The Legendary Roots Bracket – 2012

A while ago I did this.  Truth be told, I made a lot of mistakes on it.  This is my redemption.

After a string of lazy posts it was time to do something big, something important, something noble.  This is just about the most noble thing I’ve ever done.

I trudged through 10 studio albums, 2 EPs, 2 collaborative albums, 2 compilation albums and 1 live album worth of songs and compiled a 64 seed tournament, March Madness style, featuring The Roots’ greatest tracks.

It was a labor of love.

Now it’s time for the unveiling of The Legendary Roots Bracket – 2012

(Click Bracket to Enlarge)

Break Down

Do You want More?!!!??! – 8
Illadeph Halflife – 8
Things Fall Apart – 8
How I Got Over – 7
Phrenology – 6
Game Theory – 6
Rising Down – 5
The Tipping Point – 5
Organix – 4
Undun – 4
The Roots Come Alive- 4
Wake Up! – 1


1. Seeds – Based on popularity of song, determined by Google hits.

2. Advancing – Best song advances, determined by me.

3. Eligibility – Quest must be on the drums and Black Thought must make an appearance (I’m looking at you Wake Up Everybody).

**DRINKING GAME: if you’re of age and want to get wasted, EVERY TIME I use the word “SO” TAKE A SHOT (you’ll be drunk by the sweet sixteen, trust me)**


First Round


You Got Me may be the best rap love some of all-time (yea, I’m looking at you Meth and Mary) .;  MINI-UPSET:  Concerto Of The Despardo is so lyrically dense it has to win.;  UPSET:  With a beat that doesn’t quit and Black Thought ‘s ferocious flow Thought @ Work stuns the more laid back Star.;  It’s hard to pick against a Jill Scott hook, but Black Thought and Malik B do some heavy lifting on Proceed.;  UPSET:  Common + Black Thought = Round of 32.  The Show moves on.;  Arguably the best matchup of the first round.  Each track could make a strong argument to be in the Elite Eight, but instead one track will get bounced in the the first round.  DJ Jazzy Jeff’s scratches give The Next Movement a big assist and pushes it ahead of I Will Not Apologize.;  UPSET: Soulful hook.  Check.  Tight flow.  Check.  Al Hirt sample. Check.  What else do you want?  Stay Cool takes it.; GIGANTIC UPSET:  Combine Black’s smooth storyteller flow, D’Angelo’s soul and  ?uestlove’s relaxed metronome drumming,  The Hypnotic out finesses Game Theory.


First off let me say, I LOVE Anti-Circle, but I can’t bring myself to knock out How I Got Over this early.;  I Remain Calm is absolutely dizzying,  Black Thought and Malik B (especially Malik) are  all over the place, in a good great way.;  Black Thought slows down his flow on Silent Treatment and raps about an ex.  It came out in ‘94, 8 year old Drake probably vibed to this hard.;  What You Want may have the jazzy instrumental edge, but it doesn’t matter.  Tip The Scale is an uber-tragic street ballad, that demands respect.;  Water was inspired by Malik B’s drug addiction.  Can’t Stop This is dedicated to the late hip-hop producer J Dilla.  The Dilla beat on Can’t Stop This is the epitome of soul, but the trippy Pink Floydian second and third act of Water cannot be overlooked.;  Break You Off  is just plan-ol’-good-hip-hop.  Good hook, good rhymes, good beat.;  Black’s at his most audacious in 75 Bars, one of the rawest Root’s songs ever.; This region holds serve.  No major upsets, no minor upsets.  What They Do advances comfortably.                              


Why isn’t Cody Chestnut bigger?  Datskat is good, but The Seed (2.0) is too good.;  MINI-UPSET:  It’s hard to pick against Mos and Black trading bars, but Black Thought and Malik are on another level in Mellow My Man.;  UPSET:  Good Music, you had me at “peace to all the hip cats, the nappy sweets,  this is your brother ?uestion…”  This ain’t even close,  just sit back relax and dig the groove.;  Here I Come just overwhelms Don’t See Us, too much drums, too much energy, too much everything.;  This is the closest matchup in the region, it’s a battle of battle raps. All the verses on Clones are ridiculously vicious.  It’s awesome.  Sorry Beans, you can’t rhyme “them” thirteen times in a row and expect to make it to the second round.;  UPSET:  The menacing beat and the mush mouth hook on Don’t Say Nuthin’ work, but they can’t even come close to touching Black’s verses on No Alibi.;  How good is Dice Raw’s hook?  Throw in Phonte’s verse and ?uest’s drums.  Now or Never  advances easy.;  Big KRIT hijacks Make My, which is probably the best track on Undun.


