The Roots – Illadelph Halfife

Today’s offering comes from Philly in the year 1996.  And though it’s their 3rd album was the 1st one to breakthrough to any legitimate commercial success.The Roots – Illadelph Halfife

Listen here:!/playlist/The+Roots+Illadelph+Halflife/68233784

Read about them here:

One year ago: We listened to one of RC’s all time stinkers – The Queensryche concept album: Operation Mindcrime.

Fun Facts:  The band was originally called the Square Roots.  Their album Undun is a concept album based on a character from a Sufjan Stevens song.


The Roots – Illadelph HalflifePreconceptions: Sadly, all I know about the Roots is that they play on the Jimmy Fallon show and they did a song with Ladysmith Black Mambazo. No. I haven’t seen that either.


After Listening:
I had it on when I was doing work I needed to focus on, so I cannot pick out a favorite/least favorite, but I really enjoyed listening to it.

Overall (1-5 stars):  4


The Roots – Illadelph Halflife: 4 starsPrecon: Roots. I believe this was the second Roots album I bought. I like them a lot but never really loved them. I think it’s because Black Thought never excited me all that much. He’s a great MC, incredibly competent, smooth flow, dense lyrics, really no holes in his game, but for some reason he doesn’t totally click with me. At least he didn’t until 75 Bars, that song turned me around a little, and I appreciate him more now. I don’t know, maybe he’s so good that he makes it seem too easy and doesn’t get the respect he deserves.

Favorite Track: Ital
Least Favorite: Couldn’t pick one out

The thing people talk about most with The Roots is the live band and for good reason. It makes them who they are, transforming mediocre hip hop tracks into something with real substance. Imagine this album with just a bunch of uninspired beats. It’s depressing to think about.
I don’t know why Dice Raw isn’t just a member of the group. He must hold the record for most “guest” appearances with another band.
Love the keyboard on Ital.
So how can you not like these guys? I’d imagine some people don’t but even they won’t admit it for fear of public shaming. The Roots are good at what they do, and this is one of their best albums. I may not have it at the top of my all time list, but I’m always happy to give it a spin.

Magic the Gathering Card: Roots


Preconceived Notions:  I’ve heard of The Roots, I mean who hasn’t?  I’m not some kind of musical Neanderthal.  I know that most of their fans are sad that they’re still best known for being Jimmy Fallon’s House Band, but you know what?  I don’t begrudge any band who wants a steady paycheck.  I’m sure they still have plenty of time to tour.  I’m hoping to like it more than, what I feel, is usual-fare for the hip hop genre.After Listening:  Everything just kept rolling together for me.  I couldn’t even do an “As Listening” section because I couldn’t really tell when one finished and the next began.  Halfway through I thought for sure that I was closer to the finish line, but I was proven wrong.  I kept thinking “does this album really meet the time parameters we have set up?”  I suppose it does though.  I guess I can understand if I had been anywhere near that scene in 1996 how this album would seem like a departure from other offerings, especially Chris’ despised “shiny suit” era stuff.  I mean this is as far from Puff Daddy as one could presumably get while still remaining in the same zip code.  And while the lyrics and delivery are certainly more impressive and introspective than the last couple of efforts that we’ve listened to, I’m still smarting from “The Day You’re Mine”, the beats certainly left something to be desired for me.  I understand now why we were told to listen to this under optimal conditions because, while I do think that if you’re able to give it a stricter listen, there’s a great foundation there, if it’s too warm, or you’re just feeling sluggish, this certainly isn’t going to bring anything to the table to make it stand out.  Unless it’s the poem that is track 19, that’ll wake you up.  It reminded me of the spoken word, first person version of Common’s “Testify” except with more opportunities to piss off the trigger-fingered parental advisory labelers at Wal-Mart.  I tried to take it in good artistic stride, but I couldn’t help feeling that it was just a chance to push the envelope while having the least amount of meaning.  Also, I get it, they’re from Philadelphia.

Favorite/Least Favorite:  I couldn’t pick out any of those songs and connect them to their titles if this was a trivia question.  I would probably know the artist but there really wasn’t anything too distinctive for me.

Overall: 3.0- I really can’t go anything more than ok, as this is one that will probably just become jumbled in my memory as more time passes.  This certainly isn’t the album that’s going to make me go out and want to listen to more of their stuff, but I do think that there’s an impressive amount of effort and talent but, with this album, I couldn’t say more than that. The Roots are definitely on the higher end of the scale of artists that I’d be most likely to listen to for the genre, but I’m not overly-enthusiastic.  I understand though, that this could definitely have made a nostalgic impact, if I had been listening to anything other than what I was listening to in 1996.


