The Roots know they're on the cusp of entering the upper echelon of rap popularity. Forever championed by critics and underground hip-hop fans, the group has scored hits on their past two albums: "You Got Me" from 1999's Things Fall Apart and "The Seed (2.0)" from 2002's Phrenology. The Tipping Point means many things to the band, including that this album may very well decide if this band is accepted by the general hip-hop populace, or left to be appreciated by those who look hard enough for good hip-hop.
Thus, it's rather ballsy that The Tipping Point's first single is "Don't Say Nuthin'," a track in which lead emcee Black Thought rips the bland hip-hop community that isn't saying anything. Black Thought mumbles through most of us the chorus before rapping, "Just give it here/And don't say nuthin'." The irony, of course, is that The Roots have always been a band that has said something, speaking out on everything, ranging from the African-American culture losing a hold of the music they have created to the current war in Iraq.
The Tipping Point is a statement that if The Roots are going to become one of the top hip-hop acts in America, it will be done on their terms. Phrenology was a frenzied effort that never stayed in one genre for too long, but The Tipping Point is a focused effort that grooves from track to track as Black Thought lays into the current government's policies on "Guns Are Drawn," or pays homage to old school hip-hop on "Boom!"
Despite the sometimes heavy subject matter, The Roots aren't a one-note band. On the secret track "In Love With (The Mic)," Dave "One Take" Chappelle guests on a funny track about music and women. Even on the incendiary "Don't Say Nuthin'," the sparse beat and verbal digs are so spot-on that you can't help but laugh.
With The Tipping Point, The Roots have not made a push towards mainstream acceptance. Instead, they acknowledge the distinct possibility of bigger and better things while also stating that if the Rolling Stones and TRLs of the world come calling, they'll be waiting with the same attitude and approach that has won them the respect of a discerning hip-hop community. With an eye on the present and the past, The Roots are prepared for wherever this Tipping Point takes them.