Every so often (as often as possible) I take a record from my vinyl collection, make a cup of coffee, and just sit and listen without distractions. No laptop, no phone, no newspaper. Just coffee and a record.
For my first “Coffee and a Record” I grabbed something I had been anxiously awaiting ever since pre-orders were announced several months ago. The Roots, Philly hip-hop legends (and Tonight Show house band), released a special edition double LP in blue vinyl for the 20th anniversary of the release, “Do You Want More?!!!??!” The 1995 release is their second full-length and major label debut.
For coffee I used the Chemex to brew some Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Adado that I had roasted several days prior. This coffee offers quite a bouquet of floral and sweet citrus, equally present in aroma and taste. The pour-over style brewing of the Chemex really brings it all out (and let’s face it, the Chemex is damn stylish).
As soon as the needle drops into the vinyl it is made clear, “You are all, about to witness some organic hip-hop jazz, 100-percent groove … from The Roots, Philadelphia-based rap group.” A more succinct and accurate a description, I could not imagine.
For contemporary fans of The Roots the first and most striking realization when listening to this two-decade-old record is that the texture of Black Thought’s voice is less coarse, of course, like he’s throwing far fewer than 1,000 knives.
This may be the perfect start-to-your-day record. The cadence is relentless and smooth. The beats will ease your body awake while the musicianship and lyrics will knock the dew from your brain. Instrumentation is tight, meandering through heavy jazz influence and even includes bagpipes. Lyrical content leaves virtually no topic poetically unexplored, from love to social commentary to personal life experience to poet Ursula Rucker’s viciously stinging prose aimed at misogyny.
In the liner notes writer Major Jackson eloquently describes The Roots as ” … rap music as a means of achieving Zen-balance. Without the least bit of romanticizing or self-importance, The Roots manage to maintain the vigor and intensity of hip hop music and the mellow vibes of soul and jazz.”
The first Coffee and a Record has set the bar high.