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Things Fall Apart

by The Roots

Released February 23, 1999 via MCA Records

Originally reviewed on February 27, 2020

Top tracks (based on community voting)
You Got Me (32%), Dynamite! (26%), The Next Movement (22%)

Things Fall Apart solidified The Roots as one of the premier hip-hop acts of the 1990s, just as the decade was coming to a close. Following their 1996 release, Illadelph Halflife -- an equally great masterpiece in its own right -- Things Fall Apart expanded upon and captured the band’s sound at its most refined. Featuring contributions from several Soulquarians members and sprouting from the collective’s jam sessions at Electric Lady Studios, the sound of Things Fall Apart contains some of the most organic, soulful, and innovative instrumentation on any hip-hop record. Featuring one of the most gifted MCs at the helm, Black Thought delivers lyrical excellence equally as dense as the instrumentation. And with every feature following suit, Things Fall Apart is a magnificent record that brilliantly fuses soulfulness and insightfulness with a battle-rap spirit and attitude. – Dominick (10/10)

The Roots had already established themselves amongst avid rap fans and their peers, but it was their fourth album, Things Fall Apart, that proved to be their real breakthrough. The group mixed the witty, tongue-lashing lyricism of '90s hip hop with more informative and revealing subject matter to create a unique, topical blend. Set atop their patented live instrumentals – which here read at perhaps the band’s grooviest – the album remains a masterpiece over two decades later. – Enth (9.5/10)

While Illadelph Halflife is my favorite The Roots album, the band was essentially in a creative limbo following its release. ?questlove was entangled with the creative processes of a couple side projects that required his main project attention – one of them becoming D’Angelo’s Voodoo – and the Philly-based band was searching for a distinction between their music and the other influential acts of the time. However, it’s a blessing that they were faced with this uncertainty, because ?uestlove felt like he had something to prove as a producer. That’s why he turned it up a few levels on Things Fall Apart. The sterile instrumentation of their former albums became muddied and distorted, and as ?uestlove loosened his classically trained reigns, he developed a live-band adaptation of a sound that Wu-Tang had found success with. Black Thought utilized this baggier soundscape to unlock another dynamic degree to his already cunning lyricism, speaking on topical subjects in a haphazard yet intentional style; one that would eventually crown him as one of the most elite MC’s of all time. Things Fall Apart is as much a breakthrough as it is a showing out. The group knew they had all the makings of a prolific act, and this was the foothold they needed to prove it. – Pax (8.9/10)

Dominick: 10/10 | Cam: 9.8/10 | Enth: 9.5/10

Hadley: 9.5/10 | DeVán: 9/10 | Pax: 8.9/10


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