November 18, 2008

The Roots - Do You Want More?!!!??! (January 17, 1995)

Do You Want More?!!!??!, the major label debut from The Roots, came one year after Geffen/DGC released the From The Ground Up EP (which consisted of songs that would appear on this album, along with two other tracks that are a bit harder to locate), and two years after they self-released Organix at their live shows. They signed their deal off of the strength of Organix, and decided to take their views on hip hop and live instrumentation to the masses.

The Roots, primarily made up of rappers Black Thought and Malik B, drummer/idea man ?uestlove, and a rotating band of musicians, quietly released Do You Want More?!!!??! to a hip hop nation that almost completely ignored it. Critical acclaim started to slowly leak in, but sales were dismal: indeed, if The Roots were a sitcom on Fox, they would have been cancelled midway through the first episode (and replaced by yet another airing of Family Guy). However, thanks to the jazz influences (which they wore on their sleeves), Black Thought's undeniable presence behind the mic, and a slot at Lollapalooza (the Roots Crew is one of the only acts that could actually perform at a concert festival such as that and seem at home, thanks to their habit of actually using instruments), The Roots soon found themselves with a cult following, primarily made up of obnoxious people that like to brag about bands that they love that you've never heard of.

Today, Roots fans applaud the album, often referring to it as their best work, as it presented the band at their most undiluted (subsequent discs would show the Roots Crew succumbing to overt hip hop cliches while fighting, successfully, to maintain their identity). Do You Want More?!!!??! is proof positive that music should be considered timeless, and not judged by how many units it moved in its opening week.

(A note about the tracklisting: The Roots opted to list all of their tracks in order of release, so as to make it seem that all of their songs are part of one giant catalog of work, which, if you think about it, they kind of are. The numbers in parenthesis are the actual track order for the disc itself.)

Not your usual rap album intro. It becomes apparent at the twenty-second mark that we're dealing with actual musicians, and not just simple rappers. This also serves to differentiate this disc from Organix, although, as you'll notice, it doesn't do a good enough job.

19. (2) PROCEED
There are at least eighty-seven variations on this one song, but this is the original. It's about as jazzy as GangStarr's older work, except for the fact that The Roots actually played all of the instruments. To be honest, I never cared for this track, and in listening to it today, I'm not about to start now. You may want to try one of the myriad of remixes for an alternate perspective.

One of my favorite early Roots track...oh, fuck it, one of my favorite Roots tracks period. From the creepy laughter during the "hook" down to Black Thought and Malik B on the mic, everything about this song is pitch perfect. I've also always loved the title, since it doesn't sound as "hip hop" as, say, a "Keep It Real" or "Represent" would.

I can't remember anything about the song, but I swear that it was just playing. Huh.

This isn't that bad, but the hook is a tad bit annoying, and the beat is overly simple. Still, Black Thought and Malik B manage to rip shit up. Which is nice.

23. (6) DATSKAT
You can skip this track with reckless abandon.


25. (8) ? VS. RAHZEL
On another album, this may be resigned to a simple interlude, but with The Roots, nothing is ever simple. As such, ?uestlove and former Roots member/resident beatboxer Rahzel battle each other, and quite impressively, I might add.

26. (9) DO YOU WANT MORE?!!!??!
Takes a while to get started, but once it hits you, you'll feel it. They even managed to include fucking bagpipes in the song: bet you didn't see that shit coming.

It's alright, but midway through it becomes more like an art installation and less like a song that someone would ever enjoy simply listening to. Elo's verse floats from speaker to speaker like a disembodied voice, which is actually a pretty creepy thought. Still, it was hard to get into this one.

28. (11) ESSAYWHUMAN?!!!??!
When this song first appeared on Organix, I had a complaint about Black Thought's scatting. The music is more prevalent on this incarnation, but my complaint is still valid.

29. (12) SWEPT AWAY
Thankfully, this is not the theme song to that horrible Guy Ritchie/Madonna remake. However, it's about as good.

30. (13) YOU AIN'T FLY
There is nothing engaging about this song, so I suppose it wouldn't be incorrect to state that this track ain't fly, either. The fact that ?uestlove steps behind the mic is halfway interesting, though.

