The Roots - The Seed (2.0) feat Cody ChestnuTT - Song Analysis
The Seed (2.0) is a 2002 alternative Hip-Hop-Rock song by Philadelphia band The Roots featuring original writer of the track Cody Chestnutt on Lead guitar and vocals. The song was released as the second single in 2003 from The Roots album Phrenology.
The track is in A-Minor at a steady 111 beats per minute with a 4/4 time structure and runs for four minutes and twenty-seven seconds (the official video however is at just 4:13).
A pleasant blend of hip-hop, funk, psychedelic-soul and distorted rock, the lyrics seem to be about the male protagonist cheating on his partner and impregnating another woman with whom the child would be named “Rock n Roll”. This but a metaphor of course for that of the artist giving birth to music, his desire to create real, authentic music, not just what is desired by the modern, mainstream “Hip-Pop” culture.
This is a commentary on the state of hip-hop and rock at the time (early 2000’s), the difference between aiming to gain mass-appeal-and-popularity, and keeping their musical creativity raw. The challenge of keeping respect and honesty to ‘the game’ (music), whilst blending the genres of hip-hop and rap. His ‘cheating’ is on the mainstream industry with his ‘lover’ being that of freedom of creativity.
The instrumentation contains a bassy, funky 7-piece Ludwig drum kit, Fender Precision Bass Guitar, Gibson Les Paul lead, Gibson Casino rhythm (as used by Cody Chestnutt), keyboard, synth and two male vocals (Black Thought of The Roots and Chestnutt).
The kit has the bass very anchored to the kick. The snares are tuned quite high and the kick is open with not a lot of padding. The hats aren't too open, and coupled with the snare produce a very trashy vibe with mostly high-end. Producer Russell Elevado is quoted as going for “John Bonham/Eddie Kramer style drums with lots of compression and lots of room”. This is proven as there is quite a lot of room for vocals in the mix, as the guitars set a nice warm rockabilly vibe with a very prominent bass that has been quoted as being recorded through a Mooger Fooger Low Pass Filter.
The song begins with a 2-beat drum hit with all guitars and keys coming in on the downbeat of the first full bar which continues as the intro and is constant throughout most of the song.
At 16 seconds we have two bars of drum-fill with Black Thought’s first line of the rap hitting on the first downbeat of Verse 1 “Knocked up nine months ago, what she finna have? She don’t know”. The instruments through the first verse continuously play the same as the intro.
At 50 seconds we again get that 2-beat drum fill into the pre-chorus, where our second male vocal Cody Chestnutt is first introduced. Without a break in line from the end of Black Thought’s last line of Verse 1, Chestnutt picks up seamlessly where Black Thought finishes off. The transition from Black Thoughts, gritty, gutter, New York-streets sounding vocal (with slight, unobtrusive delay that has become BlackThought’s signature style) then gets blended to Chestnutt’s smooth high-end innocence with a subtle reverb. This innocence in his voice makes the lyrics seem less vulgar, despite the often misinterpreted literality of “I only wanna fertilize another behind my lover’s back”. This continues into the first chorus as his Atlanta, Georgian boyish vocal seduces us with the hook:
“I push my seed in her bush for life,
It’s gonna work because I’m pushing it right,
If Mary drops my baby girl tonight,
I would name her Rock n Roll”
The instrumentation stays steady through the chorus and into the second verse of which BlackThought is back with vocals with throwback references to classic rock n roll whilst also a commentary on the status of the popularization of hip-hop and he (and The Roots) trying to stay true to the values expressed through the hip-hop they grew up with.
At 2:24 we have the second pre-chorus from Chestnutt with different lyrics before going into a repeat of Chorus One at 2:58.
From 3:12 there is an instrumental breakdown with padding and an extended drum sequence which also has a synth effect on the snare which is re-introducing a melody that we first experience in the background of the song’s intro and gradually fades out. There is no bass or vocal during this bridge, and at 3:24 the drums and initial beat come thumping back in as we get the chorus for the third time. The final line of the chorus “I’ll name her Rock n Roll” is repeated three times as he varies the pitch down on the second, then up on third and final line of which he changes the phrase to “I’ll name it Rock n Roll”. The coda hears all instruments hit and hold the final note (B flat) as the cymbals are drawn out as a gradual fade to gently close an otherwise boppy track.
Whilst consistent, the track does have some mild swings slightly up and down a couple of bpms each way in tempo which suggest it may have been recorded live and without a click. This would reflect The Roots style and reputation as one of the best live acts that has led to them becoming the house band on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. (Here’s more of their versatility on The Tonight Show, with Adele and Miley Cyrus -each with over 45m views). Overall, this is a catchy track (judged at 330 on on Pitchfork’s Top 500 songs of the decade), with effective delay (particularly on vocals), application of distortion (to guitars) and a trashy feel to the kit. These are combined across the entire track in various ways to provide it’s raw, gritty, ‘reflection of the streets’ feel. This, along with the juxtaposition in the male vocals, draws a feeling of honesty and truth from the artist to the listener despite what feels to be slightly taboo lyrically.
I implore repeated listens to truly appreciate the beauty of this track from one of the most talented groups of the past 25 years. REFERENCES