Rising Down

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Rising Down
Studio album by
ReleasedApril 28, 2008
GenreHip hop, hardcore hip hop
LabelDef Jam
ProducerTahir Jamal, Khari Mateen, Richard Nichols (exec.), James Poyser, Questlove, The Roots, L.A. Reid (exec.)
The Roots chronology
Game Theory
Rising Down
How I Got Over

Rising Down is the eighth studio album by American hip hop band The Roots, released April 28, 2008 on Def Jam Recordings. The album's title is adapted from William T. Vollmann's book Rising Up and Rising Down: Some Thoughts on Violence, Freedom and Urgent Means (2004). Expanding on the dark, dense production and political tone of Game Theory (2006), Rising Down features lyrical themes concerning issues of contemporary society, including violence, poverty, social and environmental climate, drugs, police corruption, and the music industry.

The album debuted at number six on the US Billboard 200 chart, selling 54,000 copies in its first week. It charted modestly in other countries and achieved moderate sales success. Upon its release, Rising Down received generally positive reviews from most music critics. Music critic Robert Christgau named it the ninth best album of 2008. The album has sold 171,000 copies in the United States.


According to the band's producer Questlove, Rising Down "is an electric record, more synthy. The darks are darker and the lights are lighter. But all I know is making quality hip-hop stylistically. We tried to do something we never did before. Kamal had to be the sacrificial lamb this time. The one instrument that has defined the Roots has been the Fender Rhodes. This is the first year he's had to change his instrumentation and try other sounds out. We have a bunch of keyboards and synthesizers we're using on this record. It feels like the musical equivalent of 'Blade Runner' sometimes. We've also added a horn section." [1]

The album's themes are dark, as on the preceding Game Theory, with Questlove referring to this album as "the most incendiary, political album of our career to date." In the same interview, he explains: "Add up the crime and high school drop-out rates in Philadelphia, plus being in your mid-30s and working 300 nights a year and this being an election year — yeah, all that’s what this album’s about.” [2] The album's title comes from William T. Vollmann's 2004 book Rising Up and Rising Down: Some Thoughts on Violence, Freedom and Urgent Means.[3] Similar to the book, the role of violence in human society is a central theme on the overtly political album;[4] the album's political message reflects the violence in The Roots' home city of Philadelphia.[3]

The album contains a large number of guest vocalists, particularly in comparison to previous Roots albums. The album features many of the same guest vocalists as Game Theory. Peedi Crakk, Malik B., Dice Raw, P.O.R.N. and Mercedes Martinez all make repeat appearances. DC rapper Wale appears on the album, following an invite stemming from a Black Thought-tribute track called "Work" featured on his 100 Miles & Running mixtape.[5] Other notable emcees making appearances on the album include Native Tongues Posse members Mos Def, Talib Kweli, and Common, as well as Styles P and Saigon.[6]


The first track leaked from the album was "75 Bars (Black's Reconstruction)", was posted on Okayplayer on 22 February 2008. The first single was initially confirmed as "Birthday Girl", which features Fall Out Boy's Patrick Stump, and which leaked via YouTube, a song described by Questlove as "An easy pop song".[7] However, the song has gone from single to being an iTunes exclusive (bonus track), because the song didn't fit with the album's motif. “It was just sticking out like a sore thumb...Then we were going to have a 'halftime' thing where it was gonna come in the middle of the record as a break from the political thing, but that didn't work, either. Then we tried to make it the last song on the record, and that wasn't working. Then we tried to make it the hidden track, and that wasn't effective. Basically the album was complete; it starts with 'Rising Down' and it ends with 'Rising Up,' so that makes more sense to me." [8] "Birthday Girl" has been included as a bonus track on iTunes and some international versions of the album, along with "The Grand Return".


Commercial performance[edit]

Rising Down was released April 28, 2008 in the United Kingdom and April 29, 2008 in the United States on Def Jam Recordings.[9] The album debuted at number six on the US Billboard 200 chart and became the highest-selling hip hop album of its debut week,[10] with first-week sales of 54,000 copies.[11] It spent five weeks on the Billboard 200.[12] The album also entered at number one on Billboard's Top Rap Albums,[13] ultimately spending 12 weeks on the chart,[14] and at number three on Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums, ultimately spending 22 weeks on the chart,[15] Internationally, the album peaked at number 95 in France, at number 34 in Norway, at number 10 in Switzerland, and at number 14 in Canada.[12][16] As of October 2009, Rising Down has sold 171,000 copies in the United States.[17]

Critical response[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Review scores
AllMusic4/5 stars[19]
Blender4/5 stars[18]
Entertainment WeeklyB−[20]
Los Angeles Times3/4 stars[21]
Mojo4/5 stars[22]
MSN Music (Consumer Guide)A[23]
Rolling Stone3.5/5 stars[25]
Slant Magazine4/5 stars[26]