This is another one of those "classic" Roots tracks (like "Proceed") that I could never get intro. This one's alright, I suppose, and I love the title (The Roots are usually great at creating song monikers), but the crew's first attempt at a love rap falls flat.

Rahzel provides all of the musical backdrop with his mouth, which isn't even the most interesting aspect of this Roots classic. This serves as affiliate Dice Raw's debut, and he rips the shit out of his cameo. Nice!

The beginning of a trend on Roots albums: the spoken-word outro. Longtime readers will be able to guess how I feel about this track, but for the newbies: spoken word kind of bores me to death. Not that Ursula Rucker isn't a capable poet, but I just don't care for these types of tracks. However, another Roots trend also begins here: the hidden content. Toward the very end of the track, after a long spell of silence, you are rewarded with Rahzel's impersonation of a kung-fu flick that's both funny and faithful to the source material.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Do You Want More?!!!??! should be considered the "true" debut album from The Roots, although one shouldn't discount Organix entirely. The Roots were new to the game and were trying to carve their niche, but as a result, a lot of these tracks ultimately meander nowhere. Black Thought's skilled rhyming style was evident even back then (and Malik B isn't half bad, either), but musically, if this were a jazz album, this would sound much more impressive. (I'm obviously omitting the beatboxing on several tracks in order to make my point.) The songs that click, however, are fucking fantastic, and still sound as fresh as they did back in the mid-1990's.

BUY OR BURN? Longtime Roots aficionados already own this one, but casual listeners shouldn't run out to buy it, as it isn't the best or most accessible starting point for them. A burn is sufficient, especially of the songs listed below, as this disc is something you have to ease into. After listening, if you feel the need to shoot a couple of bucks their way, I'm sure they would appreciate it.

BEST TRACKS: "The Lesson Pt. 1"; "Distortion To Static"; "Do You Want More?!!!??!"


Read up on The Roots by clicking here.


  1. Even though i disagree with this review, I can understand why some people would not like this album that much. Now Max what you need to do is review ILLADELPH HALFLIFE. To me thats their best album, and I would like to see your thoughts on that album.

  2. I loved this album when I first heard it, but after listening to the Roots evolve into their current tightly focused, dark sound, this one is hard to come back to. Black Thought's spastic rapping and scatting combined with the crew's spastic jazz playing makes this one very grating after about five tracks. This disc will always hold a place in my heart, though.

  3. Max...
    This album is dope.
    It's my favorite Roots album (the only one where I listen to every song), and it's worth your money. It might take a little while to "grow" on you, but the jazzy influence is ever-present, and Black Thought is a great rapper.
    This album is perfect for summer days, and it's just reminding me how it's fucking like 12 degrees outside where I'm at, and making me depressed.

    Try listening to this one again.
    In respectful disagreeance,

  4. Illadelph Halflife is on Illmatic level X...

  5. "Illadelph Halflife is on Illmatic level X..."

    I agree with you right there. Illadelph Halflife is one of my top 10 albums.

  6. Proceed was the first Roots song I heard and back in '96 (when I first heard it) I just wasn't digging it. Know however, it is one of my top 5 Roots songs and the first Roots song I wanted to play along to once i picked up the bass. I disagree with Max though, to me "Silent Treatment" is FAR from flat and ranks up there with "The 'Notic" I don't have a copy of the other Roots albums (ones I bought nyway) apart from this one but I intended on getting Illadelph Halflife which I think is one of their strongest.

  7. AnonymousMay 10, 2009

    max must have been in a hurry to ghost ride the whip with marion barry because this shit is dope from opening to closing, fuck what how good they are now. This was the ish when it came out in philly and even playing it now will get heads to nod

  8. I always felt like they were the radiohead of hip-hop mainly because black thought to me is like thom yorke and they had a crazy cool drummer.. one of the only hip-hop groups to play live w/ instruments for countless hip-hop acts.. prolly my favorite rap group just because i have almost all their records n i enjoy them... anyway good review but this album is okay..