1987. Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, second day of school. A student named Ahmir Thompson walks into the principals office seeking a lunch pass. At the same time, a freshman named Tariq Trotter stumbles in, gripped by school guards who caught him engaging in extracurricular activities with a ballerina in the ladies bathroom.
Luckily, Thompson has designs larger than lunch, and Trotters game is wider than women. Thompson is a jazz drummer and Trotter is an MC, and decides to create music together. They cant afford turntables, microphones, or DJ equipment. But then again, they are secretly glad about their dollar deficiency--their collaborations wouldnt have that something-from-nothing spirit that built hip-hop and rock. So, Trotter rhymes over Thompsons rented drum kit. Eventually, they call themselves the Square Roots, and Thompson adopts the name ?uestlove and Trotter takes on Black Thought.1989. Valentine's Day. The Square Roots debut their first show, facing off against classmates Boyz II Men. ?uestlove now looks back and asserts that the R&B group cheated, doing a New Edition routine complete with matching gear and glitter in their hands. The Square Roots are upstaged by the glamour and glitz. It would become a recurring theme. South Street, Philadelphia. If you're not familiar with it, think of Manhattan's Greenwich Village or San Francisco's Haight Ashbury. Bohemia and art so democratic it is literally on the street. This is where ?uestlove and Black Thought perform on corners using buckets, pans and pots for percussion. Even today, The Roots' live show exposes their rigorous training ground, rocking it despite hecklers, police, thrown objects, competing artists. Club owners take note, and offer them indoor shows.
1991. Black Thought attends Millersville University, outside of Philadelphia. In between sitting "in class dreaming about 50,000 fans up in the stands screaming out," he meets fellow student and rapper Malik B. Bassist Leonard "Hub" Hubbard also joins the band and they become The Roots. Keyboardist Scott Storch rounds out the sound.
1993. The Roots proceed to Germany for a concert and industriously decide to record an album to sell at live shows. Indie label Remedy Records releases it; called Organix. As part of their European excursion, they all cram in a London flat.
1995. The Roots graduate to Geffen, or what Black Thought called it, "sharecropping", and release the album Do You Want More?!!!??! At the height of the industry's over sampling phase, this album includes none. Instead, they rely on new group member human beatbox Rahzel the Godfather of Noyze as well has guest jazz artists Joshua Roseman, saxophonist Steve Coleman and vocalist Cassandra Wilson. "Proceed" and "Silent Treatment" become hits. The Roots' live show gets further exposure on the second stage at Lollapalooza and the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, originally made essential by Miles Davis and Marvin Gaye.
1996. Quickly reloading after their major label debut, The Roots release Illadelph Halflife, starring the popular single "What They Do," whose music video is hailed as one of the most eloquent and innovative of all time. The Roots' renaissance begins. Keyboardist Kamal Gray and human turntablist Scratch become members of the band.
1999. Commercially, things come together with the release of Things Fall Apart. The album soars close to platinum, selling 900,000 copies, and included the Grammy-winning hit single "You Got Me," featuring Eve and Erykah Badu, written by Jill Scott. Even as they are excelling in the stores, The Roots showcase their strength on stage with the double concert album The Roots Come Alive. At the same time that their commercial base expands, they create one for other people. Along with the Jazzyfatnastees and Jaguar Wright, they organize the musical salon Black Lily which gives Beanie Sigel, Bilal and Musiq their first shine.
2000. The Roots win the Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group Grammy for "You Got Me" and back up Jay-Z for his MTV Unplugged special.
2001. The Roots support Moby on his Area One Tour.
2002. The Roots release their sixth album Phrenology. Black Thought's lyrics are their most personal to date. The 10-minute plus "Water" anchors the album. It's a message to now-former group member Malik B. about his descent into drugs and is the luxuriating and ambitious type of song not heard since Issac Hayes' dropped sitcom-long compositions. Amiri Baraka, Nelly Furtado and Cody Chestnut co-star, and for the first time added punk and 80s R&B influenced guitarist Ben Kenney to the mix to hone a rock edge. Kenney goes on to play with Incubus. Rolling Stone proclaims that with Phrenology, The Roots created a "blueprint for twenty- first-century pop music."
2003. The Roots attend the Grammys, in honor of their nominated album Phrenology and to back up Eminem's performance. Having completed several years of the Okayplayer tour and ?uestlove having produced for D'Angelo, Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake, Macy Gray and Joss Stone,
The Roots begin work on their seventh album. Harkening back to the golden era of jazz and their method of recording The Roots' first album, ?uestlove, Black Thought, Hub and Kamal create their latest opus through a series of jam sessions with artists that fortuitously pass through Philadelphia. The exchange of ideas, long sessions and loose vibe create unexpected results. Guest musicians - Brooklyn-based guitarist Captain Kirk (Kirk Douglas) and percussionist Frank Knuckles -- collaborate as well. The band replay jam session tapes and develop songs from the cells within.
Live On Stage:
What can you say about The Roots that hasn't been said before they're a band that blurs the lines of hip hop and rock by presenting it in an organic way - an MC backed by a live band. The Roots certainly don't as much credit as they deserve for consistently putting out such great music. Check out this inventive take on Bob Dylan's "Masters Of War" with ?uestlove holding it down with a military drum beat as well as getting to shine with a killer solo at the end....
You really need to see these guys live to get it, here's some shows to download...
The Roots - 2006-10-29 - Vegoose Music Festival - Jokers Wild Stage - Las Vegas, NV
The Roots - 2005-06-17 - Red Rocks Amphitheater - Morrison, CO
The Roots - 1994-07-04 - Montreux Jazz Festival - Miles Davis Hall - Montreux, Switzerland
Here's The Roots with the video trilogy "Don't Feel Right"....
Got a bunch more for you to check out, you'll want to....
I Don't Care
Don't Say Nuthin
The Seed 2.0
You Got Me
What They Do
Break You Off
The Next Movement
For more on The Roots head over to their official website.
Set Time: 6/15, What Stage, 6 PM - 7:30 PM
Saturday, June 2, 2007