After seeing their 2006 Def Jam debut Game Theory sell a scant 204,000 copies in the US, things don't appear to look much better for The Roots with their latest effort Rising Down. Roots' drummer Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson expressed his frustration with the situation during an interview with Billboard magazine, saying that the group "operates far below the radar of [Island Def Jam Chairman] Antonio 'L.A.' Reid."
"He has no idea that 'Birthday Girl' isn't even on the album," says Thompson. "They don't know we shot the Rising Down video. They just know they approved an [electronic press kit] budget."
?uestlove's comments come after the single "Birthday Girl" was removed from Rising Down amid negative responses from critics and fans. While he and other group members have defended the track, calling it clever, ?uestlove freely admits the song was also partly crafted in an effort to please Def Jam executives with a radio single.
Reid refused to comment on the matter, but Def Jam's marketing director Erica Holley says Rising Down will still be heavily promoted. Holley listed appearances on The Colbert Report and David Letterman as evidence that The Roots' established fan base make marketing opportunities easy.
The fact that such opportunities don't translate into increased album sales, begs the question, "What's next for The Roots?"
"At a time, it was safe to be the Roots," says ?uestlove. "Now as each album goes by, the risk of annihilation becomes closer and closer. That's why this album is almost our defining moment. If someone asked me, 'Do you want to release two albums and sell over 2 million copies, or do you want a 20-year career but none of your records will sell over 500,000 units?,' that's a tough question. But, looking back, I wouldn't change a thing."
Check out the review for Rising Down [click to read].