#1 SEED UPSET:  Only one of these songs has a human beat box.  60% of the time that song wins all the time.  Plus Malik comes back hard.  Nothing against In The Music, but 100%Dundee has to take this one.;  MINI-UPSET:  Walk Alone kicks off How I Got Over and any song that references Robert Guillaume deserves a special place in the second round.;  ?UESTLOVE RAPPING!!!!!  Yea, Black’s verse on Push Up Ya Lighter  is probably better, but ?UESTLOVE IS RAPPING on Pass the Popcorn, I can’t pick against Questo rapping in the first round.;  “More beef than broccoli,” I don’t believe Common incorporates any Chinese stir-fry references into Act Too, nope he doesn’t, Dear God 2.0 wins, sorry Com.;  Live, BOOM! is insane, too bad this isn’t live.  In Rising Up, Black rattles off rhyme after rhyme like only he can, Wale also contributes a pre-MMG verse which is pretty nice.; UPSET:  I Can’t Help It is so antsy and on edge, from the beat to the hook to the verses, it all just fits.;  UPSET: Black just rhymed “silly concoction” with  “Botulinum toxin”?  WHAAATT!?!?! Black Thought wins.  Unfortunately, Radio Daze is just a better song, Blu and PORN spit crazy verses and of course Black Thought doesn’t disappoint.;  GIGANTIC UPSET:  It’s becoming clear that this is easily the deepest region.  This is the fifth upset (and there could have easily been two more).  This is another real close one, so what if Essayhuman?!!!?! is mostly just onomatopoeias, I promise you, after just one listen, it will be stuck in your head for the rest of the day.


Second Round



Ms. Badu isn’t going anywhere just yet.  You Got Me strolls into the sweet sixteen.;  It’s a clash of relaxed (Proceed) vs. frenzied (Thought @ Work).  Is that a human beat box in the second verse?  Yep, Proceed sneaks into the next round.;  Simple arithmetic.  The Roots + DJ Jazzy Jeff > Black Thought + Common.  The Next Movement moves on.;  Stay Cool is The Tipping Point’s sole survivor.  It narrowly slips past The Hypnotic, thanks to a dope horn section.


How I Got Over is the turning point of the album sharing the same name.  It flips the switch from melancholy to upbeat and Dice Raw murders the hook.;  The last act (or first, depending on how you look at it) of Redford Stephens’ story (Tip The Scale) over some chick who’s not returning Thought’s calls (Silent Treatment).;  UPSET:  An intra-album matchup, Phrenology vs. Phrenology.  Black’s ode to Malik B (Water) or Black’s ode to OPP (Break You Off).  Got to go with the more personal Water.;  Black is SO aggressive in 75 Bars and I really want to choose it, but I can’t.  What They Do is just too hip-hop (plus the video is perfect).


Mellow My Man is an absolutely fantastic rap song, just bars on bars on bars over a good beat.  The Seed (2.0) is a  fucking awesome rock song.  The fact that The Roots can make a fucking awesome rock song just shows how talented they are, especially when other rappers have tried and failed (cough-Wayne-cough-Cudi-cough-Lupe-cough).;  UPSET:  Here I Come is crazy to see live, but ?uest’s  too-cool-for-school drumming on Good Music  kills it.  And Kid Crumbs is so underrated, he’s like the irreverent fun ODB of the early Roots.;  UPSET:  This is undoubtedly the marquee matchup of the second round.  Clones is unbelievably militant and everyone’s verse is on point, but the second verse of No Alibi is just about better than anything anyone has ever done ever.;  UPSET:  Now Or Never is the ultimate, “I got to make a move” song.  If you’re stuck in a rut, PLAY THIS SONG.


CINDERELLA ALERT:  The shoe fits.  100% Dundee continues its improbable run, it’s The Roots at their most bombastic.;  Dear God 2.0’s Monster of Folk sample followed by the beat drop followed by Black rapping to God edges out the light and loose Pass The Popcorn.  Good-bye rapping ?uest, you will be missed.;  UPSET:  I Can’t Help It owns a ominous beat and Black Thought at his darkest.  The whole song is sort of sinister and twisted.  Sonically it all just works.;  I’ve never wanted to pick song where the highlight of the song was “I’m the b-ling-ling-ding-ding-ding -b-ling-ding-ding-ling rhyme displayer” so much, but unfortunately there are too many really good words in Radio Daze.  Sorry Essayhuman?!!!??!.                    

