illadelph halflife album cover

The Roots – Illadelph Half Life (1996)

Illadelph Halflife was actually my introduction to The Roots crew and I must have struck lucky first time because in my opinion it is hands down the greatest Roots album.

Illadelph Halflife was released on September 24, 1996 on Geffen Records, and is The Roots third studio album. Far from your conventional ‘rap group’, the Roots became the first hip hop act to put together an impressive live show without the use of samples and sequencers. They did away with the DAT and DJ and opted for a live jazz-funk band, blatantly defying hip hop’s unspoken boundaries. Their second studio album “Do You Want More?” consisted almost entirely of live music and spawned such memorable tracks as “Proceed,” “Distortion To Static,” “Silent Treatment” and “Mellow My Man.” You could say their style epitomizes the very definition of “raw uncut hip hop.”

This time round, Illadelph Halflife contains integration of programmed drums and guest contributions by R&B musicians such as Amel Larrieux and D’Angelo, as well as jazz musicians such as David Murray, Steve Coleman, Cassandra Wilson and Graham Haynes.


Lyrically this is the Roots most focused effort. Black Thought and Malik B literally tear it to pieces, consistently displaying some of the most outstanding examples of mc-ing that has ever been recorded.  “what they do” is the song that will catch you on the first listen and if your old enough you might remember the classic anti-consumerist video that accompanied it. Black Thought’s delivery in “Respond/React” will teach you what good rap should sound like, and the epic “Concerto of the desperado” will expand your notions of how far hip hop can go. But my absolute favourites have to be “No alibi” and “No great pretender,” both of these tracks will leave you in a hypnotic trance!

Forget the download and order the CD/vinyl or tape, and own a piece of authentic hip hop history from one of the most unique hip hop acts of our time.

ALBUM FACT: Rahzel -The human beatbox“ provides the beat on the amazing track “No Great Pretender” using nothing but his voice box!


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