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Home Grown! The Beginner's Guide to Understanding the Roots, Vols. 1 & 2

The Roots

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Album Review

With albums that vary greatly in style and purpose, and some of them taking more time than usual to warm up to, getting beginners hooked on the Roots isn't easy (unless you can drag that unsoulful someone to one of their amazing live shows, then it's way easy). With unattractive cover art, a track listing that counts down across two volumes that are only available separately, and liner notes that are languid and unwieldy for the newbie, Home Grown! The Beginner's Guide to Understanding the Roots, Vol. 1 is hardly for beginners. But if the quote "to truly understand the Roots as artists and as human beings you must exercise one character trait: Patience" was on the cover rather than buried deep in the credits, it would be easier to forgive this sprawling collection that is, at worst, a sentimental stroll through the band's career. Of interest to the longtime fans are the unreleased cuts, remixes, and a live version of "It's Comin'," from way back in 1993, but the most rewarding bit of newness for Vol 1. are the liner notes from member ?uestlove. Who knew the death of Kurt Cobain and Axl Rose's unwillingness to hand over a new Guns N' Roses album to Geffen put the Roots' career in jeopardy? Or that the dress J-Lo wore to the Grammys caused the boys to get tongue-tied while accepting an award? There are more personal and poignant stories to digest but even ?uestlove seems to be speaking to the faithful by leaving out the basics. Bumping the old scrappy Roots tracks against the older, more learned and loose ones is interesting, and the flow of the whole collection is near-perfect, but fervent admirers are going to have most of this, either through their official purchases or grabbing from the underbelly of the Internet where unreleased Roots is well represented. Home Grown! suffers from the misrepresentation in its title, but if you don't mind acquiring some of these tracks again or have plenty of that all important "patience", it's a rich and rewarding way to hang with this poignant groove crew. . [Both volumes of Home Grown! were also made available in a clean versions, with all explicit material removed.]

Biography

Formed: 1987 in Philadelphia, PA

Genre: Hip-Hop/Rap

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

One of the most prolific rap groups, the Roots were also among the most progressive acts in contemporary music, from their 1993 debut through their conceptual 2010s releases. Despite the seemingly archaic practice of functioning as a rap band with several instrumentalists — from 2007 onward, their lineup even featured a sousaphonist — they were ceaselessly creative, whether with their own material, or through their varied assortment of collaborations. They went platinum and gold with...
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