Game Theory (album)

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Game Theory
Studio album by The Roots
Released August 29, 2006
Recorded March–May 2006
The Studio, The Boom Room, A House Called ?uest
(Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
Encore Studios
(Burbank, California)
Conway Studios, Glenwood Studios
(Los Angeles, California)
Integrated Studios, Quad Studios, Platinum Studios, Electric Lady Studios
(New York, New York)
Genre Alternative hip hop, experimental hip hop
Length 46:58
Label Def Jam
Producer Owen Biddle, J Dilla, Richard Nichols, The Randy Watson Experience, The Roots
The Roots chronology
The Tipping Point
(2004)The Tipping Point2004
Game Theory
Rising Down
(2008)Rising Down2008
Singles from Game Theory
  1. "Don't Feel Right"
    Released: June 20, 2006
  2. "In The Music / Here I Come"
    Released: September 1, 2006

Game Theory is the seventh studio album by American hip hop band The Roots, released August 29, 2006, on Def Jam Recordings. The group's first release for the label after leaving Geffen Records, the album was recorded by the Roots mostly using the Apple-developed software application GarageBand.[1] A darker, grittier album with minimal emphasis on hooks in comparison to their previous work,[2][3] Game Theory features a stripped-down sound similar to the work of Public Enemy, with lyrics that concern sociological themes and the late hip hop producer J Dilla.[4][5][6]

The album debuted at number nine on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart, selling 61,000 copies in its first week. It produced two singles and achieved moderate sales success. Upon its release, Game Theory received acclaim from most music critics and earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best Rap Album. To date, the album has sold over 200,000 copies in the United States.


In an interview for Rolling Stone magazine, Questlove expressed his view on contemporary black music and described the concept of Game Theory, comparing it to previous works:

In this day and age, I'm kind of noticing that nobody in urban music really has the balls to just stop partying for one second... I mean, partying is good and whatnot, and it's cool to get down, but I really think that 2006 called for a very serious record. This ain't the Debbie Downer record, or the political, save-the-world record, but this is definitely not the MC-based, battle-themed album that the Roots have been known for. This is our most serious record to date.[7]

— Questlove

Described by Questlove as "very mature, serious, and very dark",[8] the album, unlike the band's previous two efforts Phrenology (2002) and The Tipping Point (2004), combines The Roots's progressive tendencies and lush, jazz influenced hip-hop into a more homogenous and cohesive recording than past efforts had shown. In what could be a salute to a fellow experimental band, The Roots sample Radiohead's "You and Whose Army?" for the track "Atonement".

The subject material for Game Theory follows the more serious tone of the album, with topics ranging from the war in Iraq to violence in music. Questlove was quoted as saying "There was too much going on that we couldn’t just sit back and not speak on it."[8] In accordance with its more-serious tone, the album heavily references Public Enemy's highly-political It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back on its lead track "False Media".

Commercial performance[edit]

Game Theory debuted at number nine on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart with first week sales of 61,000 copies.[9] It also debuted at number five on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and at number four on its Top Digital Albums chart.[10][11] According to Nielsen SoundScan, the album has sold over 200,000 copies in the United States.[12]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 83/100[13]
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4.5/5 stars[14]
The A.V. Club A−[5]
Entertainment Weekly A−[15]
The Guardian 4/5 stars[16]
Los Angeles Times 3/4 stars[17]
Mojo 4/5 stars[18]
MSN Music A−[19]
Pitchfork 7.7/10[20]
Rolling Stone 3.5/5 stars[21]
Spin 4/5 stars[22]

Game Theory received universal acclaim from music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 83, based on 26 reviews.[13] AllMusic's Andy Kellman praised its musical quality and lyrical themes, writing "Spinning turbulence, paranoia, anger, and pain into some of the most exhilarating and startling music released in 2006,... Game Theory is a heavy album, the Roots' sharpest work. It's destined to become one of Def Jam's proudest, if not most popular, moments".[14] The New York Times writer Nate Chinen viewed the album's production as inconsistent, but found Black Thought's performance more focused and engaged than on previous efforts, while writing that "?uestlove infuses 'Game Theory' with a hard sonic logic, so that the music often sounds as tough as the lyrics".[4] Vibe's Thomas Golianopoulos gave it 4 out of 5 stars and called it "a masterfully crafted, sobering wake-up call".[23] Jeff Vrabel of PopMatters dubbed it "The Roots' darkest, grimiest, most unrelenting and possibly most focused effort to date".[24]

