The Roots


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More a spin-off soundtrack to a DVD than an essential live release, The Roots Present is exciting in parts but fails to build the winning momentum The Roots Come Alive did. Of course this is a revue of artists involved with the Roots' label/promotion firm, so it's no big surprise the vibes are varied. What is surprising is how slapped-together the collection feels, especially from a group that has always had a keen eye on the album experience when others just focus on singles. Take the way "Break You Off" stops dead in its tracks with a quick fade-out, a jarring moment that's repeated throughout the collection. Without an overall flow, tracks like Jazzyfatnastees' broken-voiced and surprisingly faithful version of Britney Spears' "Toxic" make no sense. In concert, the Britney tune probably made for a fun, chuckle-worthy interlude, but here it's just silly. After the Roots' band finally agree on a tempo, Martin Luther's "Daily Bread" turns out to be a drippy ballad that'll make D'Angelo jealous. Every track by Mobb Deep and the Roots are worth hearing but the usually hot Young Gunz only go one for two. Their "Friday Night" hits extra hard while their "Can't Stop, Won't Stop" is too concerned with pumping the audience up to work on CD. An off-tempo clapping audience ruins Jean Grae's "Clap," but Skillz's excellent, Cosby-on-acid commentary "2003 Wrap Up" makes up for it. The "everyone on-stage!" "Clones" finally delivers the party to your headphones, but for anyone but the most hardcore Roots fan, this patchy collection is unnecessary.

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