Preconceived Notions:  This was a curiosity pick of mine.  In my ever evolving search for hip hop I can tolerate or even enjoy (a quest of which has had only slightly more success than my white whale of pure rock albums released after 1980), the Roots were a group I kept coming back to in theory but never actually in practice. So today I get a full treatment with 78mins of one of their widely accepted classics.After Listening: You do feel nearly every one of those 78+ mins, for both good and ill. There’s an overriding dark atmosphere on here, but and it manifests both in the space behind the mellow tracks, and at the forefront of some of the more unrelentingly intense barrages as well.  I think initially I expected more melodic hip hop here than was ultimately put on the record.  Certainly there are elements of melodic ideas here: the guest musicians on the record bring largely a jazz vibe-which is very appreciated.  From keys to backing vocals there are some nice harmonies on here – but there’s also no denying that on some tracks there is a good deal of toneless monotony an avalanche of verse with little else to offer. Lyrically the subject matter is standard fare- blasting others for being fake- thus repeating the circle of ironic unoriginality.  However, the Roots are at least adept at the craft and can say the same things 100’s of different ways on the record- so there’s that.   The shorter interludes actually feature some of the best musicianship on the disc- certainly the most prominence of the jazz influence.

Favorite Tracks: What they Do – Popular for a reason, this was the only track I had heard off this album beforehand-sadly it probably took my expectations in a different direction. This is hip hop the way I like it best, melodic – you can still spit and show of verbosity, just keep it “rooted” in something the listener can gravitate back toward.  In this way, it’s easier to absorb the lyrical barrage.  Sure the hook on this one is not perfect, but the production on this track makes it a cohesive force.

The Adventures in Wonderland – Ursula Rucker is amazing on this. An experiential track, an album of this type of spoken word would probably wear out in a track or two- but here it’s a nice changeup a vulgar tale with accompanying about as graphic as it gets imagery over a very mellow vibe.  It shouldn’t be appealing at all….but it just hangs with you.

Least Favorite Tracks:  Push Up ya Lighther – If a valid criticism of this album is that it seems too long, chopping a track like this would begin to remedy that situation.  The beats barely move, the delivery is present on numerous other tracks, and at 4 and a half minutes we don’t touch on anything that isn’t done better somewhere else.

Overall 4.13 This is a difficult call for me, as there were moments of this album that impressed me, and even moreso I was impressed that in 1996- a hip hop act decided to try the extended, semi retro, semi experimental ideas presented here.   Then again the album is not entirely independent of clichés or identifiably-as to me it clearly screams East Coast rap- with passing references to the Wu and even Grave Diggaz.  As with every review I do- there is an element of me that wants to relate to something I know musically is significant- I just can’t go all the way with this record, b/c at the end of the day- it does seem too long to me, there are a lot of dead or boring moments, and even the tracks I enjoy on it seem like they could still be a little better.  I almost want to re-rate very hip hop album I’ve done this season to score this record more appropriately, in that Illadelph should be about here – I can’t put it much higher– but it belongs as a much more vital listen than Slick Rick or DMC or something in that vein.


Hey y’all–I bought this album the year it came out. It’s not my favorite Roots album, and it’s not an album I’ve listened to recently, but I can say with confidence that its worthy of a 4.2 star rating from me.


The Roots – Illadelph HalfifePreconceptions: Aren’t they like the Black Eyed Peas, but talented?

Thumbs Up:  Respond/React name drops Bram Stoker? Nice. I assume Ital is celebrating the Rastafarian vegan cuisine of the same name. No? I still like it.
Thumbs Down: Intro (always fun to waste half a minute at the beginning of an album with bullsht), Dave vs US

Overall: Even if the lyrics were awful, the real live drum kit would carry this album. Thankfully, the snare doesn’t need to.

Rating: 4.0
Prelisten guess: 3.0

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Record Club began in the cold, dank, snowmageddon scene that was New England of January 2011. We’re probably no different than you. We all work in cubicles, some in smaller, less private cubicles than others; that just means we have to be even sneakier about how we listen to our music. But we have to listen to our music, mostly as a way of saving our own personal sanity. Sometimes our opinions lead us to debates that may or may not be published in their entirety on this site, but I can promise you’ll at least get a glimpse of the way our minds work. The main goal is to find new music we like or find old music that we didn’t know we liked. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes it’s a total and complete disaster. After our ears have rejoiced or stopped bleeding we try something else. This is our pattern, every Tuesday and Thursday. Sometimes, when the club isn’t officially in session, just to keep everyone on their toes, we throw in a theme day. We’re beginning to run low on our original list, so please, if you have albums that you’d like us to review or themes that you’d like to see our playlist of, feel free to contribute. After all, we’re all in this together once we punch the time clock. So if you’re busy (or just plain bored) lurking in your cubicle as you read this join in. After all, life wasn’t meant to be lived staring at a computer screen. I guarantee you, it’s at least more fun when you plug the headphones in.

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