Roots are a genre in their own right


The story of The Roots story begins at Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts where Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson and Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter were both students. The couple shared a musical kinship and made their street corner debut, rapping on pail drums. Their first “official” concert was a talent show in 1989 in their high school when they were on Radio Activity. By the time they recruited bassist Leonard “Hub” Hubbard and the late rapper Malik B into the group, they were known as Square Roots. They then abandoned “The Square” because it was in conflict with another band from Philly performing under the same name.

The group moved to London where they independently released the album “Organix”, a masterpiece which, with many tours, would help them develop their growing cult.

The Roots received offers from music labels, and the band eventually signed with DGC/ Geffen and released their second studio album “Do You Want More? !!! ??!”

In an era when gangsterism in hip-hop was at an all-time high, The Roots championed a style that emphasized classic elements of hip-hop including turntablism and scratching, but with musical virtuosity built on Eclectic live jazz styles that could be found anywhere, from nationally renowned venues like the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to intimate and low-key jazz clubs. This, combined with Black Thought’s outstanding storytelling and the appeal of the band’s cypher-style performances, resulted in a powerful band that shaped the modern sounds of hip-hop.


Listen: five essential tracks from The Roots.


1. “Sweet my man”

The album “Do you want more? !!! ??!” set a model for the sound of The Roots with its live aesthetic. He also gave insight into the ambition and artistic vision of the group. They took that vision to the next level with their next release “Illadelph Halflife,” a somewhat darker album with a more focused and spiritually infused aural sensitivity, tuning their sound amid socially political and conscious lyrics.

2. “What they do”

What They Do ”is a clever but biting critique of the era’s rap video clichés and an anti-gangsta manifesto. After the release of “llladelph Halflife”, The Roots has again evolved its sound on their next album, “Things Fall Apart”, named after Chinua Achebe’s novel of the same title. The album was recorded at Electric Lady’s studios around the same time that other Soulquarian projects were premiered in the same facility, such as “Voodoo” by D’Angelo, “Mama’s Gun” by Erykah. Badu and Common’s “Like Water for Chocolate”. backbone and connective tissue between that and the emerging progressive neo soul / soul genre.

3. “Act too (the love of my life)”

The Grammy-nominated “Things Fall Apart” featured a more structured sound and was produced entirely by The Roots. Gone is the loose, jazzy, live and improvised feel of “Organix” and “Do You Want More? !!! ??!”, Replaced by a more precise sound collage with a flawless coherence, a unity and a coherent flow with the tracks.


Related: Questlove’s ‘Summer of Soul’ Brings Hidden History of Harlem Culture Festival to the Masses


4. “Complexity”

The Roots continued their ambitious forays into sound discovery on “phrenology”. The album is a brilliant soul / funk, rock, drum-and-bass, techno and progressive soul groover that further raised the bar for hip-hop and was by far the band’s most punchy album to date.

5. “The show”

The band continued to evolve their sound on subsequent albums and touring over 200 days a year, cultivating their reputation as one of the hardest working live bands in the industry. They have featured a rotating roster of artists as part of the group which over the years has included musicians who have become respected artists in music, but the current incarnation of the group includes Kamal Gray, Stro Elliot, James Poyser, Captain Kirk Douglas, Damon “Tuba Gooding Jr” Bryson, Ray Angry, Mark Kelley, Jeremy Ellis, Ian Hendrickson-Smith and Dave Guy.

In 2009, they became the official house group for “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon”, blending in perfectly with the mainstream.

As a group, The Roots are music trailblazers and trendsetters, influencing generations of artists and producers through their work ethic, prolific production, and ability to connect hip-hop with its heritage. , its music and popular culture.

Over the span of 11 album releases, they brought an ambitious sense of experimentation to hip-hop, a collective of high-level musicians well-versed in musical traditions who have developed a respected heritage as a group. which presents one of the most gifted concerts. shows in the music industry. In short, the Roots are a genre of their own, in their own way and forging their own way while shaping the future direction of music.


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