The Tipping Point
For more than a decade, The Roots have been educating the masses with their brilliant blend of lyricism and funked-up beats. On their debut album, Do You Want More?!!!??! (1995), they bucked the sampling trend of the time and gathered beats from just one man: the human beatbox Rahzel. Things Fall Apart (1999) is also the title of a book by Chinua Achebe about the British Christianization of an African village despite the villagers’ rebellion. The Tipping Point, taken from a book by Malcolm Gladwell, is the culmination of everything that The Roots have learned and taught along the way. And here, they have pushed themselves over the tipping point and straight into stardom.
The Roots must have felt like they were edging closer to full-fledged celebrity when they were making The Tipping Point. The first track, “Star,” loops the infectious line from the classic Sly and the Family Stone track “Everybody is a Star,” and suggests that not only have they arrived to claim their stardom, but that they feel their stardom has been diluted: “Cause it’s a lot of bullshit flooding the scene/Where everybody’s a star and hot shit is few and far between/You lose a grip on what garbage mean … Don’t wanna be Ruben Studdard and come off less threatening.” The Roots also know where their roots are with a sample from Al Hirt’s jazzy smooth “Stay Cool,” which provides a laid-back beat for Black Thought’s cut-to-the-bone rhymes. Black Thought is at his venom-spitting best throughout the album, letting his ego flow right into politics: “He got the mic in his hand/So the heat up your sleeves/It’s Black Thought/He rock it sharp so the speakers bleed/I run a triathlon you wouldn’t see the fatigue/I’m a star maybe y’all should cop something to read/Or trade some of y’all equipment for something you need.” He proves that he is one of the best MCs of all time by going everywhere, from making an obscure ’90s rock reference (“It’s not a thing when I lower the gradient lens frames/I’m cooler than Clyde Stubblefield drummer for James”) to spitting the greatest line ever that incorporates the Smurfs (“I’m like a young LL cause I’m hard as hell/Making niggas screw face like Gargomel/Now I’m all out on my own”).
The beats provided by ?uestlove, Kamal and Hub have never been better, and even though they sample a little bit throughout the album, it doesn’t take away from what The Roots have been working on for years: educating the world one song at a time. The Tipping Point is just that for The Roots, and with it they demonstrate that they are going to be on this side of stardom for a long time to come.
The Roots: www.theroots.com