In this post-Internet age of cross-platform synergy as condo down-payment survival, the Roots have flourished. There is the band on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, an incredible sight for anyone who remembers how the Fugees swacked them back in 1995. There is the annual Roots picnic; the Starbucks-friendly Wise Up Ghost And Other Songs with Elvis Costello; the festival appearances with guitarist Captain Kirk Douglas shredding up “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” And yes, there is Questlove, the genial Paul Shaffer to Jimmy Fallon’s twee Letterman, and one of the new millennium’s great bon vivants, tweeting and posting selfies on Instagram about his celebrity friends (lots of Prince shout-outs) and his epicurean adventures with impressive gregariousness. His best-selling book, Mo Meta Blues, displays the same kind of intellectual curiosity as he weaves anecdotes about meeting Kiss and making viral videos with Dirty Projectors into an entertaining autobiographical tale. If only he could extend that same generosity and love of pop in all its cheesy shamelessness and gewgaw wonder to his band’s recordings and, more importantly, to the hip-hop culture that he claims fealty to, instead of frequently taking it out to the woodshed, most recently via his damningly titled “How Hip-Hop Failed Black America” lectures for Vulture.com.
Meek Mill raps as if he is typing in all caps: “I’M BRINGING TUPAC BACK! TUPAC BACK!” He tends to, if not necessarily screech at the top of his lungs, then at least yell loud enough to project an appealing bellicosity. He’s not the first MC with a high-octane delivery — the underrated Ace Hood comes to mind, as well as Freeway, another Philadelphia rapper. And on past singles like “Tupac Back,” “Ima Boss,” and more recently, “Actin’ Up” (with its guilty-pleasure chorus “These bitches be actin’ up / And these niggas be lettin’ ’em”), those shouted raps are aggressively uninhibited, the vocal equivalent of throwing bows.