Luckily, for those whose familiarity with the Philadelphia crew doesn’t extend beyond watching them play with Jay-Z for his unforgettable Unplugged album or Eminem at the 2003 Grammys, Home Grown! The Beginners Guide To Understanding The Roots Volume One and Two, will provide the sonic DNA for the illustrious group. The comprehensive collections showcase everything from popular hits like the soulful "What They Do," to unreleased heat like "Quicksand Millennium" and "You Got Me," featuring Jill Scott (the Grammy winner featured Erykah Badu), to hard-to-find remixes of "Don’t Say Nuthin’" to live performances like "Sacrifice (Live On BBC’s Radio One’s Worldwide Show with Giles Peterson)." The 29-song opus features Beanie Sigel (who made his major label debut appearance on "Adrenaline"), Eve, Jill Scott, Common, Roy Ayers, Raphael Saadiq, Dice Raw, Jaguar Wright, D’Angelo, and Mos Def, and is undeniable evidence of the influence they’ve had on the musical landscape over the course of their incredible career.
Of course, as evidenced by album titles like Phrenology and The Tipping Point, The Roots have always taken a very cerebral approach to making music. ?uestlove’s musings on each song in the liner notes shows just how much thought the group puts into their creative process. Each volume has a 20-page insert that is filled with behind-the-scene insights that offer amazing glimpses into the group’s experiences. Gems like their unbelievable tale of having to go through 11 different singers before finding someone to sing on "Break You Off" or dealing with the controversy surrounding Eve and Jill Scott on "You Got Me," makes this as worthwhile a read as a listen.
With the Roots signing to Def Jam, their soon-to-be-old label Geffen has taken advantage by releasing a two volume anthology of the Roots'' best songs from this perioid (1994 - 2004). Unlike other greatest hits compilations by artists who can''t justify the hubris, the Roots catalog runs ocean deep and these two albums are able to pull from off-the-beaten-path album cuts ("Double Trouble"), rare remixes (Black Thought''s "Distortion to Static" mix), live recordings ("It''s Comin"), plus the occasional mega-hit ("You Got Me"). Even for hardcore Roots fans, they might yet be surprised by a few of the inclusions here, especially "Good Music," a song off The Roots'' very first album, Organix, released independently before they signed to Geffen. Between the two volumes, #1 is far and away superior in terms of song selection. Volume 2 isn''t nearly as strong but it has some interesting tidbits, including a live medley of "The Seed/Melting Pot/Web" from BBC''s Radio One. --Oliver Wang
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