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The Roots Interview

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So this is a dark album?

It is. It's an extremely dark record. No one ever cares about how hard The Roots worked on their album or whatever. I totally understand that certain people can gravitate to some albums but not others. But, my thing is "if you like Illadelph Halflife better than you like Phrenology, I'm cool with that. But, at least, acknowledge the fact that we put work into it. We have a whole audience to please. There are some people that are totally into classic hip-hop like "yo f**k the esoteric nature of the group and the musicianship." There are people that totally ignore Tariq and are into the band aspect of The Roots, and care less about hip-hop aesthetics, you know. There are so many people that only care about me because I was in a 5-second skit with John Mayer on Dave Chappelle.

Laughter

So, for me, every Roots album, we put 120 sweat and blood into it. I know that the formula for a Roots album makes people uncomfortable because it's always the opposite of the previous one. There's people on the website(Okayplayer.com) like, "I was so mad when y'all made Phrenology but now I get it." This is going to be one of those albums. I love this album.

When Jay-Z listened to the album, what was his reaction?

[Laughs for about 5 seconds] His last comment was: "Would someone get 'Riq a tissue." The original draft was near Coldplay-ish razor-on-your-wrist-inducing music, mainly because we were still Geffen artists when we started the record. [Hurricane] Katrina occurred and unlike 9/11, on which I could play the 6 degrees of separation like I'm close to Vinia Mojica and her brother died in that fire, Katrina really hit us hard. Tariq's children (my god-children) lived in New Orleans. So, there was a two-week period when we didn't know what the f*ck was happening. So, we were using resources to locate them, but, we finally located them in Houston. Not to mention, a group that we kind of adopted, a brass band called To Be Continued were calling us like "I think my mama's dead." So, there was just a period where everything was in...

Absolute disarray

It was in absolute disarray, but, we were also in a blindspot with labels. We were making a record but we knew that we weren't going to turn this record to Geffen. We didn't officially become Def Jam artists till March of this year. It was a scary period, because I realized that with the exception of Common, Snoop, and maybe OutKast(even though they were '95), the same people that we signed deals with back in 1992 were non-existent. Whatever's going on in our lives always reflects on the music. I mean, I'll admit it to you for the first time, Phrenology was a very angry period for us as a nucleus.

Why was that?

Once you get your first taste of success...and it wasn't even like real success. I'm still living in the same house, it's not even like our lifestyles changed. The same 300 gigs we were doing towards Illadelph Halflife, we still had to do those 300 gigs after Things Fall Apart. I guess, once you finally get past that feeling of "Oh I made it! I made it!!" I guess we had a chip on our shoulders. If you have a friend that lets you drown like "No, not yet," and then you're about to die, and he's like "Oh I got you," and then save you. So, you're like "Thank you for saving me, but, wait a minute, why'd you let me drown for so long?" We encountered a lot of late people with the shows. They were treating us like a new group, and I was so mad like "Damn, the nerve of you f**kers." We just felt like giving them the middle finger, that was our middle finger record. So, the times always reflect on the direction of the record.

Did you transfer the Geffen songs to the Def Jam project?

Technically, no. Labels also own your 'intellectual property.' So, any idea that I had, whoever owns you at the time, that's their idea. Geffen was really nice about letting us transfer. We just wanted to be on a label that was an hour away from us, not 5 hours by airplane.

Prior to The Tippin' Point, there were rumors about a new member. Will there ever be an addition to the group?

Every album will have a new angle to it. We're toying with the idea of doing our biggest angle yet for the next record, which could possibly see the group balloon to a funkadelic 15-member size. A lot of that also depends on if we're financially able to pull it off. We confirmed that rumor but I didn't name the person because it was still up in the air.

Who was it anyway?

It was Jean Grae. The plan was for her to take the Malik slot on the mic. At that point, we couldn't afford her. So, she had to do what was best for her situation. I was telling her to hold on, but, I couldn't make it happen quick enough. [Talib] Kweli and Cory Smith [Kweli's Manager] were telling her to come over to Blacksmith, so, she's signed to Blacksmith now.

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