In 2008, Black Thought, Styles P & Mos Def United To Elevate Hip-Hop
By 2008, the legendary Roots crew were already well established as Hip-Hop’s hardest working band. During the mid-2000s, the Grammy Award-winning Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-based group was transitioning its mood. The collective’s eighth studio album Rising Down followed the darker, sometimes angsty themes of 2006’s Game Theory. In an election year, the Def Jam Records LP was overtly political for the shifting tides. On Rising Down, The Roots address vi*lence, poverty, social and environmental climate, drugs, police corruption, and the politricks of the music industry.
A standout on the album is its title track, featuring Mos Def, Styles P, and longtime group affiliate Dice Raw on the chorus. The far-reaching ensemble gives their take on the current state of global events, and it ain’t nothin’ nice. With socio-political insight, this trio of elite MCs spitting verses does not disappoint.
The artist now known as Yaslin Bey leads off the track and sets the tone in dramatic, melodic fashion. He raps, “Every anywhere: heights, plains, peaks or valleys / Entrances, exits, vestibules and alleys / Winding roads that test the firm nerve / Fortune or fatal behind the blind curve / The engine oil purr, lights flash to a blur / Speed work through the Earth, make your motor go ‘scurrr’ / Tonight at noon watch a bad moon rising / Identities in crisis and conflict diamonds…”
Tariq Trotter takes over with the vivid verbal imagery of the impact of climate and environmental change. He spits, “Between the greenhouse gases / And earth spinnin’ off its axis / Got Mother Nature doin’ back-flips/ The natural disasters; it’s like 80 degrees in Alaska / You in trouble if you not an Onassis / It ain’t hard to tell that the conditions is drastic / Just turn on the telly, check for the news flashin’ / How you want it bagged: paper or plastic?” The song marked a reunion with his longtime collaborator, Mos, who was also in the MCA/Geffen Records system following the Rawkus Records.
Closing out the track is Styles P, who describes the power of race in America. He says, “Should I say ‘hello’ or should I say that ‘hell is low?’ / Am I ni**a or a ni**ero? / I’m an African American; they sell drugs in the ‘hood / But the man, he move the medicine / He’ll prescribe you all meds for everythin’ / A little stuffy nose ’til you get some Claritin / You know I’m hip to it, and it’s hard to claim the land / When my great-great-great-grands were shipped to it…” Less than a year after Thought’s appearance on Styles’ “Cause I’m Black,” the two pick up on that chemistry.
Eleven years later, it seems that the needle has not moved forward on many of topics laid out on “Rising Down.” If they dropped the track right now, the relevancy of the subject matter will still stand. On “Rising Down,” Black Thought, Yaslin Bey, and Styles P. express that Hip-Hop is not just a culture consumed with materialism as uninformed critics like to suggest. “Rising Down,” is proof positive of how MCing can change the narrative and elevate Hip-Hop as one of the few art-forms the authentically reflect the times.
There are several videos, including an interview with Black Thought available at AFH TV. We are currently offering free 30-day trial subscriptions.