Things Fall Apart (album)

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Things Fall Apart
Studio album by The Roots
Released February 23, 1999
Recorded 1997–1999
Electric Lady Studios
(New York, New York)
Genre Hip hop
Length 70:34
Label MCA
MCADE-11948
Producer The Grand Wizzards, Scott Storch, Jay Dee
The Roots chronology
Illadelph Halflife
(1996)
Things Fall Apart
(1999)
Phrenology
(2002)

Things Fall Apart is the fourth studio album by American hip hop band The Roots, released February 23, 1999 on Geffen Records. Recording sessions for the album took place at Electric Lady Studios during 1997 to 1999, coinciding with recording for other projects of the Soulquarians collective, including D'Angelo's Voodoo (2000), Erykah Badu's Mama's Gun (2000), and Common's Like Water for Chocolate (2000). According to Spin magazine, the album is a landmark moment for The Roots and the collective, as it "swelled the Roots clique into a movement-style posse".[1]

The album has been considered by music writers as The Roots's breakthrough album, earning praise from major publications and critics,[2] while becoming the group's first record to sell over 500,000 copies.[3] It includes the song "You Got Me", which won the 2000 Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group, while Things Fall Apart was also nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Rap Album of the same year, losing to Eminem for his The Slim Shady LP.[4] Rolling Stone called it a "top-flight record",[5] while Allmusic cited it as "one of the cornerstone albums of alternative rap."[6] The album takes its title from Chinua Achebe's novel of the same name,[7] which in turn took the phrase from William Butler Yeats's poem "The Second Coming".[8] As of April 5, 1999, Things Fall Apart has been certified gold in sales by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).[3] As of April 24, 2013, Things Fall Apart has been certified platinum in sales by the Recording Industry Association of America.

Recording[edit]

Recording for Things Fall Apart began in 1997 and was completed in early 1999. Sessions for the album coincided with those for other Soulquarians projects at Electric Lady Studios, including D'Angelo's Voodoo (2000), Erykah Badu's Mama's Gun (2000), and Common's Like Water for Chocolate (2000).[9] Questlove has stated that during this period, the group recorded upwards of around 145 songs, later whittling down their choices to 14 songs (intros and interludes withstanding).[10] The last song to be included to the final selection was "Double Trouble", featuring Mos Def. Initially, the song was supposed to feature a guest appearance from Mos' Black Star partner, Talib Kweli but due to the format of the track, it was decided to make it a throwback to the Run D.M.C./EPMD tag-team style of rap, with just two MCs.[10]

Music[edit]

The album's opening track, "Act Won", contains an excerpt from the Spike Lee film, Mo' Better Blues. The excerpt is from a scene where Denzel Washington and Wesley Snipes are discussing the current state of African American music (or culture in general) after a gig.[11] The track "Act Too (The Love of My Life)", originally an interlude that evolved into a full song, features Common, whose verse is a continuation of his song "I Used to Love H.E.R.", off his 1994 album Resurrection, in which Common speaks of hip hop as a woman. However, Questlove has stated that this is not "I used to love H.E.R. (the daughter), rather it is a "reflection on the evolution of hip hop, through our eyes."[12] Beanie Sigel made his recording debut on the track "Adrenaline!", after tagging along to a weekly jam session held by the group in Philadelphia.[13] Eve (at the time, signed to Dr. Dre's Aftermath label, and known as Eve of Destruction) also made her debut on Things Fall Apart, on the track, "You Got Me".

"You Got Me" was co-written by Jill Scott who recorded vocals for the song's chorus and bridge.[14] Her part was subsequently re-recorded by Erykah Badu at the insistence of MCA, who wanted a higher profile collaboration for the album's official lead single (at the time, Scott was relatively unknown outside of Philadelphia). When the group later went on tour, Scott joined them during performances of the song. "You Got Me" caught on quickly with radio and later MTV, giving the group a much needed boost in terms of sales and exposure. Its Grammy win provided a second round of success. The outside musicians who contributed to the album (mainly D'Angelo, James Poyser, and Jay Dee) were part of the Soulquarians collective with Questlove and Pino Palladino.

