Posted by: vincentlopez | May 7, 2009

The Roots “Illadelph Halflife” ~ Only 4.5 mics???



NO! It’s a 5 MIC CLASSIC!! Period. Ok, I’m about to get a little longwinded with this one. Let me go back to the summer of 1996 just before It Was Written came out. This is around the same time that Jamal (aka The Last Emperor) had given me his finished demo tape. If I’m not mistaken, that same week, when I went back to his house, he handed me another tape and said, “You might like this one, too.” I had no idea that it was The Roots Illadelph Halflife demos. After bumping the heck out of the tape, I asked him, “Where did you get these demos?” He told me that he had been hanging out with them recently and just got the tape from Black Thought. Huh? Fast forward to October 1996. Tribe had severely disappointed me with Beats, Rhymes and Life. Nas had let me down slightly with It Was Written. I had completed ignored Outkast’s brilliant Atliens for some reason.  And De La Soul had thrown yet another (good) curveball with Stakes is High. After listening to the demos, I bought the CD on the day it was released, taped it for my car’s tape deck and literally kept it in rotation for a month straight. I listened to it in my house while playing video games, in my computer at work and in my car for my long commute to/from work in New Jersey. It was so good that I barely listened to anything else. So one day, I was about to leave work and decided to stop by this vegetarian restaurant on the corner of 49th and Chestnut for a quick meal. I walked inside and the only person in there (other than the cook and cashier) sitting at the counter was Black Thought! But because the lights were dim, I didn’t realize it until I walked up to the counter to place my order. I squinted with my eyes and said, “Tariq?” as if we were old friends. He smiled, we gave each other a pound and I went on for about ten minutes discussing and complementing the album while we waited for our food. I told him straight up that it was a classic and the best album of the year that I’d heard so far. As many times as I have bumped into him over the years, he has never smiled as much as that day. No sooner than his order was done, we gave each other a pound again, he said, “Thanks” once more and walked out. Literally, 10 seconds later, I wanted to ask him one more thing about a lyric on the album so I walked outside to ask him but he had disappeared. So I paid for my food, hopped into the car and blasted ‘No Alibi’ for the umpteenth time that week. In my opinion, that album is The Roots’ best by far. No matter how many albums they put out, that’s their standard. Some may like the appeal of Things Fall Apart (a 4.5 mic album) more cuz that’s their Midnight Marauders album but Illadelph is their Low End Theory (see My “Low End Theory” Theory). It’s real raw and gritty hip-hop that you can feel but may be too much to stomach for the commercial crowd. They basically said, “Eff the industry, eff all the naysayers, and eff the world. You doubted us on the last album so we’re giving it to you raw and straightforward with no commercialized garbage or filler.” And Outkast did the same thing with Atliens (I’ll get to that in a second).


Record Report:

The RootsIlladelph Halflife (4.5 mics) – 5 mics easy. It’s also the last 5 mic hip-hop album that has been released in my opinion. The best albums I’ve heard since have been 4.5 mics but nothing released after 1996 has gotten 5 mics from me.

OutkastAtliens (4 mics) – 4 mics? Nope. This is a rarity to have in one magazine but it’s a 5 mic album. To me, it’s their absolute best album from beginning to end hands down. Organized Noize did their great work on the music and Andre d.e.s.t.r.o.y.e.d. the mic. He was painting pictures with his words. He made me forget that Big Boi was even there. I know a lot of people think Aquemini is their 5 mic album but it isn’t. Listen to this album again. I bump it like crazy in my car. This is the real Beats, Rhymes and Life album from 1996.

Chuck DAutobiography of Mistachuck (3 mics)

MC LyteAs Bad As I Wanna Be (3.5 mics)

Dru DownCan You Feel Me (3 mics)

Ras KassSoul On Ice (3 mics) – 3 mics? Lyrics = 5 mics and Beats = 3 mics. That’s a 4 mic average, kid. Seriously, when I bought this CD, I photocopied the lyrics from the booklet just to read ‘Nature of the Threat’. That song alone is worth 5 mics. And Ras Kass is the most snake bitten MC in hip-hop. He could have had such a great career if he had signed to another label back then.

