No playing games…

The Roots sound more alive on their albums than most other hip-hop groups, which is probably what makes them such a sensational listen. Their ability to design beats that couple so well with singer Black Thought’s lyrics are what make them such a great sell to their loyal fan base. And just like Phrenology and The Tipping Point, Game Theory continues The Roots evolution into one of the best mainstream hip-hop groups around.

The Roots seem to be all about the “game” of life. How we play it and how some of us lose while others win. So it’s fitting that the album and the first great track off it are both titled “Game Theory.” Other tracks, like the first single “Don’t Feel Right” and “Atonement” blast off on a slew of critiques and tough questions that are rarely answered but perfect subject matter for the serious songwriter. But its how these tracks work off each other that makes them so distinguishable on the album.

The strongest and most defined tracks on the album come later. Tracks like “Baby,” the incredibly catchy “Long Time,” “Livin’ in a New World,” “Clock with No Arms,” and the perfect closer “Can’t Stop” yet again give equal weight to the album, instead of overshadowing one another.

There are a few things that separate Game Theory from previous Root’s efforts. One being the new label. And now that I’ve said that, get it out of your mind because it has no barring on the quality of Game Theory. The second is the subject matter, which is surprisingly dark and heavy. There’s something very freeing and admirable about a group that isn’t willing to put on a smiley face and fake a feeling. Even the first single, “Don’t Feel Right” is rather harsh and pushy for the MTV crowd. But that’s what The Roots represent, a group that isn’t willing to take the common short cuts to fame. Their glory is their music.

Danny Gordon may be contacted at