"Illadelph Halflife" is the third album by the Philadelphia Hip Hop band, The Roots. For this album, released in 1996, the group decided to make great changes as they strayed away from the natural feel of there music, which would sound like improvisational Jazz, jam cuts, to opt for some more structured work which possessed lots of hooks and production from third-party groups. No major changes were made to the line-up though as Black Thought, ?uestlove, Malik B, and Rahzel all return.
This is a heavy way to get things started as the group come out with a dark track, and mangage to contrast this by performing in an excntging way as they come with the type of funky raps which we have grown to love from the group through the years, starting in 1991. Thought start things off (as it should be done), and reassures listners with his smooth rhymes.
It just doesn't stop as Black Thought begins the track once again and goes for some of the same sort of things which we heard on the debut and second album, "Do You Want More?!!!??!", however I have to say that this is far from a negative point as he completely rips the beats apart with his intellectual flow on rhymes before Malik B. takes a shot on the mic(rophone).
This is a short track which I really wanted to like, as the lyrics were so strong, however the beats in this one were so off-putting. In it, you have the most chaotice arrangement, distracting you as you listen to the nearly a mintue and a half's worth of Roots material.
5. "It Just Don't Stop"
The group get consicous on this oneas the comment on how bad the world has got, and how people face danger everytime the step into the streets and face the risk of being jumped or worse, without any cause or reason. I found it all well done, and showed how they had taken influence from others who tend to do this sort of alternative Hip Hop (the type which they are deemed to be a part of now). This is a head-bopper where you should just follow the words.
6. "Episodes" (feat. Dice Raw)
Dice Raw collaborates with The Roots on this track, just as he did on the album which preceedde this album. I found that this track was rather uneventful, in comparison to what is usually expected of the group. On it you get them going for some darker stuff, to what you should get from them, and so I couldn't find my way into it, compared to how open they tend to be with their high-energy Hip Hop.
7. "Push Up Ya Lighter" (feat. Bahamadia)
Black Thought reinforces the fact that he is one of the greatest MCs ever when perfoming this track as he makes it apparent that he can't be tested when it comes to flowing on the mic. The way that he is able to control the beat is amazing, and justifies the fact that he is looked up to by so many up-and-comers in the game. This is one of the better trakcs from the group, and has them return to more fun stuff more a more general listener.
8. "What They Do" (feat. Raphael Saadiq)
The video for this track is one of the funniest you will ever get as it follows many Hip Hop video cliche's and acts them out in a mocking form. Away from this, focusing upon the music, this is a smooth joint from them as you get a R&B hook from the ex-Tony! Toni! Toné! singer, Raphael Saadiq. Thsi gives them the perfect foundations to talk about the state of 'the game' and how the motivations aren't as they should be.
9. "? vs. Scratch" (Lude)
10. "Concerto of the Desperado"
Thought provides his well-known intellectual lyrics to this track as he comes out with an unstoppable flow of thoughts, and ideas, which he manages to control into a well-structured piecie of music.Although I was unable to pick up a clear subject to it, it seemed to have a clear setting and direction for a strong outcome, which was achieved.
11. "Clones" (feat. Dice Raw and M.A.R.S.)
This one has the band go for something which is quite out-of-character for them as they come up ith a hardcore Hip Hop tune, along with M.A.R.S. and Dice Raw as they are motivated by the annoynace of people who let their lives go to waste by allowing it to be consumed by the streets, and all which comes along with them. These positive messages, seem to be a part of where The Roots are taking the material from the album, onwards.
12. "UNIverse at War" (feat. Common)
The Chicagan MC Common (at the time going by the name Common Sense) is the perfect man to continue where they took this album as he is one of the greatest Conscious Hip hop artists, and by collaborating with him, he is able to pass on all of this positive messages to an audience who perhaps hadn't got a chance to hear his alternative take on Hip Hop. He commonets on the fact that the East Coast-West Coasts feuds have begun, and the pointlessness of this all.
13. "No Alibi"
In this one, you have Black Thought doing what he does best as he just goes on and on with what is on his mind, and no matter where he is (mentally) at the time, he is able to come with some amazing things. The hard beats from The Grand Negaz give him just what he needs to get things going, and it all comes together with added input by Malik B.
14. "Dave vs. Us" (Lude)
15. "No Great Pretender"
The Roots finally use their in-house beatboxer, Rahzel for this track, and do it in a big way as they make him come up with some harsh beats for Malik and Thought to MC on, and the way he mamanges to mimmick the soudn of an electronic drum machine would actaully make you tihnk it was one, had it not been pointed out.
16. "The Hypnotic" (feat. D'Angelo)
The Neo-Souist, D'Angleo comes to give even more smooth vocals to the album, just as Raphael Saadi did earlier, and it gives just the right sort of setting which is needed for this one as Black Thought performs a story in rhymes, talking about how his relationship with a girl was lost over time due to unpredictable circumstances which occured.
17. "Ital" (feat. Q-Tip)
The ex-A Tribe Called Quest member, Q-Tip comes to work with The Roots on this one, and it seems as though he works with them as if he had done so for years, as he style and their, focusing around Jazz, seems to have united them, and allowed their work to combine without seeming forced in any way. The beats for this are a bit strange though, as with "Panic!!!!!!!", but its something you can get used to with time.
18. "One Shine" (feat. Amel Larrieux)
The Jazz in the group reimmerges as the get into a smooth session of jamming. There is some improvinational singing over this on as The Roots go inno some essentially instrumental stuff, which just isn't my thing.
19. "The Adventures in Wonderland" (feat. Ursula Rucker) (Lude)
I have to say that if you ignore the Jazzy tracks, and the ending spoken-word piece from Ursula Rucker, you have a well-rounded release from The Roots as they come with a strong Hip Hop album, which has them work with all the tools which they have avaliable to them. I have to say that, although it was often critised, I missed the live instrumentals from ?uestlove on this one, and it would have made it sound more like them, had he done so. Apart from this, I thought that the group did well to pull together what they had in early releases, and included more traditional stuff without it sounding forced.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
5 It Just Don't Stop
7 Push up Ya Lighter
8 What They Do
9 ? Vs. Scratch (The Token DJ Cut)
10 Concerto of Desparado
12 UNIverse at War
13 No Alibi
14 Dave Vs. Us
15 No Great Pretender
17 Ital (The Universal Side)
18 One Shine
19 Adventures in Wonderland