Celebrating 30 years of The Roots and remembering Do You Want More?!!!??!
The Roots have been around for 30 years. 30 DAMN YEARS, and working the whole time. Working hard. No long breaks or breakups. No comebacks or reunion tours. 30 years in the trenches and on the road. That is an incredible feat in a genre that doesn’t necessarily promote longevity for its artists and glorifies youth. As a lifelong fan I’m extremely proud that their gig with Jimmy Fallon on the Tonight Show has finally earned them the respect and higher profile they deserve. For years I always thought they would remain as what Questlove described as, “Your favorite underground band.” There would of been nothing wrong with that but I’m glad that they have solidified their place in the history books as one of the greatest to ever do it, in any genre.
Now, let’s go back in time to 1994 and the bands sophomore record- Do You Want More?!!!??! This was/is/always will be my favorite Roots record. Why this album isn’t talked about more simply blows my mind. Do You Want More?!!!??! is a certified classic in my book. Although it was well received by critics at the time of it’s release and is now mentioned in top 100 lists, I don’t think it’s given the credit it deserves and it’s proper place in the history of the music. It’s definitely one of my top 10 desert island hip hop records. Let’s revisit this undervalued classic.
Do You Want More?!!!??!
First and foremost Quest and the rest of the band (with the legendary producer Scott Storch on keyboards, let us not forget) absolutely nailed how hip hop played by live instruments should sound with this record. I don’t think it’s been done better before or since, even by the Roots themselves. It’s got that hip hop, boom bap, slamming feel fused with the human feel of live, breathing musicians laying down the tracks. The rhythm section of Questlove on drums, Scott Storch on keys, and Leonard Hubbard on bass is inimitable and incomparable. Soulfully swinging hip hop beats with beautiful harmonies and melodies. They nailed it. Human hip hop. J Dilla would bring the human touch and feel to his programmed beats soon after this record came out but Do You Want More?!!!??! WAS the human touch playing hip hop, and playing it with soul and life.
I eagerly anticipated The Roots’ follow up to Do You Want More?!!!??! and I remember how disappointed I was when their 3rd album, Illadelph Halflife, came out in 1996. I could tell they had chopped and looped themselves up. Illadelph was an incredible record but it just didn’t have the human feel that Do You Want More?!!!??! had. (20 years later Quest confirmed my suspicions that they did this and talks about why in this Red Bull Music Academy interview.)
Questlove & Jimmy Fallon delve deeper into the Roots
I grew to love that record as well as all of their other work, but Do You Want More?!!!??! is the high water mark that to me has never been reached again, by anyone doing the live band thing in hip hop. Maybe I’m seeing it through the lens of nostalgia.
And let’s talk about Black Thought. He is one of those MCs who, like a great jazz musician, has gone through different periods with his sound and style. This record is his early, more free flowing, jazzy, stream of consciousness style closer to ATCQ and the Native Tongues side of the spectrum. It’s still lyrically dense and you can hear the seeds of his later, harder edged, more street style. Today he’s earned his stripes as one of GOATs. In my opinion if you measure Thought by the sheer amount of different things he can do, and do well- freestyle at a virtuoso level, lead a live band, write socially conscious, razor sharp lyrics, work with artists from other genres, etc.- he IS the GOAT in my book. He can do anything as an MC. Malik B is no slouch either.
I’m not even going to go into the individual tracks on Do You Want More?!!!??! It’s an album that should be listened to from start to finish in my opinion. That’s what should certify a record as classic. The fact that it can be played from top to bottom and there’s a flow to it and a statement being made throughout the whole record. You can have classic tracks but for an album to be labeled a classic it has to have this.
If you had to pick one Roots’ record for the time capsule this would be the one for me. Others might say Things Fall Apart or one of their later efforts but this one represents their most inspired work and is also closest to what they sound like live. A certified classic. Dust it off and throw it back on. I hear new things every time I listen to it.