From Philly street corner buskers to hip-hop pioneers to perpetually touring live act to late-night television house band, legendary hip-hop group The Roots have never been one to rest on their laurels. After more than 15 years, the critically acclaimed, award-winning band continues to reinvent themselves and remains one of music’s most enduring and forward-thinking groups.
Since their 1993 self-released debut Organix, The Legendary Roots Crew have consistently been lauded for their creative use of live instrumentation (a rarity in hip-hop), thoughtful, intelligent lyrics and mesmerizing live shows. Never afraid to venture outside their comfort zone, the group has, over the course of eight albums, explored everything from free jazz to hard rock to electro, always ensuring that each album sounds different from its predecessors.
This adherence to sonic diversity has hardly diminished their commercial success. Four of their albums have reached Billboard’s Top 10 and two albums—1999’s Things Fall Apart and 2002’s Phrenology—have been certified gold. In addition, the band has been nominated for six Grammys, winning one for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group in 1999 for “You Got Me” (with Erykah Badu.)
But while their albums may push the limits of studio innovation, the group has long earned their bona fides in the tried-and-true fashion: on the road. Whether opening for Dave Matthews Band or Santana, performing at festivals as diverse as Bonnaroo, Rock the Bells and Montreux Jazz Festival or headlining shows around the world, most Roots shows, a mix of energetic exuberance, musical virtuosity and unpredictable set lists, have become instant “Were you there?” moments. From the first hip-hop concert at Lincoln Center to nightly performances as the house band for “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon,” it’s no wonder Spin and Rolling Stone both named the group to their respective Greatest Live Bands lists.
Though the group has gone through numerous lineup changes over the years, the core of founding members Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter and drummer Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson still anchor the band’s continually evolving sound. Taking its title from Clara Ward’s 1951 gospel song of the same name, the band’s upcoming ninth album How I Got Over stands as the next chapter, reflecting an everyman's journey from alienation and disorientation to a more focused and hopeful state. Self-produced by the group with cover art inspired by visual artist Cara Walker, the album features guest appearances by Phonte Coleman (Little Brother, Foreign Exchange), Blu (Blu & Exile), Dice Raw and Icelandic rock singer Patty Crash. In addition to the band’s original material, the album also includes a reworking of John Legend’s “Again”. In an industry of one-hit wonders and sound-alikes, hip-hop’s most daring group returns to show everyone how it’s supposed to be done.
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