On April 29, the Roots will unveil Rising Down — the hip-hop band’s eighth studio album, and the latest step in their 15-year evolution. The darkly funky, politically charged project is almost fully recorded, though it’s awaiting key guest spots (Common, Lupe Fiasco). EW stopped by the Manhattan studio where drummer/producer Ahmir ”?uestlove” Thompson, 37, and rapper Tariq ”Black Thought” Trotter, 35, are finishing up the disc, and scored an early listen.
Mos Def, Styles P, and Trotter take on social ills over heavy synths. ”It’s an introduction to the topical theme of the album,” Trotter says. ”My verse is about global warming. Styles P raps about prescription-drug campaigns.”
Thompson calls this brass-laced cut (featuring Roots protégé Dice Raw) a tribute to late Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti. ”It’s about not apologizing for what you are. Dice Raw’s verse does his commentary on how the new minstrel image of black people is in vogue now. It’s really hard to hold on to your dignity and not resort to shucking and jiving to sell records.”
”THE SHOW MUST GO ON”
Cascading drums and a serrated synth texture set off the song Common is expected to appear on. (”He promised his left arm if he doesn’t get us his verse!” kids Thompson.) ”It’s about where we are in our careers, why we do it — a more personal type of joint,” says Trotter.
Summery guitar chords and a hook sung by Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump have made this a first-single contender. It’s a pleasant breeze of a song — till you hear the vaguely creepy lyrics about an 18-year-old fan: ”What is it we want to do, now that I’m allowed to be alone with you?” Notes Trotter: ”It’s based on our experiences, as musicians and parents — the effects of My Super Sweet 16. It deals with what our daughters are exposed to, how that makes them behave.”
Visit ew.com/theroots for a complete track-by-track preview of Rising Down