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars[6]
Robert Christgau B+[15]
Entertainment Weekly B[16]
Los Angeles Times 4/4 stars[17]
NME 8/10[18]
Pitchfork Media 9.4/10[19]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars[5]
USA Today 4/4 stars[20]
Vibe favorable[21]
The Village Voice favorable[22]

Upon its release, the album was widely regarded as the group's most fully realized work. Critics praised it for its sobering themes, sonic quality, and fluid, cohesive sequencing, with Rolling Stone calling it a "top-flight record" and lead MC Black Thought a "lyricist's lyricist with a hard, earnest voice that doesn't flow like water but bobs and weaves with less-predictable rhythms".[5] Q gave it four out of five stars, and Mojo commented that the album is "the stunner they've always promised: the first candidate for hip hop album of 1999....in a hip-hop world dominated by well-worn pop samples and rap rewrites of 80's chart hits, such risk-taking should be cherished".[23] Marie Elsie St. Léger of Barnes & Noble wrote in her review that the album had "Unfussy yet precise production, irresistible beats, and smooth rhymes. Few albums manage to simultaneously be this informative, political, and downright groovy."[24] Steve Jones of USA Today complimented the band's "jazzy, live instrumentation and dense, insightful lyrics" and commented that it "elevates hip-hop with literate, thoughtful grooves".[20] In his consumer guide for The Village Voice, critic Robert Christgau gave the album a B+ rating,[15] indicating "remarkable one way or another, yet also flirts with the humdrum or the half-assed".[25] Christgau criticized Kamal Gray's "omnipresent ostinato beds", but commended the band for "looking back to the old-school rap they loved before they discovered jazz lite", and stated "What's so consistently annoying on their earlier intelligent records is almost hooky on this one, integral to a flow that certainly does just that, which isn't to say you won't be relieved when it rocks the house instead".[15] Fans responded with as much enthusiasm, and the album shipped Platinum in the United States.[26] [27]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks produced by The Grand Wizzards, except where noted.

No. Title Writer(s) Producer(s) Length
1. "Act Won (Things Fall Apart)"   Ahmir Thompson, Spike Lee   0:54
2. "Table of Contents (Parts 1 & 2)"   Thompson, Tariq Trotter, Kamal Gray, Rahzel M. Brown, Karl Jenkins, Kyle Jones, Leonard Hubbard, Smart Abdul-Basset   3:37
3. "The Next Movement" (featuring DJ Jazzy Jeff & Jazzyfatnastees) Thompson, Trotter, Gray, Hubbard Kamal Gray 4:10
4. "Step Into the Realm"   Thompson, Trotter, Gray, Hubbard, Abdul-Basset, Kenyatta Williams   2:49
5. "The Spark"   Thompson, Gray, Hubbard, Abdul-Basset   3:53
6. "Dynamite!"   Trotter, James Yancey, Rehani Sayeed Jay Dee 4:46
7. "Without a Doubt" (featuring Lady B) Trotter, JB Weaver, Melvin Lewis Poyser (co.) 4:15
8. "Ain't Sayin' Nothin' New" (featuring Dice Raw) Thompson, Trotter, Gray, Brown, Jenkins, Jones, Hubbard, Scott Storch Storch (co.) 4:34
9. "Double Trouble" (featuring Mos Def) Thompson, Trotter, Gray, Brown, Jenkins, Jones, Hubbard, D. Beze, James Poyser   5:51
10. "Act Too (The Love of My Life)" (featuring Common) Thompson, Trotter, Gray, Brown, Jenkins, Jones, Hubbard, Poyser, Lonnie Lynn   4:55
11. "100% Dundee"   Thompson, Trotter, Gray, Brown, Jenkins, Jones, Hubbard, Abdul-Bassit, Rozell Brown Gray, Kelo, Rahzel the Godfather of Noyze, 3:54
12. "Diedre vs. Dice" (featuring Dice Raw) Thompson, Jenkins, Dredre Murray   0:47
13. "Adrenaline!" (featuring Dice Raw and Beanie Sigel) Thompson, Trotter, Gray, Brown, Jenkins, Jones, Hubbard, Abdul-Bassit, Storch, Dwight Grant Storch (co.) 4:28
14. "3rd Acts: ? vs. Scratch 2... Electric Boogaloo"   Thompson, Gray, Hubbard, Abdul-Bassit   0:51
15. "You Got Me" (featuring Erykah Badu & Eve) Thompson, Trotter, Gray, Brown, Jenkins, Jones, Hubbard, Storch, Jill Scott Storch (co.) 4:19
16. "Don't See Us" (featuring Dice Raw) Thompson, Trotter, Gray, Brown, Jenkins, Jones, Hubbard, Abdul-Basset, Poyser   4:30
17. "The Return to Innocence Lost" (featuring Ursula Rucker) Thompson, Rucker, Anthony Tidd   11:55
18. "Act Fore... The End?"       0:05

Cover artwork[edit]

For a limited time period, Things Fall Apart was made available with a choice of five different front covers. One such cover displays a photograph taken during a riot in the Civil Rights Movement era. In the stark black-and-white photo, riot police are seen chasing two black teenagers on the streets of Bedford-Stuyvesant. In 2005, this cover was included in the book, The Greatest Album Covers Of All Time by Barry Miles, Grant Scott & Johnny Morgan, and published by Collins & Brown.