Rising Down received positive reviews from most music critics.[18] At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 80, based on 27 reviews, which indicates "generally favorable reviews".[18] AllMusic writer Marisa Brown gave it 4 out of 5 stars and wrote that it "acts as a powerful statement on contemporary society".[19] Blender's Hsu Hua commended its concise production and called it "an excellent, punchy album full of youthful swagger and anything-goes experimentation".[28] Tom Horan of The Daily Telegraph cited Rising Down as "the best album of their long career".[29] Chicago Tribune writer Greg Kot lauded the album's socially conscious themes and viewed its sound as "bleaker, grimier and harder-edged" than The Roots' earlier work.[30] Will Dukes of Spin complimented its socially relevant themes and called the album "a thematically, unified, musically propulsive statement about the decline of contemporary society".[27] Rolling Stone's Jody Rosen complimented its dark, dense production, stating "It's a sound that fits the dark subject matter".[25] Tyler Munro of Sputnikmusic stated "Dark, dense and paranoid, Rising Down is surprisingly better for it".[31]

By contrast, Entertainment Weekly's Sean Howe expressed a mixed response towards its "bad vibes" and lyrical "gripes", calling it "a socially conscious creation overseasoned with discontent".[20] Harry Allen of The Village Voice perceived its dense production as overwhelming Black Thought's rapping and questioned, "is zealous love for the track submerging the band's vocalist?", but commended "the nuances of the Roots' dystopia; the rather painterly way they use sound, in the compositional modes that hip-hop affords, to render a world not only under duress, but, in fact, permanently diseased: Dhalgren on wax".[32] Los Angeles Times writer Oliver Wang viewed that it "doesn't replicate the balanced charm" of Game Theory, but ultimately commended its "musical uniformity" and called it "the more provocative effort".[21] PopMatters writer Zeth Lundy wrote that it "does prove to be an provocative peer of cultural riot-acting and pragmatic contextualization--though, as contemporary pop music, it provides a much more immediate delivery of social ethics from a street-level perspective".[9] Nate Patrin of Pitchfork commended Black Thought's rapping and the album's articulation of lyrical themes concerning contemporary society's issues, stating:

If you've been paying any damn attention to the world around you, most of Rising Down's messages ring familiar, and frequently true: This is an album that tells you the entertainment industry is turning into a coon show, the climate (both environmental and cultural) is getting fucked up, and broke people are still struggling. But this record states these ideas with respect to the notion that you know them already, and puts all the revelation and subtext into its unyielding sound. You could call it preaching to the converted, but it also feels like a reminder to the lapsed, less a wake-up call than a shot of renewed adrenaline.[24]

— Nate Patrin

Nate Chinen of The New York Times complimented the album's socially relevant themes and "crisp musicianship", stating "Spiked with dire intensity and stocked with head-spinning rhymes by Black Thought and nearly a dozen guest rappers [...] it’s the most potent Roots release since the one-two punch of 'Things Fall Apart' and its predecessor, 'Illadelph Halflife'".[33] Vibe's Keith Murphy commended The Roots' musical ambition and production on the album.[4] USA Today's Steve Jones gave the album four out of four stars and described its sound as "industrial-strength funk that demands to be turned up loud".[34] Slant Magazine's Dave Hughes called it "the most urgently malevolent modern funk record the band has assembled to date".[26] Nathan Rabin of The A.V. Club gave it a B+ rating and praised "the electric chemistry between Black Thought's unrelenting lyrical assault and ?uestlove's epic drums".[35] The Washington Post's Sarah Godfrey viewed that the album's ominous sound "tempers heady subject matter with much-needed thump" and cited it as The Roots' best work since Things Fall Apart.[36] In his consumer guide for MSN Music, critic Robert Christgau gave Rising Down an A rating and called it "as pleasurable as prime OutKast or Kanye West", while citing it as "the most accomplished pure hip-hop album in years".[23] Christgau ranked Rising Down number nine on his list of 2008's best albums.[37] The Boston Globe's Sarah Rodman named it the third best album of 2008.[38]

Track listing[edit]

128."The Pow Wow" 1:15
129."Rising Down" (featuring Mos Def, Styles P & Dice Raw)Questlove3:40
130."Get Busy" (featuring Dice Raw, Peedi Peedi & DJ Jazzy Jeff)The Roots, Ritz Reynolds3:29
131."@15"Black Thought0:51
132."75 Bars (Black's Reconstruction)"Questlove3:15
133."Becoming Unwritten"The Roots, Tahir Jamal, Radji Mateen, Khari Mateen0:36
134."Criminal" (featuring Truck North, Saigon & Kevin Hanson)The Roots, Khari Mateen4:08
135."I Will Not Apologize" (featuring P.O.R.N., Dice Raw & Talib Kweli)The Roots, Richard Nichols4:34
136."I Can't Help It" (featuring Malik B, P.O.R.N., Dice Raw & Mercedes Martinez)The Roots, Richard Nichols4:39
137."Singing Man" (featuring P.O.R.N., Truck North & Dice Raw)The Roots, Khari Mateen4:07
138."Unwritten" (featuring Mercedes Martinez)The Roots, Tahir Jamal, Radji Mateen, Khari Mateen1:22
139."Lost Desire" (featuring Malik B & Talib Kweli)The Roots, Khari Mateen3:58
140."The Show" (featuring Common & Dice Raw)The Roots, Tahir Jamal3:44
141."Rising Up" (featuring Wale & Chrisette Michele)Questlove, James Poyser4:23


