I’ve mentioned before on this blog that The Roots are my second favorite hip-hop group of all-time, next to who I’m sure you can figure out if you read this blog with any regularity. Since the mid-nineties, hip-hop’s first official band (I know Stetsasonic came first, but does a drummer and keyboardist qualify as a band?) has seen many line-up changes, but has consistently given the world quality music (well, there were a couple of questionable moments, like Rising Down and …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin, but that’s a discussion for another day), led by their two cornerstones, Questlove (on the drums) and emcee extraordinaire, Black Thought (who ya’ll might want to start putting on your greatest of all-time lists). The Roots released Organix independently in 1993 (you can read my thoughts on that album here), but their official label release (on Geffen) wouldn’t come until 1995 in the form of Do You Want More?!!!??!
Do You Want More?!!!??! was my first introduction to The Roots, as I wouldn’t hear Organix until 20 years after it was released. The album builds on Organix’ formula of live jazz infused hip-hop instrumentation, or as Black Thought once so elegantly called it: organic hip-hop jazz. Do You Want More?!!!??! would slowly build momentum, becoming a critical darling, as many straddled the line of accepting The Roots as a true hip-hop group (once upon a time live instrumentation and bands were frowned upon by a lot of so-called true hip-hop heads). Even slower would be the album’s commercial success, as it would take 20 years for it to reach gold status.
Let’s revisit Do You Want More?!!!??! together, and if you still have a physical copy, pull out the very detailed liners notes (one of the many things I love about the majority of The Roots albums) and check ’em out while you listen. I’m sure they’ll make you chuckle at least once.
Intro/There’s Something Goin’ On – Do You Want More?!!!??! opens with a quick snippet taken from one of The Roots live shows (performing “I’m Out Deah”, which is also on Organix), letting the listener know they’re about to experience “some organic hip-hop jazz”. Then Leonard Hubbard (aka Hub) drops a thick drowsy bass line, backed by Quest’s scarce drums, while he, Black Thought and Malik B repeat “There’s something goin’ on” over and over again, in different tones.
Proceed – This was the second single released from Do You Want More?. Questlove and the gang hook up a beautiful melancholy jazz groove that Black Thought and Malik B use to warm up on for the evening. This is a classic record that’s great for consoling you when you’ve got a bad case of the Mondays.
Distortion To Static – This was the lead single from Do You Want More? and the song that introduced most people (including myself) to The Roots. Quest provides the drums and sinister laugh, Hub, the nasty bass line and Scott Storch brings the dark chords on the keys. Thought completely annihilates the instrumentation with his verse and Malik holds his own on the second verse (Quest hilariously pokes fun at one of Malik’s lines in the liner notes for this song, calling him “the only man to ever witness “cattle in the steeple”). This one sounds just as great today as it did back in ’95.
Mellow My Man – Quest and dem slide Thought and Malik a smooth mid-tempo groove that the duo use to take turns spitting freestyle bars over. Thought and Malik sound good, but the jazzy groove carries this one.
I Remain Calm – The band hooks up a high energy banger (that the liner notes mention includes an “irritating what the hell is she saying background” vocal courtesy of Shorty No Mas, who also appeared on Organix) for Malik and Thought to feast on. Malik bats first and doubles with a solid verse, then Thought steps up to the mic and knocks this shit dead out of the stadium on the first pitch with his stellar verse. This shit was, is and will always be, ill.
Datskat – Another dope jazz groove brought to you courtesy of the The Roots. Thought and Malik use it to play double agents as rappers and scatters.
Lazy Afternoon – Quest and the fellas put together a laidback funk groove that Thought uses to repeat the same verse three times about a lazy Saturday afternoon. Not my favorite song on the album, but BT does manage to shout out ATCQ and “Electric Relaxation” in his verse (Tribe Degrees of Separation: check).
? Vs. Rahzel – Questlove provides the drums, while Rahzel provides everything else, including the kitchen sink, as he plays the emcee, horns section and bass, flawlessly with his voice. This makes for an enjoyable two man jam session.