Charts[edit]

Album[edit]

Chart (1999) Peak
position
Canadian Albums Chart 7
US Billboard 200 4
US Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums 2

Singles[edit]

Year Song Chart positions
US Billboard
Hot 100
US Billboard Hot
R&B/Hip-Hop Songs
US Billboard
Hot Rap Singles
US Billboard
Rhythmic Top 40
1998 "Adrenaline" - 73 29 -
1999 "You Got Me" 39 11 19 35

Personnel[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Aaron, Charles. "Review: Things Fall Apart". Spin: 88. June 2008.
  2. ^ Hoard, Christian. "Review: Things Fall Apart". Rolling Stone: 702–703. November 2, 2004.
  3. ^ a b "RIAA Searchable Database - Search Results - The Roots". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 2008-08-08. 
  4. ^ "Santana's Grammy glory". BBC News. 2000-02-24. Retrieved 2006-12-18. 
  5. ^ a b c Touré. Review: Things Fall Apart". Rolling Stone. Retrieved on 2009-08-26.
  6. ^ a b Huey, Steve. Review: Things Fall Apart. Allmusic. Retrieved on 2009-08-26.
  7. ^ Welte, Jim. "Review: Things Fall Apart". Ink Blot Magazine. Retrieved 2006-12-16. 
  8. ^ Washington State University study guide
  9. ^ Peisner, David. "Body & Soul". Spin: 64–72. August 2008.
  10. ^ a b Questlove writes about each song from the album in its liner notes. Retrieved on April 22, 2007 (Pg 6)
  11. ^ Landy, Ben. "Review: Things Fall Apart". The Yale Herald. Retrieved 2006-12-16. 
  12. ^ Questlove writes about each song from the album in its liner notes. Retrieved on April 22, 2007 (Pg 8)
  13. ^ Questlove writes about each song from the album in its liner notes. Retrieved on April 22, 2007(Pg 10)
  14. ^ Questlove writes about each song from the album in its liner notes. Retrieved on April 22, 2007 (Pg 11)
  15. ^ a b c Christgau, Robert. "Consumer Guide: Things Fall Apart". The Village Voice: Archived from the original on 2009-08-26.
  16. ^ Weingarten, Marc. Review: Things Fall Apart. Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved on 2009-08-26.
  17. ^ Hilburn, Robert. Review: Things Fall Apart. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved on 2009-08-26.
  18. ^ Columnist. Review: Things Fall Apart. NME. Archived from the original on 2009-08-26.
  19. ^ Khan, Samir. "Review: Things Fall Apart". Pitchfork Media: March 1999. Archived from the original on 2009-08-26.
  20. ^ a b Jones, Steve. "Review: Things Fall Apart". USA Today: 02.D. February 23, 1999.
  21. ^ Abdul-Lateef, Mahmoud. "Review: Things Fall Apart". Vibe: 162. March 1999
  22. ^ Lewis, Miles Marshall. Review: Things Fall Apart. The Village Voice. Retrieved on 2009-08-26.
  23. ^ "Roots - Things Fall Apart CD Album". Muze. Retrieved 2006-12-18.  Editorial reviews, product notes.
  24. ^ "Review: Things Fall Apart". Barnes & Noble. Retrieved 2007-05-22. 
  25. ^ Christgau, Robert (2000-10-15). "CG 90s: Key to Icons". Robert Christgau. Retrieved 2011-02-23. 
  26. ^ "The Roots The Paybacks". XXL magazine. Retrieved 2006-12-18. 
  27. ^ "Gold & Platinum: The Roots". RIAA. Retrieved APRIL 22, 2013. 

References[edit]

  • Nathan Brackett, Christian Hoard (2004). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide: Completely Revised and Updated 4th Edition. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8. 

External links[edit]