Game Theory is the Roots' equivalent of a Funkadelic playlist containing "Wars of Armageddon," "Cosmic Slop," "Maggot Brain," "March to the Witch's Castle," and "America Eats Its Young." It's a vivid reflector of the times, not an escape hatch (of which there are several readily available options). Spinning turbulence, paranoia, anger, and pain into some of the most exhilarating and startling music released in 2006, the group is audibly galvanized by the world's neverending tailspin and a sympathetic alignment with Def Jam. Batting around stray ideas and squeezing them into shape was clearly not part of the plan, and neither was getting on the radio.
The Roots :: Game TheoryDef Jam/OkayplayerAuthor: Steve 'Flash' JuonTHANK YOU DEF JAM. This commendation is simply for getting The Roots off of Geffen Records and bringing them to an imprint which has historically been home to hip-hop since the 1980's. Let's make no bones about it - nobody in the Legendary Roots Crew could have been happy with the way Geffen rearranged their tracks, shuffled their release dates and then to add insult to injury dropped a highly anticipated Black Thought solo album altogether.
With their liberal politics and rock-band set-up, the Roots are the hip-hop group it's OK for Jools Holland to like, but they pall over long distances. Blame their weakness for jamming, and the dry, earnest rapping of frontman Black Thought. Like fellow rap mavericks Common and Cee-Lo, the Philadelphians have at last twigged that ambition and brevity aren't mutually exclusive; this album, their first for Jay-Z's label Def Jam, is as tight as a fist.
For a group possessed of superior talent, the Roots have always been conspicuously short on hooks. This is understandable to a degree, given the fundamentally non-melodic core of the group – the master of the pocket, Questlove, and the tireless MC, Blackthought – and their background as, essentially, a hip-hop jamband. Still, it's noteworthy that the group, nearly 15 years past its first release, has never embraced the type of hook-laden songcraft that’s made superstars out of contemporaries like OutKast and Jay-Z, the latter happening to be the group’s current boss and occasional collaborator.