On February 23, 1999, many Hip Hop heads around the world had their necks snapped. Not through an act of violence but because our heads were bob’n to the musical ecstasy of Things Fall Apart; The Roots fourth studio album. For many this was considered the groups breakthrough album and for many like me, it’s heralded as the groups greatest album release. The title of the album comes from the famed Chinua Achebe’s novel of the same name. The brilliant marketing idea to have multiple captivating album covers, made would be listeners stop, look and think well before listening to the CD.


From the beginning of the first track, Things Fall Apart hits you with rhythm, live instruments of the jazz band and with soul by way of Black Thought’s complex rap lyrics. The music comes from a unique space of being the alternative to the norm; the norm being 98% of most commercial rap and hip hop. When I think of Things Fall Apart and The Roots, I think of non-materialistic hip hop personified.

Pic2The song “You Got Me” (co-written by Jill Scott) features vocals by lovely Erykah Badu and won the group a Grammy for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group. The overall album was also nominated for a Grammy for the Best Rap Album. Other cameos include, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Mos Def, Common, Eve, D’Angelo and Beanie Sigel.

Re-listening to the album after so many years, my first thought is that I got to load some of these tracks onto my MP3 player. Each of the 14 tracks is distinctive but they flow extremely well together. Band member Questlove stated that during the recording period, the group had upwards of around 145 songs, but narrowed their choices to the 14 songs that were released.

The critics loved Things Fall Apart (as they should have) which eventually went platinum. I know we had Common, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, and Lupe Fiasco but between head nods, I’m thinking “what happened to the hip hop, alternative, neo-soul scene”?

The Roots filled and capitalized on a much needed niche in hip hop music that many of us have been searching for ever since. They elevated hip hop and connected to its Jazz, Rapper’s Delight, Run DMC, EPMD, X-Clan, KRS One, Gang Star, Pete Rock & CL Smooth, roots. They didn’t bitch-n-ho us to death nor dumb us down to entertain us. Props to The World Class Legendary Roots Crew!

A classic must have for true hip hop aficionados, celebrate the 15th Anniversary of Things Fall Apart by picking up the album. Also check out some of my favorite tracks below.

The Next Movement

You Got Me

Double Trouble

Act Too (The Love Of My Life)