On Thursday, December 14, the FCC voted to repeal Net Neutrality. On that same day, Hot 97 unleashed a 10-minute freestyle by The Roots frontman Black Thought that left such strong shockwaves across the Twittersphere that no Internet Service Provider would be able to control it no matter how many regulations they try to repeal. To some, this was their first exposure to the lyrical genius that is Black Thought. To others, this just reinforced Black Thought’s legacy as one of the best emcees in the world. The same lyrical assault and bravado displayed are all over “75 Bars (Black’s Reconstruction),” available on Spotify, Apple Music, and Soundcloud.
Whether they’re covering songs on classroom instruments or making political statements through walk-on music, The Roots have settled into their role as the best part of The Tonight Show. It’s easy to forget that they’ve been a driving force in hip-hop over the past two-and-a-half decades. The last album they released before taking on the late night gig was the underappreciated Rising Down. The Roots have always been a cohesive unit and produce jams that are both infectious and aesthetically pleasing. The band plays off each other like a 2014 NBA championship team that spreads the ball, sharing the responsibility and holding themselves accountable. Every once in a while, though, they let Black Thought go Iso and throw it down shot after shot. “75 Bars (Black’s Reconstruction)” is Black Thought going for 30 and 15 in 33 minutes of playing time.
The song starts off with a loose snare roll before going into a nice syncopated beat that Questlove makes look so easy. What follows is a lyrical assault that comes at you with more the type of intensity comparable to Eminem’s angrier days and lyrical wordplay on the level of Mos Def
“I’m in a class of my own
If I got beef with you, you the last one to know
I arrive on time, I’m never fashionable
You late, I’m already international-able
I done twirled in Berlin, banged in Beijing
You never seen nothin’ can’t say the same thing
Tell somebody Black Thought, yeah you know the name ring”
The instrumentation is relentless in its aggressiveness. It provides the perfect backdrop to a flow that would have been strong enough as an acapella, but only enhances the feel of the song even further while never taking the spotlight off of Black Thought. Questlove produced the song as very loose and raw; the drums echo like they’re in an abandoned factory while the fuzzy bass penetrates your ears in a way that is melodic yet borderline discordant. The song is listed as a song by The Roots, but Black Thought owns it and can easily be thrown on the evidence table as Exhibit A for why he’s one of the greatest of all time. Nearly a decade old the song still feels fresh and if his 10-minute freestyle is any indication, Black Thought is still in his prime.