Rolling Stone - 11/14/96, pp.114-1163.5 Stars (out of 5)
"...still highlighting urban blight but not drowning in despair and hopelessness....the Roots are not afraid to take rap to places it's never been. Hip-hop manifested for the new millenium..."
Spin - 1/97, p.59Ranked #20
on Spin's list of the "20 Best Albums of '96."
Spin - 10/96, p.1309 (out of 10)
- "...Discarding the two-dimensional shuffle B-Boys have been doing of late, the moves on this album holler equal parts glee, anger, love, and hate....It's an artistic progression, and added confirmation of the Roots' place at hip-hop's vanguard."
Entertainment Weekly - 9/27/96, pp.80-81
"...the Roots prove doubters wrong with bugged-out rhymes and jazzy live instrumentations....with guests like Q-Tip, D'Angelo and jazz diva Cassandra Wilson, the Roots will have 'fans listenin' from Michigan to Switzerland'...in no time." - Rating: A-
Alternative Press - 2/97, p.683 (out of 5)
- "...the Roots built a disc that takes listeners on a patient, freestyle rhyming trip through some of their psyches' darker streets..."
Vibe - 10/96, p.138
"...the Philly crew bob and weave past potential sophomore slump with the vigor of a sprightly Smokin' Joe Frazier....ILLADELPH HALFLIFE also attempts to expand the Roots' sound by blending samples and inviting guest vocalists..."
The Source - 10/96, p.1174.5 Mics (out of 5)
- "...an emotional and spiritually-fulfilling aural experience....the Roots blend vibes with a cornucopia of rappers, vocalists and artists..."
Melody Maker - 10/12/96, p.18
"...Melancholy and bliss combined. The Roots have perfected their narco drift. Navigating dub space, they veer from classical exotica to free jazz to African thumb piano and further out still..."
Rap Pages - 10/96, p.33
"...The Roots' sophomore album...sets the standard for all other MCs to follow as they prepare for the next millennium....They are the saving grace of a phoenix, and this is Hip-Hop."
Village Voice (2/25/97) - Ranked #33
in the Village Voice's 1996 Pazz & Jop Critics' Poll.
The Roots: Rahzel "The Godfather Of Noyze" (vocals, various instruments); The Brother "?uestlove" ?uestion (vocals, keyboards, drums, percussion); Tariq "Black Thought" Trotter, Malik "M-Ill-itant" B. (vocals); Leonard Nelson "Hub" Hubbard (cello, keyboards, bass); Kamal (keyboards, sleigh bells).
Additional personnel: D'Angelo, Cassandra Wilson, Scratch, Angela Slates, Common, Amel Larrieux, Ursula Rucker, Dice Raw (vocals); Steve Coleman, Graham Haynes, Josh Roseman (horns); Scott Storch (keyboards); Julia Haines, Raphael Saadiq, Spanky, Tracey, Fatin, Lee Andrews, Bad Lieutenant, Kelo, Bahamadia, Dice Raw, M.A.R.S., David Murray, Q-tip, The Jazzyfatnastees.
Producers include: The Brother ?uestion, Kelo, Chaos, The Grand Negaz.
Principally recorded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Personnel: D'Angelo (vocals, guitar, Fender Rhodes piano, organ); Angela Slates, Rahzel, Black Thought, Cassandra Wilson (vocals); Julia Haines (harp); Hub (cello); Steve Coleman (saxophone); Graham Haynes (trumpet); Josh Roseman (trombone); Kamal (piano, sleigh bell); ?uestlove (keyboards, drums, kalimba); Brother Question (keyboards, drums); Scott Spencer Storch (keyboards); Raphael Saadiq (background vocals).
Audio Mixers: Kenny Eifle; Kenyatta Kelo Williams; ?uestlove; Mel Lewis; Richard Nichols; Tim Donovan; Black Thought; Bob Power; Chaos.
Audio Remixer: ?uestlove.
Recording information: ?uestions Halfway House, Philadelphia, PA; Battery Studios, New York, NY; Brilliant Studios, San Francisco, CA; Darp Studios, Atlanta, GA; Ivory Productions, Rm.1 & 3; Lotheflex's Dungeon, Philadelphia, PA; Nebula Sounds, Philadelphia, PA; Pookie Studios, Sacramento, CA; Sigma Sound Studios, Philadelphia, PA; Sonic Studios, Philadelphia, PA; Soundtrack Recording Studios, New York, NY.
Photographer: Michael Lavine.
Unknown Contributor Roles: David Murray; Dice Raw; Common Sense; M-ill-itant; M.A.R.S. ; Lee Andrews; Malik B.; Q-Tip; Spanky; Bahamadia; Black Thought.
ILLADELPH HALFLIFE represents an advancement in hip-hop that has been a long time in the making. Like Gang Starr, A Tribe Called Quest and the Wu-Tang Clan, the Roots sought to widen hip-hop's scope with their debut album, DO YOU WANT MORE?!!!??!, which incorporated live instruments and a jazzy funk feel. Critics praised it, but the band's positive messages didn't quite get through to rap's core audience (nor, it should be noted, did the Fugees' the first time around). It was as if the band had started teaching before its students were listening.
With ILLADELPH HALFLIFE, the Roots have opted for a closer relationship with the boom-bap sound of true hip-hop, and they've managed to do so without letting go of the elements that made their debut special. Vocalists Black Thought and Malik B. still inject lyrical science into their rhymes, and here they're joined by fellow rap-educators Q-Tip (on "Ital"), Bahamadia ("Push Up Ya Lighter") and Common Sense ("UNIverse At War"). With ILLADELPH HALFLIFE, the Roots should finally make a very significant mark on the world of hip-hop.