Game Theory



Hip-hop band makes powerful music with a message.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

"Long Time" talks about "Making somethin outta nothing." There is some well-founded government paranoia that doesn't advocate any specific behavior.


Non-explicit lyrics about violence and drugs in the ghetto ("I'm from the side of town/Where shots get sprayed around"). Also, rare intense lyrics: "Dreams when M16's with infrared beams/Blowin up presidents' cribs with cans of kerosene."


Mild references to sex but nothing graphic: "He out late nights, probably smashing (having sex)"


The occasional four letter word (s--t, f--k) and a handful of appearances by the "N" word.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

A few references to smoking cigarettes and pot.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this album is The Roots' darkest album of their 20-year career, but not in hip-hop's typical guns, drugs, and girls manner. The album is dominated by songs about government surveillance, urban crime, poverty, the war in Iraq, and racial profiling. Four-letter words ("s--t", "f--k") and the "N" word are scattered throughout, and there are veiled references to illegal activities (smoking pot), but with the right guidance, these songs can educate.

What's the story?

The Roots -- the Philadelphia-based group that has made a reputation over a two-decade career for soulful, jazz-inflected hip-hop -- have made their most serious album to date. GAME THEORY is music for grown-ups or curious teens, but not in the lascivious ways that might worry parents. Recorded in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and in the midst of the war in Iraq, the album reflects The Roots' desire to comment on the world, addressing issues like racial profiling and government surveillance skillfully and without sounding self-righteous. The album reflects the darker tone, with heavier guitar and a more frenetic pace than on previous records. Live instrumentation mixes easily with classic soul samples on standout songs like \"Long Time\" and the title track, which samples Sly Stone's \"Life of Fortune & Fame\" and features the welcome return of formerly estranged Roots MC Malik B.

Is it any good?


Drummer and musical director ?uestlove leads the quintet through a diverse set of both up-tempo and soulful songs that provide a solid canvas on which rapper Black Thought performs his lyrical wizardry. On the moving "Clock With No Hands," Black Thought takes a wistful look at tenuous friendships. Game Theory is one of the best albums of 2006, period, as few bands have taken such a serious look at the complicated issues of the day in a way that makes for both head-bobbing and brain-feeding listening.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the subjects that The Roots bring up on this record. How much should the government be able to monitor its citizens in an effort to thwart terrorism? Is enough being done to combat poverty at home as we wage wars abroad? Also, The Roots are one of the few full bands in hip-hop, as most groups are simply rappers and a host of producers. What are the advantages and disadvantages of being a band with instruments in hip-hop?

Music details

Artist:The Roots
Release date:August 29, 2006
Label:Def Jam
Parental advisory:Yes
Edited version available:Yes

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  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Parent of a 2, 10, 14, and 17 year old Written bySystemOfANintendo December 9, 2010

Loved it!

I've been a huge Roots fan ever since they've started. This album didn't fail to impress me. It contains some F, S, & N words, violent imagery, and drug references, but great social commentary. Excellent choice for teens.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Great messages
Teen, 15 years old Written bybechteloffices February 1, 2015

Game Theory = The Roots' political magnum opus.

The Roots' 2006 Def Jam release "Game Theory" is one of those records that the world simply needed at the time it was released. Bush had two short years before he was pushed out of office; North Korea was beginning tests on their nuclear WMDs, the War on Terror was still striving to reach some unattainable goal. The American people's political tempers were successfully boiling over-- and this album is a distilled essence, raw, almost elemental in power, of that bitter spite for the government and its effect on American life. It had been four years since The Roots had put out a record undoctored by the major record companies; their 2004 effort "The Tipping Point" is often noted for being more of a pop record, pressured into something less than art by the demands of Geffen Records. But "Game Theory" is far from anything pop-- it's certainly clear that their switch to Def Jam for this album resulted in a no-holds-barred, diss-laden tracklist chock full of acid tongue. The sounds are organic; the lyrics impeccably arranged. It's hard to find a weak point in "Game Theory." If one had to be noted, I would say that the tracks "Long Time" and "Baby" get slightly tedious around the half-to-3/4 point, but not too much that the flow of the record is interrupted in a notable way. As great as this album is, I admit that it would take a mature mind to understand and appreciate the messages laced within. I recommend "Game Theory" for anyone over and including age 14, with slight restraint due to the explicit language evident often. Recommended tracks: "False Media/Game Theory" "Don't Feel Right" "Clock With No Hands" "Can't Stop This" [A tribute track to the late J Dilla] --Luke B.
What other families should know
Great messages
Too much swearing
Kid, 9 years old May 26, 2009

Not for anyone

Not for kids or teens or even adults.


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