A comprehensive view of The Roots’ evolutionary process
The Roots fall into a strange place in the history of hip-hop. Black Thought (Tariq Trotter) and Questlove (Ahmir Thompson) formed the group all the way back in 1987 and are easily the longest-lived hip-hop group in a startlingly young genre. While one might reasonably assume that this would make them one of the most influential hip-hop acts ever, that title has never been conferred on the impressive group. The reasons for this lack of recognition are myriad, ranging from being perceived as sellouts to being from the wrong region. Whatever the reasons, Do You Want More?!!!??! (Deluxe Edition) makes a compelling argument for re-evaluation.
Before diving into the good, let’s take a quick glance at the not-so-good. This album, like all deluxe editions, is long. But it is not just long; it is gargantuan. The album itself runs for 160+ minutes, putting it alongside overlong Marvel films in terms of total length. The absurd length is exasperated by a mind-boggling track sequencing. Once the first 16 tracks pass by, people are left with the expected bonus tracks and remixes. But instead of shaking up the listing, it just back to back the same track over and over and over. Sure, these are remixes, so they aren’t entirely identical, but “Silent Treatment” and “Proceed” both play four and five times in a row. It’s just not a compelling way to listen to a record. Surely it’s a move for streaming, but on an album, it’s incredibly frustrating.
But now, to the good. The original tracks are all as delightful as one would recall them. “Proceed” still has that classic hip-hop vibe, “Mellow My Man” is absurdly relaxing. “Datskat” and “Do You Want More?!!!??!” both show glimpses of how Black Thought will evolve his flow to become one of the most iconic MCs of all time. In particular, “The Unlocking” gives people a perfect glimpse of the higher concept work that would follow with Things Fall Apart, Phrenology and Undun.
The remixes, despite their poor sequencing, do provide a glimpse into the evolution of The Roots. With new beats and verses, people can clearly see how both The Roots and hip-hop have changed in the 26 years since this record dropped. People can also get a glimpse into how The Roots viewed other artists at the time. In particular, in the track “In Your Dreams Kid (I’m Every MC),” people hear Black Thought mocking Wu-Tang specifically, which is absolutely hilarious. The cut is a highlight of the project and may justify the whole deluxe edition.
Ultimately, Do You Want More?!!!??! (Deluxe Edition) is a bit of a mixed bag. While its core remains essential, if dated, the rest often feels tacked on and inconsequential. Deluxe editions are often best when loaded with unreleased tracks rather than just remixes. And while there are a few worthwhile additions, a majority of the supplementary material simply bogs down the release. If nothing else, it provides an interesting look into the evolution of one of the most important hip-hop groups of all time, and that’s certainly worth something.