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Metacritical Condition: The Roots Are In What Boxing Heads Call The 'Game Loser' Era Of Their Career

Metacritical Condition: The Roots Are In What Boxing Heads Call The 'Game Loser' Era Of Their Career

As A Studio Act, The Roots Are In What Boxing Heads Call The “Game Coward” Stage

(by Matt Koelling, originally “published” on www.okayplayer.com as Bombastic on 6/2/2014)

  I first heard that term out of the mouth of legendary boxing trainer/commentator Teddy Atlas while discussing the 8th-round TKO beating that Mike Tyson took at the hands of Lennox Lewis back in ’02.  That charge my heart when he said it, my first instinct was to cuss at my TV screen like Teddy's hating ass could actually hear me.  I grew up on Tyson knocking dudes heads off their shoulders and terrifying professional prize fighting pugilists in a series of menacing montages that made Clubber Lang’s ‘Rocky III’ tape that had Mickey shook come off cuddly by comparison.  Was even blessed via my uncle at 12 years old to see Iron Mike live in his heyday down at Trump Plaza in Atlantic City a couple times (vs Tyrell Biggs first then later Michael Spinks).  As I grew into adolescence, I realized it'd never be quite the same post-prison but there was enough evidence to allow my still unwavering love as a fan to outweigh logic.  Atlas claimed that Tyson didn't really have the belief in himself at that stage.  Never really convinced himself before or during the battle that he could defeat a bigger, younger and by then more skilled/better-conditioned foe in Lennox.  The frenetic head movement, ferocity & unpredictability had all but evaporated.  Instead you had a more ordinary and always-undersized Tyson who now allowed himself to eat stiff jabs and absorb punishment for enough rounds to make it a 'respectable' defeat.  It was so blatant that The Baddest Man On The Planet wouldn't even take the risk of trying to catch the notoriously suspect-chinned Adonis with a hook or upper cut that might get him out of there quick like far lesser heavyweights such as Hasim Rahman or Oliver McCall had.  Eventually after the initial sting wore off, Teddy's words were fairly undeniable.  Hip-hop is a gladiator sport, like boxing or stand-up comedy.  You need to be fully committed to it, retain rhythm/reflexes thru repetition, stay in fighting shape even during the lapses between training, maintain the edge that got you this far despite the fact that you're now enjoying the spoils of success while the physical toll mounts and motivation becomes something the fighter must continue to find increasingly more creative ways to manufacture.  And even if you do somehow persevere past those obstacles, it's still a profession so unforgiving that each next visit to the ring, the stage, the studio could be the end of your career.  Tyson didn't go in there that night back in '02 planning or truly believing he could beat Lennox, he was there for the big check to pay debts and as an ex-con with an 8th grade education he didn't yet know what else he could do to get it.  So Kid Dynamite became just another game loser trying to hang in the fight.

I first heard that term out of the mouth of legendary boxing trainer/commentator Teddy Atlas while discussing the 8th-round TKO beating that Mike Tyson took at the hands of Lennox Lewis back in ’02.

That charge my heart when he said it, my first instinct was to cuss at my TV screen like Teddy's hating ass could actually hear me.

I grew up on Tyson knocking dudes heads off their shoulders and terrifying professional prize fighting pugilists in a series of menacing montages that made Clubber Lang’s ‘Rocky III’ tape that had Mickey shook come off cuddly by comparison.

Was even blessed via my uncle at 12 years old to see Iron Mike live in his heyday down at Trump Plaza in Atlantic City a couple times (vs Tyrell Biggs first then later Michael Spinks).

As I grew into adolescence, I realized it'd never be quite the same post-prison but there was enough evidence to allow my still unwavering love as a fan to outweigh logic.

Atlas claimed that Tyson didn't really have the belief in himself at that stage.

Never really convinced himself before or during the battle that he could defeat a bigger, younger and by then more skilled/better-conditioned foe in Lennox.

The frenetic head movement, ferocity & unpredictability had all but evaporated.

Instead you had a more ordinary and always-undersized Tyson who now allowed himself to eat stiff jabs and absorb punishment for enough rounds to make it a 'respectable' defeat.

It was so blatant that The Baddest Man On The Planet wouldn't even take the risk of trying to catch the notoriously suspect-chinned Adonis with a hook or upper cut that might get him out of there quick like far lesser heavyweights such as Hasim Rahman or Oliver McCall had.

Eventually after the initial sting wore off, Teddy's words were fairly undeniable.

Hip-hop is a gladiator sport, like boxing or stand-up comedy.

You need to be fully committed to it, retain rhythm/reflexes thru repetition, stay in fighting shape even during the lapses between training, maintain the edge that got you this far despite the fact that you're now enjoying the spoils of success while the physical toll mounts and motivation becomes something the fighter must continue to find increasingly more creative ways to manufacture.

And even if you do somehow persevere past those obstacles, it's still a profession so unforgiving that each next visit to the ring, the stage, the studio could be the end of your career.

Tyson didn't go in there that night back in '02 planning or truly believing he could beat Lennox, he was there for the big check to pay debts and as an ex-con with an 8th grade education he didn't yet know what else he could do to get it.

So Kid Dynamite became just another game loser trying to hang in the fight.

