Game Theory 

The Roots (Def Jam)

In warning cultural tourists, "I'm from the illiest part of the Western Hemisphere/So if you're sightseeing, don't visit here" and later comparing his South Philly 'hood to the Gaza Strip, normally mundane MC Black Thought gives the Roots' career-best Game Theory a useful conceptual focus: While our attention is focused a world away, things are falling apart in our own backyard. The music does the rest. Gone are the jazzmatazz keyboards of the band's early work and the black-rock pretensions of 2002's Phrenology. This dense, claustrophobic headphone funk never stops popping and exploding, with block-rocking beats, spacey keyboard riffs, rumbling basslines, and connect-the-dots guitar licks coming together for a sound more confident and unsparing than anything this celebrated band's done before. ("Baby," "Here I Come," "Don't Feel Right") -- CH

Grade: A-

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