In that sense, the Roots are still able to be a voice for the underclass, which is part of the reason hip-hop got started 30 years ago. Rising Down probably won't win the band any new fans, but it is honest lyrically and as politically aggressive as the politicians they criticize. Given the state of the world, ?uest says, they couldn't imagine making a record filled with joy. In fact, only a few weeks before the album was scheduled to drop, they cut their previously radio-friendly single — "Birthday Girl," featuring Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy — from the album because it didn't mesh.

"Even though we're talking about some heavy shit on the album, we knew that the music would have to be banging," ?uest says. "The emotions lyrically are intense. At the same time, the music is as abrasive as ever, and it had to be that way. We know people want that chiropractic, break-ya-back, head-nod shit, so when people come and see us, they'll get plenty of that, as well."

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