NineCloud Nine (2.5 mics)

A+The Latch Key Child (3 mics)

Source October 1996 issue and fat tape



  1. I like that album too, Concerto of Desperado is my joint! I can’t wait to hear those demos vincent!

  2. Props for that and good defense for The Roots album rating, hell and a good one for Ras Kass and OutKast. Usually cats will just say “this is a classic” or “this is a 5 mic banger” and give no real reason to convince me. ITA about Illadelph and Kass ratings that you gave. I’d probably give ATLiens 4.5 mics, but I have to give it another listen.

  3. Illadelph Halflife is a 5 mic classic. There can be no arguement and we will leave it at that.

  4. No question, these are classic joints. I didn’t catch on to The Roots (and even ATLiens) until a little later in their career; at the time I wasn’t trying to hear any hip-hop that wasn’t created using samples.

  5. Cloud nine-2.5 mics? Damn shame. If you ask me, dat’s 4 strong mics! Ras Kass-too! Thanks for this, Vincent!

  6. Thanks Vincent. And Illadelph Halflife is in my eyes the best roots album. Props for the defense for the ras kass album

  7. thanks for sharing the goodies again, ATLiens is dope. I still listen to it while driving in a car.

  8. Thanks man. Absolutely agree… Source went real wrong with Illadelph Halflife… Reviewer gotta put bananas out of his ears while listenin to it… It’s just an instant classic… If it’s not 5 mics, what the heck it is?

  9. I’m sorry, but are there any special issue or sumthin about Pac’s murder?

    • @Joko – That’s the next issue.

  10. Can anyone tell me the password for the Fat Tape?

  11. Everything can’t be a 5 people. Illadelph is much too dense to be deserving of a perfect rating and if Atliens is a 5, the scale has to be expanded to honor Aquemini

    • @TC – Stop kidding. Aquemini will remain a 4 forever just like Reasonable Doubt. It can’t compare to Atliens or Illadelph Halflife. But I do understand, from your previous comments, that you like more commercialized hip-hop and that’s your prerogative as a fan.

  12. Aquemini 5, Atliens 5, This Website 5,
    Illadeph 4.5 . . . The Roots could never match Dre &
    Big Boi at their finest.
    Still waiting on the Password the Mag & Fat Tape

    • @Ben – Look on the right side of the page at the top.

  13. Thanks, Ive been trying to put all the Fat Tapes together for years.
    This Site’s been a big help

    • @Ben – Make sure you cut me a check.

  14. Great Site, great scans!!!!

  15. Vincent, u got this one right!!!

    Illadelph Halflife to me is beyond a 5 mic classic, its like 10 or 12 mic classic!!
    I remember when i 1st heard “Clones”, i was bangin that joint for like weeks straight!! Me and boys was riding around in my friends car bangin the single all day!! Then “What they do” was a banger and the video was ill!! but i heard later that they was takin shots at Biggie in the video with some if the images. Im kinda ticked at that, but i can ignore it for now. Then “Concerto of the Desperado”, was a musical masterpiece!! That beat was so huge and monstrous. When i finally heard the LP, i was blown away man. Thats LP is just a pure classic, and they havent came close to toppin that LP yet!! their 1st one was close, but not on that level!

    Outkast: Atliens is a damn 5 mic classic!! I remember livin in el paso at that time and that Outkast LP was on the only down south artists people was listenin to. it was heavily dominated by east & the west, and Outkast was the only southern artists people was listenin to. Everybody and their mama hat Atliens. me and my boys used to walk down to the park singin verses to “Elevators”!! very classic times!!

    Ras Kass: Soul On Ice, is one of the most slept on LP’s ever! That to me is a 4.5 striaght up!! I was huge fan of his after i heard “Miami Life”! I wanted to get that Substitute soundtrack just to get that song! Then “Anything Goes” drops next and that was another classic then “Soul On Ice remix” drops and thats a classic. Dont forget about jack Frost, nature of the threat , marinatin and etc!! That LP is a certified banger!!!

    im glad u went on this Vincent, nice topic!

