RELEASE
February 23, 1999
LABEL
MCA
GENRES
Rap, Alternative Rap, Jazz-Rap

Album Review

One of the cornerstone albums of alternative rap's second wave, Things Fall Apart was the point where the Roots' tremendous potential finally coalesced into a structured album that maintained its focus from top to bottom. If the group sacrifices a little of the unpredictability of its jam sessions, the resulting consistency more than makes up for it, since the record flows from track to track so effortlessly. Taking its title from the Chinua Achebe novel credited with revitalizing African fiction, Things Fall Apart announces its ambition right upfront, and reinforces it in the opening sound collage. Dialogue sampled from Spike Lee's Mo' Better Blues implies a comparison to abstract modern jazz that lost its audience, and there's another quote about hip-hop records being treated as disposable, that they aren't maximized as product or as art. That's the framework in which the album operates, and while there's a definite unity counteracting the second observation, the artistic ambition actually helped gain the Roots a whole new audience ("coffeehouse chicks and white dudes," as Common puts it in the liner notes). The backing tracks are jazzy and reflective, filled with subtly unpredictable instrumental lines, and the band also shows a strong affinity for the neo-soul movement, which they actually had a hand in kick-starting via their supporting work on Erykah Badu's Baduizm. Badu returns the favor by guesting on the album's breakthrough single, "You Got Me," an involved love story that also features a rap from Eve, co-writing from Jill Scott, and an unexpected drum'n'bass breakbeat in the outro. Other notables include Mos Def on the playful old-school rhymefest "Double Trouble," Slum Village superproducer Jay Dee on "Dynamite!," and Philly native DJ Jazzy Jeff on "The Next Movement." But the real stars are Black Thought and Malik B, who drop such consistently nimble rhymes throughout the record that picking highlights is extremely difficult. Along with works by Lauryn Hill, Common, and Black Star, Things Fall Apart is essential listening for anyone interested in the new breed of mainstream conscious rap.
Steve Huey, Rovi

Track Listing

  1. Act Won (Things Fall Apart)http://itunes.apple.com/album/things-fall-apart/id7797266?uo=5&at=11l9vR
  2. Table of Contents, Pts. 1-2http://itunes.apple.com/album/things-fall-apart/id7797266?uo=5&at=11l9vR
  3. The Next Movementhttp://itunes.apple.com/album/things-fall-apart/id7797266?uo=5&at=11l9vR
  4. Step into the Realmhttp://itunes.apple.com/album/things-fall-apart/id7797266?uo=5&at=11l9vR
  5. The Sparkhttp://itunes.apple.com/album/things-fall-apart/id7797266?uo=5&at=11l9vR
  6. Dynamite!http://itunes.apple.com/album/things-fall-apart/id7797266?uo=5&at=11l9vR
  7. Without a Doubthttp://itunes.apple.com/album/things-fall-apart/id7797266?uo=5&at=11l9vR
  8. Ain't Sayin' Nothin' Newhttp://itunes.apple.com/album/things-fall-apart/id7797266?uo=5&at=11l9vR
  9. Double Troublehttp://itunes.apple.com/album/things-fall-apart/id7797266?uo=5&at=11l9vR
  10. Act Too (Love of My Life)http://itunes.apple.com/album/things-fall-apart/id7797266?uo=5&at=11l9vR
  11. 100% Dundeehttp://itunes.apple.com/album/things-fall-apart/id7797266?uo=5&at=11l9vR
  12. Diedre Vs. Dicehttp://itunes.apple.com/album/things-fall-apart/id7797266?uo=5&at=11l9vR
  13. Adrenaline!http://itunes.apple.com/album/things-fall-apart/id7797266?uo=5&at=11l9vR
  14. 3rd Acts: ? Vs. Scratch 2...Electric Boogaloohttp://itunes.apple.com/album/things-fall-apart/id7797266?uo=5&at=11l9vR
  15. You Got Mehttp://itunes.apple.com/album/things-fall-apart/id7797266?uo=5&at=11l9vR
  16. Don't See Ushttp://itunes.apple.com/album/things-fall-apart/id7797266?uo=5&at=11l9vR
  17. The Return to Innocence Losthttp://itunes.apple.com/album/things-fall-apart/id7797266?uo=5&at=11l9vR
  18. [Untitled Track]http://itunes.apple.com/album/things-fall-apart/id7797266?uo=5&at=11l9vR
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