The continued commercial success of rap music means that the turnaround between the discovery of new talent and superstardom is nearly nil. After all, why sweat the technique when Puff Daddy and Master P can guarantee platinum status with their names alone? The members of Philadelphia's The Roots, however, honed their skills years before the rap renaissance kicked into full and lucrative effect, winning awards on the local-music circuit and inspiring a massive word-of-mouth campaign. The band's old-school vision and remarkable instrumental prowess might be at odds with the mass-produced dreck that flourishes on the radio, The Roots' dedication to live performance and studio perfection has made it one of the best and most respected hip-hop troupes. Things Fall Apart is the group's fourth album, and perhaps its masterpiece. Boasting one of the most intricate and accomplished production jobs ever given to rap music, the record's mix of live instrumentation, minimal programming, and cool vocal effects is ear candy that cries for multiple headphone listens. But beyond the sound is the astounding quality of the songs. "The Next Movement" and "100% Dundee" are instant classics, while the single "You Got Me" (featuring Erykah Badu) is an amazing and somber work of crossover genius, blending Black Thought's rhymes with Badu's haunting chorus and reaching a subtly effective drum-and-bass coda. Elsewhere, the group makes effortless references to Schoolly D and The Jungle Brothers, while enlisting the help of such guests as Mos Def and Common. Few groups working today can match the sheer talent and vision of The Roots, not to mention its ambitions and focus. With the promise of countless riches and boundless fame, few hip-hop artists seem to be willing to even attempt something approaching Things Fall Apart's scope. So don't doubt it, just buy it. Regardless of the album's ultimate impact on the marketplace, The Roots will always have something even the biggest stars find fleeting: respect.