eMusic Review 0
Sustained Morse code notes fade in and out before Black Thought buzzes in, rattling off a minute-long eyewitness account of a neighborhood shooting. The Roots may have signed to Geffen, but instead of celebrating its newfound success, illadelph halflife has the Roots filing a sobering, 20-song report of its hometown, drug-fueled warfare, and reveling in its own narrow escape. Parts of illadelph is the Roots reaching a compromise between what ’90s-rap listeners wanted to hear and what the band wanted to deliver; most notably, in hopes of mimicking the increasingly-popular MPC, ?uestlove’s sanded down his snare beats to mind-numbing monotony. In comparison, other parts of illadelph quiver. A piano shivers uncontrollably as Black Thought challenges competition in “Respond/React,” before operatic moans heighten the strings-driven tension in “Concerto of the Desperado.” The emotionally removed beats, the fearful rest — it all collides to devastating effect on Black Thought, who’s capable of counting his cousins among other losses to Philadelphia gunfire without losing a beat. He’s a detached reporter, even when he touts his own lyrical annihilation. “Used to rap for sport/ Now the rhymes sayin’ rent, paying life support,” he says, as matter-of-fact as he could muster.