The Roots, Jazzy, Eclectic Hip Hop   Leave a comment


The Roots

The Roots is an American hip hop/neo soul band formed in 1987 by Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter and Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They are known for a jazzy, eclectic approach to hip hop which includes live instrumentals.[1] Malik B., Leonard “Hub” Hubbard, and Josh Abrams were added to the band, originally called The Square Roots.

Since their first independent album release, the band has released 10 studio albums, two EPs, two collaboration albums and have collaborated with a wide range of artists from different genres. On March 2, 2009, The Roots became the house band on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. The Roots’ work is repeatedly met with critical acclaim.

Rapper Black Thought is the lead vocalist of The Roots.[edit] OrganixOrganix was the band’s first album, released and sold independently. It generated enough industry buzz for offers from music labels, and the band signed to DGC.

[edit] Do You Want More?!!!??!The Roots’ first album for DGC, Do You Want More?!!!??!, was released in 1995. It was a moderate hit among alternative music fans due in part to the group’s appearance at Lollapalooza. The band performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival that year. Touring guests, beatboxer Rahzel and producer Scott Storch, joined The Roots.[2]

[edit] Illadelph HalflifeThe 1996 release Illadelph Halflife was the group’s first album to crack the Top 40 on the Billboard 200 chart,[2] spurred in part by MTV’s airplay of the video for “What They Do” (a parody of rap video clichés)[3] and “Clones”, which was their first single to reach the top five on the rap charts. “What They Do” was also the group’s first single to hit the Top 40 of Billboard’s charts, reaching a peak of #34. While continuing on the path of live instrumentation, the album’s sound was somewhat darker.

[edit] Things Fall ApartThe group released Things Fall Apart in 1999 (named after Things Fall Apart, a novel by Chinua Achebe, which in turn was named after a line from “The Second Coming” by W.B. Yeats). This was their breakthrough album, peaking at #4 on the Billboard 200 charts and earning a gold record, signifying U.S. sales of at least 500,000 units.[4] Mos Def contributed to the track entitled “Double Trouble”. The track “Act Two” features African-Belgian band Zap Mama and Common. The track “You Got Me”, a duet with R&B singer Erykah Badu and Eve and Jill Scott intended by Black Thought for the “unconscious” population,[5] peaked at #39 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. At the 42nd Grammy Awards “You Got Me” won the award for Best Rap Performance By A Duo Or Group[6] and the album was nominated for Best Rap Album.[7]

Steve Huey of the website allmusic perceived “a strong affinity for the neo-soul movement” in the album.[8] First-time cameos on Things Fall Apart for Philadelphia natives Beanie Sigel and Eve helped to earn them major record deals later (with Roc-A-Fella and Ruff Ryders, respectively). After this album, Dice Raw left the collective to record his solo debut album Reclaiming the Dead. In the summer, the band performed at the Woodstock ’99 concert in New York state.[9]

[edit] PhrenologySeveral members, including long time member Malik B., left the group. In December 2001, The Roots backed Jay-Z for his MTV Unplugged concert.[10] With heightened popularity came mounting pressure. The Roots released Phrenology (named after the pseudoscience of phrenology) in 2002. Despite not charting as high as Things Fall Apart, reaching a peak of #28 on the charts, Phrenology was commercially successful, eventually going gold, and earning a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Album. At the time, however, there came rumors that The Roots were losing interest in their signing with MCA.[2]

During this time the band backed Jay-Z for his 2003 farewell concert in Madison Square Garden, and appeared in the accompanying Fade to Black concert film.

[edit] The Tipping PointAfter Phrenology, Ben Kenney and Scratch both left the group; Kenney joined the rock band Incubus.[11] This culminated with the release of 2004’s The Tipping Point, the byproduct of several jam sessions.[2] The album earned two more Grammy nominations: one for Best Urban/Alternative Performance for the track “Star/Pointro” and another for Best Rap Performance By A Duo Or Group for the track “Don’t Say Nuthin’.”[12] The Tipping Point peaked at #4 on the Billboard album chart. In 2005, Home Grown! The Beginner’s Guide To Understanding The Roots, Volumes 1 & 2, a two-disc compilation album, was released. The Roots were among several performers on the 2006 film Dave Chappelle’s Block Party, whose event took place on September 18, 2004[13] and was released on film two years later.[14]

[edit] Game TheoryGame Theory was released August 29, 2006, on Def Jam records. Questlove describes the album as being very dark and reflective of the political state in America.[15] The first single from the album, “Don’t Feel Right”, appeared on the internet in May 2006, and is available for free download on several web sites. The album’s first video, titled “The Don’t Feel Right Trilogy”, premiered on August 21, 2006, and features three songs, “In the Music”, “Here I Come” and “Don’t Feel Right”. It earned an 83 on Metacritic and 2 Grammy Nominations. The late J Dilla is honoured on different occasions throughout the album. Track 1 is credited to be “Supervised by J Dilla”. Track 13 “Can’t Stop This” is devoted to his persona, the first part being an edited version of a track (“Time: The Donut of the Heart”) of his Donuts album, released three days before his death. This version comprises vocals by Black Thought. Secondly, a string of kindred artists reminisce about J Dilla in the form of answering machine messages.