Who’s Left?

HowI Got Over – 4
Things Fall Apart – 3
Illadelph Halflife – 2
Phrenology – 2
Organix – 1
Do You Want More?!!!??! – 1
The Tipping Point – 1
Rising Down – 1
Undun – 1


Sweet Sixteen



#1 SEED UPSET:  You Got Me is The Root’s biggest hit, no questions asked.  It’s the Duke of this bracket.  It features an awesomely sultry hook by Erykah Badu.  It features an air tight verse from Eve.  It’s undoubtedly a top five hip-hop love song of all time.  All that said, Proceed is better.  Black’s flow on Proceed is so effortless, soooo effortless.  Malik B rhymes just as easy.  ?uestlove’s drums are the ultimate “headphones on, head bobbing” beat.  It’s just an overall great groove.

Stay Cool isn’t even in the same stratosphere of The Next Movement.  This is easily the easiest call to make in this round.  The Next Movement encapsulates The Roots’ sound better than just about anything else in their discography.


Both, How I Got Over and Tip The Scale are street anthems, but How I Got Over is more anthem-y.  Maybe it’s not fair to call Tip The Scale an anthem, it’s more of a ballad.  Tip The Scale is sadder, it has tragedy built into it.  How I Got Over has an upbeat pessimism, almost like, “the game may be rigged, but FUCK IT, I can make it,” whereas Tip The Scale is resigned to its impending failure.

Water has three parts.  The first is Black trying to encourage Malik to get his life back on track (it’s some of his strongest verses).  The second is a long interlude of dulled sounds and drums.  The third is a wild all out musical-clash-orgy of guitar, drums, keyboards and screams.   It’s easily the most experimental route The Root’s have ever taken.  It runs an unbelievable TEN MINUTES LONG!!  It’s really quite weird.  What They Do is basically a manual of what keeps The Roots, The Roots.  What makes hip-hop, hip-hop and what makes posers, posers.  “Never do what they do,” should be The Root’s credo.  Water is a bit too weird, while What They Do is just so “Roots.”


This is easily the most stacked region.  The Seed (2.0) is better than Good Music, but instead of spewing praise on The Seed (2.0) (there will be time for that later) I want to show some love to the criminally under seeded Good MusicGood Music is off The Root’s first album, Organix.  I have no doubt this is exactly the kind of music they intended to make for their entire careers.  ?uestlove’s drumming is amazing, there’s a funky undertone, Black spits like an old school MC and Kid Crumbs plays the role of hype man.  Good Music is just fun.  I’m sad to see it go.

UPSET: No Alibi owns one of Malik B’s best verses.  It’s actually probably his best verse.  Add that to Black Thought’s first verse (the second verse of the song) it’s no question this 14 seed is going to the Elite Eight.  Lyrically Black’s doing back flips, somersaults, roundhouse kicks and judo chops on his verses.  Dice Raw’s hook on Now or Never is nice, but Black’s verses on No Alibi Chuck Norrises it.


FUCK GEORGE MASON:  When I was doing the seeding I couldn’t believe 100% Dundee was a 16 seed.  It bodies Dear God 2.0Dear God 2.0 is tender and sensitive, which is fine, but 100% Dundee is so hyped.  Black and Malik go HARD, REALLY HARD.  Oh yea, and the human beat box doesn’t hurt.

UPSET:  The region of upsets continue.  I Can’t Help It wins simply because no other song makes me feel so tense.  Sorry Blu, if it’s any consolation you really did kill your verse on Radio Daze.

Who’s Left?

Illadelph Halflife – 2
Things Fall Apart – 2
Do You Want More?!!!??! – 1
Phrenology – 1
Rising Down – 1
How I Got Over – 1


Elite Eight



It’s hard to find a song that better defines The Root’s sound than The Next Movement.  You hear it in the drums, the keyboard, Black Thought’s ad-libs, the Jazzyfatnastees’ backup vocals and just about everything else that goes into the track.  Proceed is more old school and more classically hip hop, but what makes The Roots so great is they’re not classically hip hop.  I mean Black Thought is a classic MC in every sense of the phrase, but musically they are not classic hip hop.  The Next Movement takes full advantage of the best band in hip hop, combines it with Black’s unflinching flow, throw in DJ Jazzy Jeff for good measure and you have a Final Four Roots track.


