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Breaking Ground on a Modern Message Song

The Roots' members make stellar and often political hip-hop.
The Roots' members make stellar and often political hip-hop.

Years after breaking through as one of the most innovative and musically gifted acts in hip-hop, The Roots' members return with Game Theory, another groundbreaking collection of stellar and often political material.

"Don't Feel Right" wastes little time, hitting its stride with the first beat of Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson's irresistibly syncopated drums. A sinister and deceptively simple piano riff keeps the song afloat, serving as an ideal counterpoint to Black Thought's lyrics and faultless flow. Lyrically, "Don't Feel Right" recalls Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five's "The Message": "Things don't feel right over here / Lately I ain't been seein' clear / It don't feel right / It don't feel right," Maimouna Youssef sings, before Black Thought launches his creative, socially conscious verses.

With deftly executed musical breakdowns and tasteful samples from Kool & The Gang ("Jungle Boogie") and The Ohio Players ("Ecstasy") layered into the mix, "Don't Feel Right" is a key track on Game Theory, and a big reason it's arguably the hip-hop album of the year.

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Bruce Warren is assistant general manager for programming of WXPN in Philadelphia. Besides serving as executive producer of World Café, Warren also contributes to Paste magazine and writes for two blogs: Some Velvet Blog and WXPN's All About The Music Blog.