[edit] Rising DownThe Roots’ eighth studio album, Rising Down, was released on April 29, 2008, the 16-year anniversary of the Los Angeles riots of 1992.

In the weeks before the album’s release, the original first single “Birthday Girl”, a radio-friendly collaboration with Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump was removed from the album reportedly because it didn’t fit in with the album’s tone.[16] It remained as a digital download available from iTunes as a bonus track, as well as on international releases.

Picking up where Game Theory left off, the album maintains a dark and political tone, with Black Thought and several guests venting about the ills of society today. The album’s guests include Chrisette Michele, Common, Mos Def, Saigon, Styles P, Talib Kweli, and Wale; it also features Philadelphia artists Dice Raw, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Peedi Crakk, P.O.R.N., and Truck North, as well as former member Malik B. Rising Down features The Roots incorporating a more electronic and synth-heavy feel into their sound. Rising Down was released to critical acclaim, garnering an overall score of 80 on Metacritic.

The album’s first single was “Rising Up” featuring Chrisette Michele and Wale.

[edit] How I Got OverHow I Got Over reflects the relief the band felt at the end of the Bush administration and the beginning of the Obama presidency. Guests include Blu, Phonte and Patty Crash, whose song “Serve This Royalty” is covered on the album. Rather than relying on samples, the album was recorded live, with covers (including Celestial Blues, featuring the song’s original artist, Andy Bey) being reinterpreted by the band.[17] The album was released on June 22, 2010.

On June 24, 2009, The Roots debuted the first single and title track from the album live on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. The song features longtime Roots collaborator Dice Raw.[18]

[edit] Wake Up!The Roots collaborated with R&B singer John Legend on the album Wake Up!. The album was released on September 21, 2010, and was publicized two days later with a live concert at Terminal 5 in New York City with John Legend and Jennifer Hudson that was streamed on YouTube. On October 30, 2010 The Roots and John Legend played live at the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear in Washington, D.C.

[edit] Betty Wright: The MovieThe Roots collaborated with R&B singer Betty Wright on the 2011 album Betty Wright: The Movie, credited to Betty Wright and The Roots. The album, co-produced by Wright and Questlove, was nominated for a 2012 Grammy in the “Best Traditional R&B Performance”.

[edit] UndunThe Roots released their thirteenth album Undun via Def Jam Records on December 6, 2011.[19] The first single “Make My” leaked on October 17, 2011. Undun is telling a story about their semi-fictional character, Redford Stephens. The album gravitates around Redford growing up in an urban landscape struggling with survival. He is forced to juxtapose between the choice of making something of himself or living a life of fast money and crime, and he chooses the life of crime. The album’s name is inspired by The Guess Who’s song “undun”, and the character was named after the Sufjan Stevens song “Redford”.[20] The album features artists like Aaron Livingston, Big K.R.I.T., Phonte, Dice Raw, P.O.R.N., Truck North, Bilal, and Sufjan Stevens. The band went back to their original “roots”, by returning to lyrics revolving around struggle and making something out of nothing.

[edit] Members This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (March 2009)

The Roots’ original lineup included Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter (MC) and Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson (drums), who were classmates at the Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts.[2] As they began to play at school and on the streets, they added bassist Josh “The Rubberband” Abrams, who went on to form the jazz group The Josh Abrams Quartet. They later added another MC Malik Abdul Basit-Smart (“Malik B.”), a new bassist, Leonard Nelson Hubbard (“Hub”), and keyboardist Scott Storch. MC Kenyatta “Kid Crumbs” Warren, was a part of the group for their first album, Organix, but did not appear on any later albums.Another MC, Dice Raw, joined on for cameos in later albums. The Roots filled Storch’s position with keyboardist, Kamal Gray, who continues to be a member.

The Roots performingBeatboxer Rahzel was a member of the group from 1995 to 1999. Alongside Rahzel was vocal turntablist Scratch, who DJ’d for them during live concerts. However, he abruptly left in 2003. Malik B. left the group in 1999 due to drug problems but continued to record, making occasional cameos on future albums. Guitarist Ben Kenney, had a short stint with the group and contributed to their Phrenology album, but left to join Incubus as their bassist. A percussionist, F Knuckles, was added in 2002 and guitarist, Kirk Douglas (a.k.a. “Captain Kirk”), replaced Kenney. Martin Luther, a vocalist, toured with The Roots in 2003 and 2004 and contributed to the Tipping Point album. The group announced in August 2007, to the dismay of fans, that longtime bassist, Leonard Hubbard, was leaving the group. “One of our partners is leaving us tonight, ladies and gentlemen, Leonard Hubbard” (Black Thought @ moe.down 8/31/07).

