The Roots’ two studio albums after their 1999 masterpiece Things Fall Apart, (Phrenology and The Tipping Point), actively courted the mainstream. Game Theory, their first album for Def Jam, surprisingly lacks a single track that tries to get anywhere near rap radio. What it does have is a sense of intensity that was sorely lacking on The Tipping Point; Black Thought’s politically charged rhymes are delivered with a force and conviction that haven’t been heard since at least Phrenology, and the beats are darker and more focused than anything since Things Fall Apart. The first half of the album has some of the best songs the group has ever released, like the ferocious title track, and ‘Here I Come,’ featuring Dice Raw and former full-time Root Malik B. And even if the second half sees the Roots flirting with overly atmospheric, dreary soundscapes, Game Theory is the first almost-great album the Roots have made in the 21st century, and it puts them back near the forefront of hip-hop innovation.