B/Malik B./Talib Kweli)