Los Angeles Times writer Oliver Wang commented that Game Theory "moves coherently as a whole and not just assemblage of spare songs".[17] Rolling Stone's Peter Relic viewed the album as a progression over their previous work and wrote "For every head-nodding beat (and ?uestlove brings plenty of 'em), Game Theory has a head-turning treat".[21] Will Dukes of The Village Voice called it The Roots' "most radical record to date" and commended Black Thought for his lyricism on the album, writing "Raw, emotive, and urgent as a motherfucker, his flow—on songs like opener 'False Media,' whose gangly steel snares give way to plush orchestration—is bleak and expansive and seething with wrath".[25] Robert Christgau, writing for MSN Music, felt that the album is "not hooky enough", but "strong enough to compensate" with a tone that "maintains until the J. Dilla encomium that closes."[3]

In its end-of-year list, Rolling Stone named it the eighteenth best album of 2006, calling it "classic studio Roots".[26] It was named one of the top ten albums of the year by URB.[27] The album was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rap Album, ultimately losing to rapper Ludacris's Release Therapy (2006) at the 49th Grammy Awards.

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Producer(s) Length
1. "Dilltastic Vol Won(derful)" J Dilla 0:28
2. "False Media" (featuring Wadud Ahmad) Kamal Gray, The Randy Watson Experience 2:43
3. "Game Theory" (featuring Malik B.) The Roots, Khari Mateen 4:01
4. "Don't Feel Right" (featuring Maimouna Youssef) The Roots, Tahir Jamal 4:08
5. "In the Music" (featuring Malik B. and Porn) The Roots, Richard Nichols, Pedro Martinez, Owen Biddle, Kevin Hansen 4:06
6. "Take It There" (featuring Wadud Ahmad) The Roots, Questlove, Richard Nichols, Pedro Martinez, Adam Blackstone, Kevin Hansen 2:50
7. "Baby" (featuring John-John) The Roots, John McGlinchey 2:50
8. "Here I Come" (featuring Dice Raw & Malik B.) The Roots, Richard Nichols, Owen Biddle, Pedro Martinez, Brook D'Leau 4:11
9. "Long Time" (featuring Peedi Peedi & Bunny Sigler) The Roots, Kevin Hansen, Owen Biddle, Darryl Robinson, Richard Nichols, Omar Edwards 4:21
10. "Livin' in a New World" (featuring John-John) The Roots, Khari Mateen 1:47
11. "Clock with No Hands" (featuring Mercedes Martinez) The Roots, Khari Mateen, Brook D'Leau 4:23
12. "Atonement" (featuring Jack Davey) The Roots, The Randy Watson Experience 2:35
13. "Can't Stop This" J Dilla, The Roots, The Randy Watson Experience 8:35

Sample credits[edit]

  • The intro track "Dillatastic Vol Won(derful)" used a sample of Slum Village's first album, Fantastic Vol.1's intro track, "Fantastic", which J Dilla produced. ("Fantastic" incorporates elements of a Herbie Hancock composition "You'll Know When You Get There," from VSOP.)
  • The track "Game Theory" contains a sample of Sly and the Family Stone's "Life of Fortune and Fame".
  • The track "False Media" contains interpolations of Public Enemy's "Don't Believe The Hype".
  • The track "Don't Feel Right" samples Kool & The Gang's "Jungle Boogie" & The Ohio Players's "Ecstasy".
  • The track "Atonement" samples Radiohead's "You and Whose Army?"
  • The track "Can't Stop This" contains a sample of The Jackson 5's "All I Do Is Think Of You". It should be noted that this song's backing track is an extended version of J Dilla's "Time: The Donut of the Heart" from his third solo album Donuts.


Chart history[edit]

Chart (2006) Peak
Dutch Albums (MegaCharts)[28] 78
Dutch Alternative Albums (Mega Alternative Top 30)[29] 11
Finnish Albums (Suomen virallinen lista)[30] 36
French Albums (SNEP)[31] 69
German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)[32] 95
Norwegian Albums (VG-lista)[33] 26
Swiss Albums (Schweizer Hitparade)[34] 7
UK Albums (OCC)[35] 76
US Billboard 200[9] 9
US Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums[10] 5
US Billboard Top Rap Albums[36] 4