Love the tempo, love the hook, and even love Black’s singing in How I Got Over.  It’s the centerpiece of an awesome album predicated on the collective sigh of relief following Bush 43’s tenure as the most powerful man in the world.  Here’s the thing though, it’s hard to get more chill than What They Do.  Such a laid back beat, such a melodic hook.  Plus Black spits what can be seen as The Root’s mission statement: “Never do what they do.”  Here’s what The Roots do: live instrumentals, concept albums, rock songs, Radiohead samples, political awareness.  On the other hand, the “they” Black speaks of, don’t/can’t do any of that.


Hardcore Hip-Hop fans will tell you No Alibi has to win this matchup.  Like I’ve said, Tariq (after 2,000 words I’m comfortable using Black Thought’s real name) is so out of this world on the second verse of No Alibi, it may be the best verse of his career.  But The Seed (2.0) is so big.  It’s a spectacle.  I can and have listened to it on loop for hours.  I remember driving in a friend’s car, I put on The Seed (2.0), she said, “ugh, this is so played out.”  I gave her the side eye, DIDN’T change it and turned it up.  Needless to say we don’t talk anymore.  The Seed (2.0) marches on.


Earlier I described the Worldwide region as “deep.”  Well, it comes down to a 16 seed and a 14 seed, so yeah, that’s pretty deep.  I Can’t Help It is dark.  100% Dundee is pointed.  I got to go with 100% Dundee.  It’s a great bravado track.  It’s raw.  It’s in your face.  It hits hard.  It doesn’t pull punches.  It’s forceful.  It’s in the Final Four.

Who’s Left?

Things Fall Apart – 2
Illadelph Halflife – 1
Phrenology – 1


Final Four

The Next Movement, What They Do, The Seed (2.0), 100% Dundee

Four songs left.  Four distinct styles left.  Textured, Chilled, Rock, Bombastic

From the Rick Flare-esque “WOOOOO” opening to DJ Jazzy Jeff scratches to the cymbal crashes to the unprocessed hook, The Next Movement embodies The Roots sound like no other.  On the other hand, What They Do offers a lyrical road map of how the The Roots maintained their underground hip-hop credibility by not selling out (and no, being Jimmy Fallon’s house band is NOT selling out).  Here’s the thing though, when you want to listen to a Roots’ song, you want to hear something like The Next Movement.  Something were the band and the music doesn’t take a back seat to the lyricist, but instead they’re on the same plane and that’s why The Next Movement trumps What They Do.

In a bracket, matchups mean EVERYTHING100% Dundee is a really good track, but part of the reason it advanced so far is because the Wordwide region lacked any true juggernaut.  On the other hand, even as a #1 seed, The Seed (2.0) had the toughest road to the Final Four (by far).  The Seed (2.0) has an unbelievable listenability factor.  You can listen to it over and over again and it will never get old.  In college, during finals week, I’d play this song on loop in the library, whenever I started to feel burned out or just needed a break to refocus I would play it.  It was like a rebirth every time.  It picks your energy up and gets you ready to go.  Another quick story.  I saw The Roots live for Dick Clark’s Rocking New Years Eve.  They played The Seed (2.0) but the sound levels were off, so they played it again, again the levels were off, they played it five more times.  They never lost energy playing it and the crowd never lost energy listening to it.  The Seed (2.0) is a juggernaut.


The ‘Ship


The Winner: The Next Movement.

C’mon, the definitive Roots song had to be a rap song.  It had to shout out Philly.  It had to be the HOT music, the HOT-HOT music., the HOT music.  

A big THANK YOU to:

Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter
Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson
Kamal Gray
F. Knuckles
Captain Kirk Douglas
Damon “Tuba Gooding Jr” Bryson
James Poyser
Mark Kelly
Malik B.
Kenyatta “Kid Crumbs” Warren
Josh “Rubberband” Adams
Rahzel Brown
Karl “Dice Raw” Jenkins
Scott Storch
Ben Kenny
Kyle “Scratch” Jones
Martin Luther
Leonard “Hub” Hubbard
and Owen Biddle

Thank-you for reading.  Thank-you for sharing.  I hope all y’all liked it.

I want a Philly Cheesesteak.

I have no more words.

**If you played the drinking game, you probably have ALCOHOL POISONING and should go to the hospital IMMEDIATELY**


One thought on “The Legendary Roots Bracket – 2012

  1. Pingback: Drizzy Madness (Revised) Retrospective | Whiskey & Ice Cream Sandwiches

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