|Los Angeles Times|
Rising Down received positive reviews from most music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 80, based on 27 reviews, which indicates "generally favorable reviews". Allmusic writer Marisa Brown gave it 4 out of 5 stars and wrote that it "acts as a powerful statement on contemporary society". Blender's Hsu Hua commended its concise production and called it "an excellent, punchy album full of youthful swagger and anything-goes experimentation". Tom Horan of The Daily Telegraph cited Rising Down as "the best album of their long career". Chicago Tribune writer Greg Kot lauded the album's socially conscious themes and viewed its sound as "bleaker, grimier and harder-edged" than The Roots' earlier work. Will Dukes of Spin complimented its socially relevant themes and called the album "a thematically, unified, musically propulsive statement about the decline of contemporary society". Rolling Stone's Jody Rosen complimented its dark, dense production, stating "It's a sound that fits the dark subject matter". Tyler Munro of Sputnikmusic stated "Dark, dense and paranoid, Rising Down is surprisingly better for it".
By contrast, Entertainment Weekly's Sean Howe expressed a mixed response towards its "bad vibes" and lyrical "gripes", calling it "a socially conscious creation overseasoned with discontent". Harry Allen of The Village Voice perceived its dense production as overwhelming Black Thought's rapping and questioned, "is zealous love for the track submerging the band's vocalist?", but commended "the nuances of the Roots' dystopia; the rather painterly way they use sound, in the compositional modes that hip-hop affords, to render a world not only under duress, but, in fact, permanently diseased: Dhalgren on wax". Los Angeles Times writer Oliver Wang viewed that it "doesn't replicate the balanced charm" of Game Theory, but ultimately commended its "musical uniformity" and called it "the more provocative effort". PopMatters writer Zeth Lundy wrote that it "does prove to be an provocative peer of cultural riot-acting and pragmatic contextualization--though, as contemporary pop music, it provides a much more immediate delivery of social ethics from a street-level perspective". Nate Patrin of Pitchfork Media commended Black Thought's rapping and the album's articulation of lyrical themes concerning contemporary society's issues, stating:If you've been paying any damn attention to the world around you, most of Rising Down's messages ring familiar, and frequently true: This is an album that tells you the entertainment industry is turning into a coon show, the climate (both environmental and cultural) is getting fucked up, and broke people are still struggling. But this record states these ideas with respect to the notion that you know them already, and puts all the revelation and subtext into its unyielding sound. You could call it preaching to the converted, but it also feels like a reminder to the lapsed, less a wake-up call than a shot of renewed adrenaline. —Nate Patrin
Nate Chinen of The New York Times complimented the album's socially relevant themes and "crisp musicianship", stating "Spiked with dire intensity and stocked with head-spinning rhymes by Black Thought and nearly a dozen guest rappers it’s the most potent Roots release since the one-two punch of 'Things Fall Apart' and its predecessor, 'Illadelph Halflife'". Vibe's Keith Murphy commended The Roots' musical ambition and production on the album. USA Today's Steve Jones gave the album four out of four stars and described its sound as "industrial-strength funk that demands to be turned up loud". Slant Magazine's Dave Hughes called it "the most urgently malevolent modern funk record the band has assembled to date". Nathan Rabin of The A.V. Club gave it a B+ rating and praised "the electric chemistry between Black Thought's unrelenting lyrical assault and ?uestlove's epic drums". The Washington Post's Sarah Godfrey viewed that the album's ominous sound "tempers heady subject matter with much-needed thump" and cited it as The Roots' best work since Things Fall Apart. In his consumer guide for MSN Music, critic Robert Christgau gave Rising Down an A rating and called it "as pleasurable as prime OutKast or Kanye West", while citing it as "the most accomplished pure hip-hop album in years". Christgau ranked Rising Down number nine on his list of 2008's best albums. The Boston Globe's Sarah Rodman named it the third best album of 2008.
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