Credits for Rising Down adapted from Allmusic.[39]

Chart history[edit]

Charts (2010) Peak
Canadian Albums Chart[16] 14
Norwegian Albums Chart[12] 34
French Albums Chart[12] 95
Swiss Albums Chart[12] 10
US Billboard 200[12] 6
US Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums[15] 3
US Billboard Top Rap Albums[14] 1


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  2. ^ Initial Single Dropped From The Roots' New Album | BallerStatus.com | NEWS
  3. ^ a b "The Roots: Rising Up with 'Rising Down'", npr music, Apr. 29, 2008.
  4. ^ a b Murphy, Keith. "Review: Rising Down". Vibe: 65. June 2008.
  5. ^ Wale Confirms New Mixtape, Album and Roots Collaboration
  6. ^ Vozick-Levinson, Simon (2008-02-22). "The Roots' Next CD: Track By Track". Entertainment Weekly.
  7. ^ FMQB: Radio Industry News, Music Industry Updates, Arbitron Ratings, Music News and more!
  8. ^ The Roots Drop Fall Out Boy Song From New Album - GIGWISE
  9. ^ a b Lundy, Zeth. Review: Rising Down. PopMatters. Retrieved on 2009-10-05.
  10. ^ Adaso, Henry. U.S. Rap Albums Chart - May 17, 2008. About.com. Retrieved on 2009-10-05.
  11. ^ Hasty, Kate (2008-05-07). "Madonna Leads Busy Billboard 200 With 7th No. 1". Billboard. Retrieved 2008-05-07.
  12. ^ a b c d e f Album Performance: Rising Down. acharts. Retrieved on 2010-04-25.
  13. ^ Rap Albums - Week of May 17, 2008. Billboard. Retrieved on 2010-04-25.
  14. ^ a b Chart History: The Roots - Rap Albums. Billboard. Retrieved on 2010-04-25
  15. ^ a b Chart History: The Roots - R&B/Hip-Hop Albums. Billboard. Retrieved on 2010-04-25.
  16. ^ a b Chart History: The Roots - Canadian Albums. Billboard. Retrieved on 2010-04-25
  17. ^ Concepcion, Mariel. The Roots' TV Party. Billboard. Retrieved on 2010-04-25.
  18. ^ a b c d Rising Down (2008): Reviews. Metacritic. Retrieved on 2009-10-05.
  19. ^ a b Brown, Marisa. Review: Rising Down. AllMusic. Retrieved on 2009-10-05.
  20. ^ a b Howe, Sean. Review: Rising Down. Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved on 2009-10-05.
  21. ^ a b Wang, Oliver. Review: Rising Down. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved on 2009-10-05.
  22. ^ "Review: Rising Down". Mojo. London: 100. July 2008.
  23. ^ a b Christgau, Robert. "Consumer Guide: Rising Down". MSN Music: May 2008. Archived from the original on 2009-10-05.
  24. ^ a b Patrin, Nate. Review: Rising Down. Pitchfork. Retrieved on 2009-10-05.
  25. ^ a b Rosen, Jody. Review: Rising Down. Rolling Stone. Retrieved on 2009-10-05.
  26. ^ a b Hughes, Dave. Review: Rising Down. Slant Magazine. Retrieved on 2009-10-05.
  27. ^ a b Dukes, Will (May 2008). Review: Rising Down. Spin. Retrieved on 2011-02-24.
  28. ^ Hua, Hsu. Review: Rising Down. Blender. Retrieved on 2010-04-25.
  29. ^ Horan, Tom. Review: Rising Down. The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved on 2010-04-25.
  30. ^ Kot, Greg. Review: Rising Down. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved on 2010-04-25.
  31. ^ Munro, Tyler. Review: Rising Down. Sputnikmusic. Retrieved on 2010-04-25.
  32. ^ Allen, Harry. Review: Rising Down. The Village Voice. Retrieved on 2009-10-05.
  33. ^ Chinen, Nate (May 4, 2008). The Roots Issue Tracks of Their Fears, and Defiance, on ‘Rising Down,’ Their New Album. The New York Times. Retrieved on 2011-02-24.
  34. ^ Jones, Steve. Review: Rising Down. USA Today. Retrieved on 2009-10-05.
  35. ^ Rabin, Nathan. Review: Rising Down. The A.V. Club. Retrieved on 2010-04-25.
  36. ^ Godfrey, Sarah. Review: Rising Down. The Washington Post. Retrieved on 2010-04-25.
  37. ^ Christgau, Robert. "Pazz & Jop 2008: Dean's List. Robert Christgau. Retrieved on 2010-04-25.
  38. ^ Rodman, Sarah. Sarah Rodman's top CD picks of 2008: Rising Down. The Boston Globe. Retrieved on 2009-10-05.
  39. ^ Credits: Rising Down. Allmusic. Retrieved on 2010-04-25.

External links[edit]