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20 Years of Grandiose Hip-Hop: How Things Fall Apart taught The Roots to balance art, commerce, and deeply personal perspectives

The Roots, circa 1999

“We had given most of our adult lives to that point to the band. What if success never came to us, or never came in the form we expected? – Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson

As a teenager growing up in Philadelphia in the mid-to-late 90s, radio was a really big deal. Guided by that old algorithm of the human spirit, a handful of radio shows and the DJs and personalities that captained them fed and diversified my ever-growing musical appetite, from J. Michael Harrison’s electric Jazz fusions on Temple’s The Bridge, to the quirky Indie Rock of the Sarah and Laurie Show from Princeton’s WPRB. I’d bounce off my bedroom walls to sounds of mainstream Alternative Rock on Y-100 and fall asleep to the ambient soundscapes of John Diliberto’s Echoes and Chuck Van Zyl’s Star’s End on WXPN.

Like many kids, I’d often call into radio stations and request whatever songs I wanted to hear. Unlike most kids, the budding archivist in me would compel me to press record on my combination radio / cassette deck each time one of my request calls made it on air or my name was shouted out by a show’s host. By the time I graduated high school and I had filled up a tape of my radio mentions and shout outs.

One night, a new song by Philadelphia’s own The Roots had come across the airwaves and floored me. Slick and modern, the song fused lovelorn verses from Black Thought and a pre-fame / pre-Ruff Ryders Eve with a killer hook sung by Erykah Badu (and written by Jill Scott). Two bars into the song’s final chorus, the plodding, straight-forward drum beat that Questlove had held lockstep for the entire song transformed into something altogether different. Continue reading →

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The Week Ahead: Adia Victoria, James Blake, Things Fall Apart tribute, Anderson .Paak and more

Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals @ The 9th Annual Roots Picnic | photo by Wendy McCardle

From tonight’s headlining set form DIY faves Adult Mom to Sunday’s hotly anticipated return of Anderson .Paak, singer-songwriters Lily & Madeline and a 20th anniversary tribute to Things Fall Apart, this week is packed with live music. Here are 15 concerts to see in the next 7 days, all around Philly. Continue reading →

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Just Announced: Jenny Lewis will headline The Met Philly in October

Jenny Lewis | photo by Autumn DeWilde | courtesy of the artist

Singer-songwriter Jenny Lewis returns this spring with On The Line, her much-anticipated first album in five years. Her first single from it, “Red Bull & Hennessy,” was revealed last month, along with an initial offering of tour dates. Today, Lewis returns with the smoking rock and roll ballad “Heads Gonna Roll,” as well as an additional run of east coast performances that finds her coming to The Met Philly on Saturday, October 26th.  Continue reading →

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The Key Studio Sessions: Kayleigh Goldsworthy

We were fortunate enough this week to catch Kayleigh Goldsworthy in a rare moment of respite.

Whether residing or just passing through, the singer-songwriter and guitarist has been all around these United States — many of the places that pop up in her songs, like Portland and Nashville and New York — and for the past year and change, she’s called Philadelphia home. The concept of “home” in some ways is a bit nebulous, though, since Goldsworthy is always on the go. Continue reading →

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Just Announced: Rodrigo y Gabriela brings Mettavolution to Franklin Music Hall

 

Rodrigo y Gabriela | photo by Noah Silvestry | silvestography.com

Instrumental guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela are about to return with their first album in five years. Called Mettavolution, it will be released on April 26, and the duo will head out on a US tour that brings them to Franklin Music Hall on May 17.

Mettavolution will be the sixth studio album from the long-running Rodrigo y Gabriela, who released their last LP 9 Dead Alive in 2014 and played XPN Fest that year. The new record will feature six original compositions by the Mexican acoustic musicians, plus an 18-minute cover of Pink Floyd’s “Echoes,” which is out now. Continue reading →

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Just Announced: Lee Ranaldo comes to Jerry’s on Front in April

Lee Ranaldo at the Philadelphia Museum of Art | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Guitarist, writer and producer Lee Ranaldo may be best known as the co-founder of Sonic Youth, but he’s kept plenty busy since the beloved band went on hiatus in 2011. According to a recent interview, Ranaldo’s currently recording a new album in Hoboken, and he’s found some time to play some solo shows in the process. Ranaldo will appear here in Philly at Jerry’s on Front on April 13 with Alan Licht and Loren Connors, as well as a set from Jerry’s owner/operator Chris Forsyth. Continue reading →