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The Roots' 'Things Fall Apart' Celebrates Its 20th Anniversary

"Music freezes time. But you could have never convinced me that in my lifetime, a million plus people would love what we're doing.”

Maxwell Dartey

As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of The Roots' Things Fall Apart, it’s important to contextualize the conditions that lead to its making because, after all, records are a product of their time. In 1996, the East Coast vs. West Coast conflict consumed the culture. But there was another war brewing up and the Roots and unintentionally added fuel to the fire. Their third album, Illadelph Halflife, was met with critical acclaim and its third single, “What They Do,” was a critique on what they saw as the sad state of hip-hop and the video made that critique very clear. While no one was called out by name, some one definitely felt some type of way about it: Biggie.

Unfortunately, any attempt at squashing the beef came too late, as Big was gunned down months later. But that didn’t stop the Roots from basking in the praise of critics. Illadelph Halflife was supposed to be record that got them over the hump. But things didn’t happen that way. The stakes were high and the pressure was on. But a new approach was needed. Making another record the same way would yield the same results. 

So, they thought of a plan.

A number of jam sessions in Philly laid the foundation for some of the best records ever made. But the one we’re here for is Things Fall ApartKeep an eye on Urban Legends in the coming months for something special around this momentous anniversary.


Stream The Roots' Things Fall Apart in its entirety now.