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A strength in their numbers

RECORD RACK

July 11, 2004|Steve Hochman; Robert Hilburn; Richard Cromelin; Soren Baker

The same holds true for the majority of the crew's surprisingly sedate fifth major label studio album (due Tuesday). Whereas some of the group's earlier material contained a mix of thought-provoking subject matter and knockout beats (see 1999's masterful "Things Fall Apart"), there is little meat to this collection. The beats are often stripped down to bland, drum-driven backdrops and the raps have little direction and/or meaning. On the single "Don't Say Nuthin'," Black Thought mumbles his way through the chorus, coming off more clumsy and confusing than stylish or adventurous.

When Black Thought does deliver poignant social commentary, as on the chilling "Guns Are Drawn," his vocals are muddled in the guitar-driven groove and sandwiched within a feeble chorus. The Roots have always been more about the music than the lyrics, but "Tipping Point" excels at neither.

-- Soren Baker

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). The albums are already released unless otherwise noted.

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