20 Songs, 1 Hour 18 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

The Roots’ third album took the group’s conscious, jazz-jam vibe to grittier places. Fronted by a newly confident Black Thought, they focused their lyrical crosshairs while Questlove and the band textured their live sound with samples lifted from extended jam sessions—a process that brought them closer to rap's center while still keeping a stiff arm’s-length distance. The villains remained the same, but the Roots' counterattack felt sharper and more assured, eschewing commercialism and gangsta mythmaking for sermons about realness, responsibility, and the moral gratification of using your head. Released at the dawn of rap's shiny-suit era, the album established the Roots as stewards of authenticity in a world that seemed increasingly—perilously—fake.

EDITORS’ NOTES

The Roots’ third album took the group’s conscious, jazz-jam vibe to grittier places. Fronted by a newly confident Black Thought, they focused their lyrical crosshairs while Questlove and the band textured their live sound with samples lifted from extended jam sessions—a process that brought them closer to rap's center while still keeping a stiff arm’s-length distance. The villains remained the same, but the Roots' counterattack felt sharper and more assured, eschewing commercialism and gangsta mythmaking for sermons about realness, responsibility, and the moral gratification of using your head. Released at the dawn of rap's shiny-suit era, the album established the Roots as stewards of authenticity in a world that seemed increasingly—perilously—fake.

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