The Roots, Lupe Fiasco

After more than a decade and eight albums, everyone should understand and appreciate the underlying equation of Philadelphia hip-hop group the Roots' Game Theory: Black Thought delivers socially conscious and soulful lyricism, old-school-style, the charismatic 'froed one Questlove bangs some of the best beats in the game, while Hub, F. Knuckles and Captain Kirk exhibit musicianship unmatched since Funkadelic. Opener, Muslim MC Lupe Fiasco, a graduate from the Kanye West School of Boisterousness and Bravado (see Late Registration's "Touch the Sky"), represents a prodigal paradox. On one hand, he's got serious indie credibility. His underground mix tapes, collaboration with the Gorillaz, affection for skateboarding, ("Kick, Push") and overall lyrical density is the calling card for suburban bloggers. Fiasco, born Wasalu Mohammad Jaco, is even an admitted cyberjunkie. But he's also got an endorsement deal with Reebok, while the Neptunes, Mike Shinoda (of Linkin Park) and Jay-Z all contributed to his highly anticipated (read: heavily bootlegged) debut, Food and Liquor. The result is production that's even slicker than the alliteration.
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Austin Powell