15th anniversary reissue - The Philadelphia-based hip-hop band The Roots have long been revered as a collection of true school hip-hop warriors. While it’s a description that some of its members have chafed at, it rings true, as The Roots are one of the most beloved groups still making rap music. Which is why The Tipping Point, the group’s sixth album, released 15 years ago, came as such a shock to a chunk of their fanbase.
The legendary Roots crew is a collective spearheaded by drummer Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson and super emcee Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter, and includes such members as bassist Leonard “Hub” Hubbard and keyboardist Kamal Gray. With their fourth album Things Fall Apart (1999), they found a way to balance creating music that appealed to their core audience and the critics, while enjoying the best sales of their career. Five years later, they released their sixth album, The Tipping Point, which proved to be a divisive proposition. At a time when hip-hop and pop music were becoming even more synonymous, many of their fans believed that this “conscious” crew was creating music designed to get record sales.
The Tipping Point was released just a year-and-a-half after Phrenology (2002), another greatly scrutinized album by The Roots, albeit for completely different reasons. Originally conceived as Black Thought’s solo album entitled Masterpiece Theatre, it was shelved and scrapped due to label complications. Thought took most of the completed songs and transformed them into the spine of Phrenology. However, much of the rest of the album featured The Roots at their most experimental, and it often made for challenging listening.
The Tipping Point was viewed as a course-correction. It is certainly the group’s most accessible work. Gone are the six-and-a-half minute abstract jazz movements and seven-minute spoken-word pieces, now replaced by more conventional production that made for much more standard fare. Which seems odd, given that Questlove has said the album’s soundscape was borne out of extensive freeform jam sessions by the group. The project is also, by design, an even more Black Thought-centric album than any of its precursors. Malik B was no longer recording with the group, and Dice Raw appears only on the chorus of one track. Hence, the spotlight firmly rests on Mr. Trotter.
None of which makes The Tipping Point a bad album. On the contrary, it’s actually pretty good, and Black Thought excels while carrying the majority of the album’s weight on his frame.
|A2||I Don't Care||4:02|
|A3||Don't Say Nuthin'||3:35|
|A4||Guns Are Drawn||5:15|
|C1||Somebody's Gotta Do It||4:08|
|C3||Why (What's Goin On?)||4:20|
|D2||Din Da Da||8:13|