  16. 5 mics–no question. Great piece. I remember this issue of the Source vividly. I wonder if it’s still lingering around my mom’s house. I should find out.

  17. I agree whole heatedly about Illdelph being a 5. It’s my favorite Roots album as well. I had moved down to Salt Lake City (where Satan goes to vacation) to go to the U of Utah, didn’t know anyone, so I listened to Illdelph everyday all day….sometimes stopping to put in Ras.

    And Nine a 2.5 after some of the sh*t I’ve seen them give 3.5 and 4’s????? If I remember right, this about the time I stopped listening to The Source’s reviews.

  18. Hip Hop Connection gave

    Roots 4 stars – 5 in my opinion
    outkast 3 stars – 4 in my opinion
    chuck d 3 stars – 3 stars my opinion
    MC lyte 2 stars – 2 stars
    Dru Down 2 stars – 2 stars
    Ras kass 5 stars there lp of 96 – 4 stars
    nine 4 stars – 3 stars
    Aplus 2 stars – 2 stars mine

    Illadelph is in my top 20 of all time. Amazing LP.

  19. Illadelph always deserved 2 mics, it was that bad, but your right about it being their best. Hell, I’d give The Roots 1.5 for most of their albums since they are wack.

  20. Vincent,
    Just dropped by to say big THANKS for everything you did so far, your work and efforts are incredible.

    Thank you again and keep up the excellent work on here.

  21. Vincent! This site is the sh*t please keep it going! i almost cried when i saw u made it private!

    • @Iza – Unfortunately, that may be the future of this site. Check back with me after these ’96 issues are done.

  22. Thanks Vincent! I always enjoy reading your comments and views about particular albums. I too agree that this was The Roots best work to date… easily 5 Mics. Outkast… 5 Mics as well. Ras Kass, well I never bought his first cd. I heard it was a good album hands down. Now it’s impossible to find w/o over paying on e-bay. Too bad his 2nd album wasn’t as good.

  23. So says the guy from Philly screaming a Roots album is perfect.

    • And if someone from Atlanta says that an Outkast album is classic…

      Or if someone from LA says that an Ice Cube album is classic…

      Or if someone from NYC says that a Biggie album is classic…

  24. damn vincent! i see what your saying about making it private, i got some mags but they are from after 96, i gotta go up to my storage unit to see what i have but ill be move than happy to share with you if you need anything!

  25. I mean… is there really such a thing as “only” 4.5 mics? It’s a great album, but there were lots of great albums. I tend to look at the Source rating system a little more objectively than most. I’d imagine that it’s extremely hard to name an album “classic” after hearing it a few times and having to rate it right then and there. That’s why there’s so many albums that never got the 5 that people feel are classics. A “classic” is a pretty heavy title to give an album, and I’d imagine that in order to make their rating system credible, they tried to avoid just slapping it on every single album they thought was really, really good.

  26. Man, how did Da Brat get to be on the cover of The Source?

    I remember having all of these issues before somebody(my mother) threw them away. This is about the time they started to “fall off”. When they put Puffy on the cover(I think it was ’97 or 98) and if I’m not mistakin’ they either put Will Smith on the cover around the same time or did a really big piece on him. That’s when they started fallin’ off.

    But props overall Vince, you’re a real head, in a world where very few “heads” are appreciated.

  27. the f**k cares about the rating. Its a dope album, fans love it so that’s all that matters. Reviews aren’t always on point, look no further than HipHopDX

  28. I agree about Illadelph Halflife 100%.
    Outkast-ATLiens: I agree, this should have been 5/5 instead of 4/5.
    Ras Kass-Soul On Ice: This album should have been 5/5 instead of 3/5.

  29. Tho I do understand why some people like it so much, I still think the Record Report was fair on giving Cloud NIne 2.5 mics.

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