Do You Want More?!!!??! – Black Thought may be the only emcee in the history of hip-hop to “unleash the bagpipes on ’em”. The song starts with bagpipes playing (courtesy of Rufus Harley) before the drums and the rest of the instruments join in to complete a dope backdrop that BT completely dismantles in one verse with his “fly Philly nigga” shit (“So, niggas best get out of my path, I’m on point like a gat, the basket case, I waste emcees with rapture taste, facin’ these leads to cats diminished, they be pullin’ the mic out that ass when I get finished, Administrative Assistant I’m not, yo, I’m the principal, nigga take a shot like I’m invincible, figure me to be hardcore, my input cuts your jaw, for real, for sure, do you want more?”). And just to rub it in these basic emcees’ faces, Thought does an ill mimic of turntables cutting with his voice, giving an example of what true showmanship looks like. This is one of the greatest title songs in hip-hop history (someday I’ll have to make a list).
What Goes On Pt. 7 – The Roots lay down a smooth slightly melancholy soundscape for Thought, Malik B and special guest, Elo The Cosmic Eye (who sounds a lot like Dice Raw) to spit verses on. Of course, Thought walks away with this one, as he starts his verse with one of the most blunt “oh, by the way” opening bars (Niggas can not see me, cannot be me or, capture the metaphoric phrase blasted off stage when I tour, I am but a messenger born to blow up, my niggas new it all the time, lyrically, I was a dime at the age of nine, shorty Black could rhyme, on the mic, I never wasted time”), but the other two-thirds of the trio hold their own as well. This must have been one of the last songs recorded for Do You Want More?, as the instrumentation feels a lot like the vibes on Illadelph Halflife. Great song that will leave you wanting to hear the first six parts.
Essaywhuman?!!!??! – This was taken from a recording of one of The Roots lives shows at the Trocodero in Philly (on December 15, 1993, to be exact…I love liner notes). It captures The Roots in a jam session with Black Thought vibing and introducing each part of the band that also mimics his scats. I didn’t care much for this one back in my teen years, but now as a full grown man, I can appreciate it more.
Swept Away – The band hooks up a creamy/dreamy groove (the same groove that I imagine was running through Questlove’s head on the album cover) that Malik and Thought each get off qualities verses on. This one is simply, beautiful.
You Ain’t Fly – The Roots dibble in their r&b bag with this one. The band plays a dope groove with a late eighties feel, while Thought, Malik and Questlove take turns discussing women who they were initially attracted to, but something in their talk, walk or attitude made them think otherwise. Except for Quest, who deals with rejection from the object of his affection by downplaying how fly she really is, which I’m sure most of us guys have done once or twice.
Silent Treatment – Staying in their r&b bag, the band puts together a somber backdrop for Black Thought (who the liner notes hi-lariously credit simply as “lonely” for this song) to spit a love ballad about his boo who is now giving him the cold shoulder. This is how a r&b love song should sound.
The Lesson Pt. 1 – Rahzel takes care of all the production with this one, providing the beat-box and the vocal bass (Quest does provide the occasional squeal), which are the Double Dutch ropes that Thought and long term Roots affiliate, Dice Raw jump in and rip up. The liner notes say Dice Raw’s verse was a true freestyle that he did in one take, which is really impressive, considering he was only 15 at the time.
The Unlocking – The album ends with a spoken word piece from Ursula Rucker, which would become a tradition on the next few Roots’ albums. The Roots bring back the instrumental from the opening song that Rucker uses to share a poem from the perspective of a hurt woman who lets the man she used to love and seven of his homeboys run a train on her. But, it ends with a bit of a twist, giving validation to the old adage that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. If you’re patience enough to wait a few minutes after the poem ends, at the 7 minute 50 second mark, a quick karate skit comes in (that must have been an inside joke) that adds absolutely nothing to the experience.
Thought’s flow was still slightly animated on Do You Want More?!!!??!, but his word wizardry definitely matured since Organix. And Malik B playing Robin to his Batman was a nice added touch (where do you rate Malik B as a “B mic” in hip-hop history? Hit me in the comments). The Roots also improved musically since Organix, as they string together even tighter organic hip-hop jazz grooves. And when you couple the exceptional soundscapes with top-notch emceeing, you get a hip-hop classic. 1995 is off to a great start!