“How I Got Over” is a musically lush, yet emotionally-draining experience; the ninth studio album by the Philadelphia hip-hop band The Roots provides a strikingly-melodic jazz backdrop that bobs its head just above the water, threatening to be drowned by the withdrawn and disillusioned collective mood of the band’s core. While this album is nearing its tenth anniversary in June and is nowhere near new, it’s message of rebellion and fighting against the dying light rings deafeningly true in our current age of political unrest and stunted social growth via technology-overload.
Black Thought, The Roots’ main rapper and technical extraordinaire, along with the rest of the rotating cast of musicians, evoke hope in the heart of hopelessness. Throughout the 14-track album, the band members seem to be staring an implacable, overwhelming apathy and depression straight in the eyes while refusing to blink. While there is a constant admittance of pain, whether it’s resulting from their past wrongdoings, an unrelenting cold-heartedness carried by many or the current state of the world as a whole, they refuse to give in to this pain’s endless tyranny. At its nucleus, “How I Got Over” is about never giving up spiritually, physically or emotionally, despite the cyclical negativity and seemingly unforgiving nature of the world surrounding us.
On the three-song stretch “Radio Daze,” “Now or Never” and “How I Got Over,” the Roots drive a spike through the heart of their message and offer the three strongest songs on the album.
While “Radio Daze” finds Dice Raw, P.O.R.N. and Black Thought addressing their general despondency and struggles in exceedingly-philosophical fashion (“Love is a lotto, I know I know you know what I know / Hope is so hollow, that's why winos follow the bottle” as P.O.R.N. says on the song’s second verse) “Now or Never” finds The Roots choosing to take a stand against these very injustices, despite how debilitating they seem to become. And just as the Roots choose to stand tall against the wind of their demons, the album’s title track “How I Got Over” acts as its thesis, anchoring to an underlying hope in humanity despite the persistent feelings of being alone in a freezing-cold world.
Despite all of the suffering, all of the oppression and all of the pain, The Roots keep faith in the world by relying on those closest to them and the empathy we can all choose to exhibit as humans. “How I Got Over” examines how well we can traverse the incessant pain of the universe, and how it becomes that much easier when we realize that we aren’t all alone, but actually far from it.