The current members of The Roots are Black Thought (MC), Questlove (drums), Kamal (keyboard), Frank Knuckles (percussion) (also a former Protégé of Questlove), and Cap’n Kirk (guitar). Recently, they have toured with sousaphonist Damon “Tuba Gooding Jr.” Bryson and Game Theory producer and current bassist Owen Biddle. For their performances on Jimmy Fallon, keyboardist James Poyser contributes additional keyboards.

The band announced on August 25, 2011 that Owen has left the band and will be replaced by Mark Kelley
Most members have worked with PETA to promote compassion for animals and the vegetarian lifestyle.[22]

Because the band members hail from Philadelphia and its surrounding area, they showed their support for the Phillies during the 2009 World Series against the Yankees, displaying Phillies memorabilia when performing on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. On the episode which aired the day after the Yankees clinched the title, “Questlove” stated “No comment!” on the show’s intro (when he usually states the episode number), and had a Yankees logo purposely displayed upside-down on his drumset. In 2010, the group showed support for the Flyers during their run to the Stanley Cup Final by having the team logo on their drumset.

[edit] Touring and other workThe band tours extensively, and their live sets are frequently hailed as the best in the genre.[23] Recently, the band played a concert in NYC’s Radio City Music Hall with Common, Nas, Talib Kweli and Big Daddy Kane. They backed Jay-Z a third time, for his Reasonable Doubt Concert, a celebration of the 10-year anniversary of the release of his first album.

In 1994, The Roots appeared on the Red Hot Organization’s compilation album, Stolen Moments: Red Hot + Cool. The album, meant to raise awareness and funds in support of the AIDS epidemic in relation to the African American community, was heralded as “Album of the Year” by Time magazine. They have been highly involved in many other Red Hot Organization productions, including the 1998 album Red Hot + Rhapsody and the 2001 album Red Hot + Indigo, a tribute to Duke Ellington.

The Roots have been featured in four movies: Dave Chappelle’s Block Party, both performing album songs and playing as a backing band for other artists; Spike Lee’s Bamboozled; Marc Levin’s Brooklyn Babylon, in which Black Thought plays the protagonist, Solomon, and former band member Rahzel narrates; and Chasing Liberty, starring Mandy Moore. Black Thought and Questlove were both featured in the movie Brown Sugar. Black Thought made an appearance in the film Love Rome as Tariq Trotter, and Questlove currently appears in the recent documentary movie about TBC Brass Band called From the Mouthpiece on Back, which lists The Roots as one of the executive producers of the movie.

The band guest performed on August 25 and 26 with the Dave Matthews Band during their 2007 summer tour. Members of The Roots played in various forms as well as a whole band on DMB’s back to back concerts at Alpine Valley Music Theatre in East Troy, Wisconsin. In 2007 the band performed at an NAACP tribute to Bono, covering U2’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “Pride (In the Name of Love)”. Black Thought mixed in lines form the band’s own “False Media”.[24]

The group hosts a highly-anticipated jam session every year the night before the Grammys. The Roots jam session, produced by Okayplayer, Goodtime Girl Entertainment and Keldof, has been attended by everyone from Jay-Z, Beyoncé Knowles and Tom Cruise to Don Cheadle, Jeremy Piven and Prince with impromptu performances from Snoop Dogg and Corrine Bailey Rae to Queen Latifah, Matisyahu, Fall Out Boy and Dave Chappelle.

Billed as The Roots, Questlove, Kirk and Owen made an appearance on The Colbert Report on April 15, 2008 when Stephen Colbert spent a week in Philadelphia prior to the 2008 Pennsylvania Democratic primary. During the appearance, they performed the intro song to the show, and closed the episode with a rendition of the Star Spangled Banner.

The Roots are featured on the Men in Black Original Soundtrack (1997) with the song “The Notic” with neo-soul singer D’Angelo. The song “Here I Come” was featured in the movies Superbad and Hancock. “Here I Come” is also featured in many video games including Project Gotham Racing 4. The song “The Seed 2.0” featuring Cody ChesnuTT was featured in the movies Collateral and I Think I Love My Wife. The song “Don’t Say Nuthin” was featured in the first season episode, “Busey And The Beach” of HBO’s Entourage. The song, “Guns Are Drawn”, featuring Aaron Livingston, was featured in a season six episode of CBS’ Cold Case.

They have performed on the popular kids show Yo Gabba Gabba, performing “Lovely, Love My Family” in 2008.

In March 2009, The Roots became the new official house band on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, with “Here I Come” as the show’s theme. The Roots, Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, and Taylor Hicks performed Rebecca Black’s viral hit “Friday” on the Late Night with Jimmy Fallon show on April Fool’s Day, 2011.

The Roots host an annual all day music festival in Philadelphia, PA every June.

On Tuesday, November 22, 2011 United States Congresswoman and presidential candidate Michele Bachmann was a guest on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. For her entrance, The Roots controversially played a snippet from Fishbone’s 1985 song, “Lying Ass Bitch”.

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Posted February 25, 2012 by pennylibertygbow in Blues / Jazz

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