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Illadelph Halflife

by The Roots

Released September 24, 1996 via DGC Records / Geffen Records

Reviewed September 15, 2021

Top tracks (based on community voting)
Push Up Ya Lighter (49%), Respond / React (39%), Section (21%)

Illadelph Halflife, the third studio album from The Roots, stands the test of time as one of the most fluid and cohesive records of the 1990s. Highlighted by structured but free-flowing jazz arrangements, the band combined jazz with boom bap production to create an underground masterpiece. Everything on this record—from the funky drumming of Questlove, to the smooth piano heard throughout—oozes soul, while still maintaining the hard-hitting levels of intensity you’d expect from a 90s hip-hop record. And when it comes to lyrical excellence, there is arguably no one better than Black Thought, who shares vocal duties with fellow MC Malik B as the two paint vivid pictures of inner-city strife. The Roots put the finishing touches on an already fantastic record by assembling a cast of features that include greats such as Q-Tip, D’Angelo, Common, and more. An absolutely timeless masterpiece that truly embodies the city that The Roots call home. – Dominick (10/10)

On their third studio album, The Roots created their first masterpiece by pushing themselves further than they had gone before. Brilliantly infusing their organic instrumentation with a more beat and sample-centric approach, they hit a middle ground that still feels refreshing in 2021. The rapping is amongst the best in the genre, with Black Thought and Malik B balancing relatable yet thought-provoking lyricism, complex flows, and a keen sense of their surroundings. With a feature roster that looks like a best of 90’s R&B/Hip Hop lineup—featuring the likes of D’Angelo, Q-Tip, Common, and more—it’s not hard to see why this album made such a splash and still continues to resonate. A perfect snapshot of the tri-state area during a culturally blooming period. – Jared (10/10)

By the time Illadelph Halflife came out, The Roots had already shown that they were more than capable of putting together a classic. Do You Want More?!!!??! was an eclectic blend of east coast hip hop and contemporary jazz. What Illadelph Halflife seems to capture is more grit. It sounds rougher and tougher and a lot less graceful without sacrificing an ounce of eloquence lyrically or sonically. Illadelph Halflife features an all-star cast of guest verses and instrumental contributions from a “Who’s who?” of hip hop, R&B, jazz and neo-soul. The group even expanded their coverage of topics, not just focusing on domestic issues of Black people in America but also those of Bosnia. This album not only solidified The Roots as hip-hop royalty, but would also lay the groundwork to introduce the underground group of musicians that would later become known as The Soulquarians. A masterclass in how to construct an intense, in your face record without losing focus, Illadelph Halflife, will always be relevant and prevalent as a grail amongst most hip-hop heads and casual listeners. – Pablo (10/10)

Dominick: 10/10 | Hadley: 10/10 | Jared: 10/10 | Pablo: 10/10

Pax: 9.5/10 | Cam: 8.3/10 | DeVán: 8/10 | Peter: 8/10


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