  1. ^ Faraone, Chris. "Roots Got 'Game': Hardworking ?uestlove Drums Up Support for Tour". Boston Herald: August 5, 2006. Archived from the original on 2009-12-05.
  2. ^ Johnson, Brett. Review: Game Theory. XXL. Retrieved on 2009-10-05.
  3. ^ a b Christgau, Robert. "Consumer Guide: Game Theory". MSN Music: December 2006. Archived from the original on 2009-10-05.
  4. ^ a b Chinen, Nate (August 28, 2006). "New CD's". The New York Times. Retrieved October 5, 2009. 
  5. ^ a b Rabin, Nathan (September 6, 2006). "The Roots: Game Theory". The A.V. Club. Retrieved October 5, 2009. 
  6. ^ Baron. Review: Game Theory. Tiny Mix Tapes. Retrieved on 2009-10-05.
  7. ^ "The Roots' New Album: Heavy But No Debbie Downer". Retrieved September 22, 2006. 
  8. ^ a b "The Roots Get Serious About Their "GAME THEORY"". Archived from the original on October 6, 2006. Retrieved September 22, 2006. 
  9. ^ a b Harris, Chris. Sorry, Jessica: Billboard's #1 Belongs To Bob Dylan. MTV. Retrieved on 2010-03-29.
  10. ^ a b R&B/Hip-Hop Albums (9/16/2006). Billboard. Retrieved on 2010-03-29.
  11. ^ Digital Albums (9/16/2006). Billboard. Retrieved on 2010-03-29.
  12. ^ Chinen, Nate. The Roots Issue Tracks of Their Fears, and Defiance, on ‘Rising Down,’ Their New Album. The New York Times. Retrieved on 2010-03-29.
  13. ^ a b "Reviews for Game Theory by The Roots". Metacritic. Retrieved October 5, 2009. 
  14. ^ a b Kellman, Andy. "Game Theory – The Roots". AllMusic. Retrieved October 5, 2009. 
  15. ^ Endelman, Michael (August 28, 2006). "Game Theory". Entertainment Weekly. New York. Retrieved July 27, 2016. 
  16. ^ Lynskey, Dorian (August 25, 2006). "The Roots, Game Theory". The Guardian. London. Retrieved February 24, 2011. 
  17. ^ a b Wang, Oliver (August 20, 2006). "Hip-hop refreshed after a dry spell". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 5, 2009. 
  18. ^ "The Roots: Game Theory". Mojo. London: 100. October 2006. 
  19. ^ Christgau, Robert (June 18, 2013). "Nas/The Roots". MSN Music. Retrieved June 18, 2013. 
  20. ^ Dombal, Ryan (August 31, 2006). "The Roots: Game Theory". Pitchfork. Retrieved October 5, 2009. 
  21. ^ a b Relic, Peter (August 23, 2006). "The Roots: Game Theory". Rolling Stone. New York. Archived from the original on November 30, 2009. Retrieved October 5, 2009. 
  22. ^ Harris, Keith (September 2006). "Hot and Heavy". Spin. New York. 22 (9): 114. Retrieved September 22, 2012. 
  23. ^ Golianopoulo, Thomas (September 2006). "The Roots: Game Theory". Vibe. New York. 14 (9): 211–12. Retrieved September 22, 2012. 
  24. ^ Vrabel, Jeff (August 29, 2006). "Roots: Game Theory". PopMatters. Retrieved October 5, 2009. 
  25. ^ Dukes, Will (August 29, 2006). "Blood at the Roots". The Village Voice. New York. Retrieved October 5, 2009. 
  26. ^ Staff. The Top 50 Albums of 2006. Rolling Stone. Retrieved on 2010-03-29.
  27. ^ Best Albums of 2006. Metacritic. Retrieved on 2009-10-05.
  28. ^ " – The Roots – Game Theory" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved April 17, 2014.
  29. ^ "Alternative Top 30" (in Dutch). Archived from the original on May 12, 2014. Retrieved April 17, 2014. 
  30. ^ "The Roots: Game Theory" (in Finnish). Musiikkituottajat – IFPI Finland. Retrieved April 17, 2014.
  31. ^ " – The Roots – Game Theory". Hung Medien. Retrieved April 17, 2014.
  32. ^ " – The Roots – Game Theory". GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved April 17, 2014.
  33. ^ " – The Roots – Game Theory". Hung Medien. Retrieved April 17, 2014.
  34. ^ " – The Roots – Game Theory". Hung Medien. Retrieved April 17, 2014.
  35. ^ "Chart Log UK 2006". Retrieved April 17, 2014. 
  36. ^ Adaso, Henry. U.S. Rap Albums Chart - May 17, 2008. Retrieved on 2009-10-05.

External links[edit]