The Roots have always had an unusual attitude toward albums. ''We're the opposite of other groups,'' says drummer Ahmir ''?uestlove'' Thompson. ''We use the records to advertise the live show. Like, 'Here's the new album...but come to our gig!'''
Until now, that is. For the Philly hip-hop band's sixth CD, The Tipping Point, they invested far more effort in the album-making process. Recording began with a two-week jam session, and the band invited a gaggle of guests, including Jill Scott and Musiq (they're also hoping to score contributions from John Mayer and Norah Jones). ''It's like we're taking our fishing poles down to the river and seeing what we can catch,'' says Thompson. Currently sifting through 80 hours of recordings, he believes the disc is less experimental than 2002's ''rebel record,'' Phrenology, with more of a focus on storytelling, narrative, and back-to-basics hip-hop. And as the title (a reference to Malcolm Gladwell's influential book about the growth of trends and ideas) suggests, he hopes this CD turns his band's ''small phenomenon'' into ''something bigger.'' Humble words for a Grammy winner, but as this workaholic points out, ''We're insatiable, ambitious, and just never satisfied.'' (April)