  As The Roots have amazingly become the world's greatest house band sharing stages with the President, Prince and Paul McCartney on national TV, it's pretty clear they're not even really trying that hard anymore on these LPs. What's left of the band that was grinding thru the 90's/early 00's doing 250 dates a year knows that they're not gonna eat off records or tour money.  They've grown up & gotten a steady well-paying gig with benes and endless networking opportunities.  Good.    They've more than earned it and I'm proud of how far the boys have come since the Middle East club days doing shows with Jeru, playing out on South Street durino-g their humble indie beginnings around Organix in the early 90’s or even before then dwelling in the shadows of Boyz II Men at The Academy of the Performing Arts High School while their musical director was still waiting for the right time to tell his musician father (Lee Andrews of pioneering Philly doo-wop act The Hearts).  Yet Questlove, currently the hardest-working-man-in-show-business, is a student of the game and knows what affectations/associations will serve to maintain his Metacritic score each time out.  But like an old friend who has to keep it true, it's time to admit that we've now been hearing some variation of this same blueprint for ten years.  And I won't even get into the records growing increasingly darker in content and aggressively more 'difficult' as some sort of subconscious antithesis to the crowd-pleasing band you see on TV.  What you end up with is skillfully played but somewhat ponderous music cloaked in all the accoutrements and murky meaningfulness that the critics/certain fans will proudly proclaim they like but long-term very few truly love.  A month or two after this album when they do a show in New York/Philly/LA, the band will be back to playing Next Movement, Proceed, backing other artists and closing with You Got Me/Seed 2.0.     We're in that 2000s Sonic Youth, post-70's Lou Reed, last 20 years or so Woody Allen, Neither Fish Nor Flesh TTD, post-WB Prince, Jack White after Elephant, George Carlin's caustic/barely-comedic last HBO special after 9/11, Red Hook Brooklyn Spike, Public Enemy with a 10-piece-band to play their R&RHOF Induction......you get the idea. None of the newer material really sticks to the ribs.  And oddly enough the group once considered 'conscious' by proxy in ‘98/’99 now lyrically seems to try to make big sweeping societal statements but neglect to do the individual soul-bearing work required.  This new album is hopefully the nadir of albums made in this style, the sonic/thematic mood is like some sort of dystopian Gorillaz record where the rap verses are ancillary, minor keys are unrelenting, a few string breaks are interjected, the tempos rarely change and the hooks feel like elongated funeral dirges that you instantly forget when they mercifully end.  After their umpteenth 'challenging' indie-rock/art-hop album in a row, the challenge The Legendary seem least up for taking on is attempting to make entertaining music with any degree of rap energy or element of rock danger.  Hate to be the 'you grandiose m*therf#ck@s don't play the shit that they like' Shadow Henderson/Wesley Snipes type but such is life and after two decades of countless shows, embarrassing numbers of time logged on OKP’s message boards since they became available in ’99 and double-digit automatic album purchases, guess I feel like I've earned the right to gripe.  Love, Peace & Gourmet Food-Truck Chicken Grease,  Bomb

As The Roots have amazingly become the world's greatest house band sharing stages with the President, Prince and Paul McCartney on national TV, it's pretty clear they're not even really trying that hard anymore on these LPs.
What's left of the band that was grinding thru the 90's/early 00's doing 250 dates a year knows that they're not gonna eat off records or tour money.

They've grown up & gotten a steady well-paying gig with benes and endless networking opportunities.

Good.

They've more than earned it and I'm proud of how far the boys have come since the Middle East club days doing shows with Jeru, playing out on South Street durino-g their humble indie beginnings around Organix in the early 90’s or even before then dwelling in the shadows of Boyz II Men at The Academy of the Performing Arts High School while their musical director was still waiting for the right time to tell his musician father (Lee Andrews of pioneering Philly doo-wop act The Hearts).

Yet Questlove, currently the hardest-working-man-in-show-business, is a student of the game and knows what affectations/associations will serve to maintain his Metacritic score each time out.

But like an old friend who has to keep it true, it's time to admit that we've now been hearing some variation of this same blueprint for ten years.

And I won't even get into the records growing increasingly darker in content and aggressively more 'difficult' as some sort of subconscious antithesis to the crowd-pleasing band you see on TV.

What you end up with is skillfully played but somewhat ponderous music cloaked in all the accoutrements and murky meaningfulness that the critics/certain fans will proudly proclaim they like but long-term very few truly love.

A month or two after this album when they do a show in New York/Philly/LA, the band will be back to playing Next Movement, Proceed, backing other artists and closing with You Got Me/Seed 2.0.


We're in that 2000s Sonic Youth, post-70's Lou Reed, last 20 years or so Woody Allen, Neither Fish Nor Flesh TTD, post-WB Prince, Jack White after Elephant, George Carlin's caustic/barely-comedic last HBO special after 9/11, Red Hook Brooklyn Spike, Public Enemy with a 10-piece-band to play their R&RHOF Induction......you get the idea. None of the newer material really sticks to the ribs.

And oddly enough the group once considered 'conscious' by proxy in ‘98/’99 now lyrically seems to try to make big sweeping societal statements but neglect to do the individual soul-bearing work required.

This new album is hopefully the nadir of albums made in this style, the sonic/thematic mood is like some sort of dystopian Gorillaz record where the rap verses are ancillary, minor keys are unrelenting, a few string breaks are interjected, the tempos rarely change and the hooks feel like elongated funeral dirges that you instantly forget when they mercifully end.

After their umpteenth 'challenging' indie-rock/art-hop album in a row, the challenge The Legendary seem least up for taking on is attempting to make entertaining music with any degree of rap energy or element of rock danger.

Hate to be the 'you grandiose m*therf#ck@s don't play the shit that they like' Shadow Henderson/Wesley Snipes type but such is life and after two decades of countless shows, embarrassing numbers of time logged on OKP’s message boards since they became available in ’99 and double-digit automatic album purchases, guess I feel like I've earned the right to gripe.

Love, Peace & Gourmet Food-Truck Chicken Grease,

Bomb

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