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The Roots Picnic brings an inspired musical frenzy to the Festival Pier

The Roots and Snoop Dogg | Photo by Mark Schaffer
The Roots and Snoop Dogg | Photo by Mark Schaffer

The anticipation behind this year’s Roots Picnic could have easily evolved into a self-fulfilling letdown of high expectations gone unfulfilled. Fortunately for the sold-out crowd of over 6,000, the day met every benchmark for a phenomenal musical experience.

With the newly-renovated and sand-strewn Festival Pier as its home base, the all-day festival boasted an eclectic line-up of both upstart and established acts of various genres. All acts shared the Questlove seal of approval, bearing a heavy emphasis on rhythm and sunny-day vibes.

Janelle Monae | Photo by Mark Schaffer
Janelle Monae | Photo by Mark Schaffer

Although every act of the day put on a frenzy-whipping set (the strongest of them being, arguably, a sunset-backed and pitch-perfect Janelle Monáe), there were a few noteworthy highlights:

-    An inspiring group of sets in the first half of the festival (prior to most attendees’ arrival) with particularly strong ones from New Zealand RnB group Electric Wire Hustle, hip-hop/classical sequence-loops master Emily Wells, blues-rock guitarist and singer Roman Gianarthur (including soulful covers of Erykah Badu’s “Bag Lady” and Radiohead’s “High and Dry”), West Philly’s own Chill Moody, and British drum-and-bass act Rudimental (during which this reporter felt bass shocks that almost stopped his heartbeat)

-    Guest appearances from Philly’s own Freeway and Harlem’s Jim Jones during a DJ set from legendary producer Just Blaze, with Freeway performing State Property hits like “Roc da Mic

The War on Drugs | Photo by Mark Schaffer
The War on Drugs | Photo by Mark Schaffer

-    A searing performance from WXPN favorites The War on Drugs, during which frontman Adam Granduciel gave Program Director Bruce Warren a heartwarming shoutout (referring to him as “The Other Boss”)

-    The aforementioned strongest set of the day, starting with The Electric Lady herself being wheeled out on a stretcher in a straitjacket before tearing through most of her hits with uncompromising intensity

-    The Roots (post-Snoop Dogg) bringing out Doug E. Fresh, Biz Markie, and former member Rahzel for an epic rendition of several popular songs showcasing all three of their legendary beatboxing.

Check out photos from the day’s festivities, taken by local musician and photographer Mark Schaffer, in the gallery below.

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Download the new Girl Talk and Freeway EP, Broken Ankles

Photo by Andrew Strasser
Photo by Andrew Strasser

Producer, DJ and mashup artist Girl Talk (Greg Gillis) has joined forces with Philly rapper Freeway to release a new EP, Broken Ankles available exclusively at Datpiff. The EP is a departure from Girl Talk’s previous releases in that Gillis produces more traditional hip-hop beats, not mashups. He told James Montgomery of MTV News:

“I had the idea to do a mixtape with someone, but have it flow like one of my albums. I wanted to do a mixtape that was pretty different from your average mixtape. Every song is connected and there’s a very distinct beginning and end; it works as a whole,” Gillis explained. “It’s a continuous mix, but the songs can work as standalones. It’s a very colorful listen, too; there’s stuff that’s more obscure soul samples, there’s ’70s prog rock samples, there’s more modern samples; it jumps around. So it represents a lot of what we were doing together.”

The EP features contributions from Jadakiss on “I Can Hear Sweat,” Young Chris on “Tell Me Yeah,” and Waka Flocka Flame on “Tolerated.” That last song also features samples of “Rubber Car” by Enon and “Dreams” by Esther Phillips.

As for the samples, Gillis digs deep into the crates for sounds from Kansas (featured as the lead in to the bridge on “I Can Hear Sweat”), Cyndi Lauper, Lumidee, Mouse On Mars, Nine Inch Nails, Notorius B.I.G., The Temptations, Tubeway Army, and Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman. Fans of Gillis and Philly Freezer have been treated to one of the best mixtapes of the year. Girl Talk plays at Firefly on Friday, June 20th.

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Watch “Tolerated,” the new collaboration between Philly Freeway and Girl Talk

Photo courtesy of the artists.
Photo courtesy of the artists.
Philly rapper Freeway and Girl Talk have released the first video and song from their forthcoming collaboration. “Tolerated” features special guest Waka Flacka Flame, and is from their Broken Ankles EP, available to download for free via DatPiff on April 8th. Freeway, known for his hard hitting rap style, has joined forces with Girl Talk (Gregg Gillis) in what is a musical departure for Gillis’s usual mashup style of sampling.

There’s no shortage of gore, pranks, cakes smashed in people’s faces, people smashing chairs on each other, chest punches, crazy karate moves, eye ball poking, and limbs being torn from bodies. It’s how Girl Talk and Freeway “tolerate” all their haters, over an energetic, pulsing beat and Freeway’s hard hitting raps.

About the collaboration, Gillis told Pitchfork:

It was liberating and exciting working on a different style of material. I couldn’t stop. A bunch of the ideas were things I’ve been wanting to do for years… I’ve been a fan of Freeway since I first heard him on ’1-900-Hustler,’ and I just thought he was the perfect fit for what I had in mind. I wanted the album to be diverse, and I wanted someone who could maneuver around quick changes mid-song. Freeway is the rare rapper who sounds natural on all types of beats, ranging from cut-up soul to menacing synth-jams. His energy is unreal, and he’s able to keep up with any production… I wanted to work closer to traditional song structure compared to my last few albums, but still include some detailed sample splicing and change-ups when it felt appropriate. The overall structure is what I thought worked best with Freeway’s style… It’s always important to me to have an album that works as a whole; something that has a calculated flow to it, which is intended to be listened to front to back.

Below, watch “Tolerated.”

Girl Talk will perform at the Firefly Music Festival on Friday, June 20th.

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Download a new Greg Porn song, “Dot,” featuring Freeway

Photo by Ricky Codio http://rickycodio.com/
Photo by Ricky Codio http://rickycodio.com/

Rapper Greg Porn has released a new song, “Dot,” from his forthcoming album, Amerikan Junkie. The song features Philly rapper Freeway who busts out a hot couple of verses in his classic hard hitting Philly Freezer way and the song’s got a bounce to it that won’t quit. Porn, a collaborator with the Roots, and a member of the Moneymaking Jam Boys, releases his new album on October 1st.

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Free Download: “Change Coming” by Chill Moody featuring Freeway

Photo by Bob Giardini | bobg-media.com
When we talked to Chill Moody in advance of his sold-out headlining show at the TLA last week, he let us in on some details about one of the tracks on his new album RFM (out digitally next week). “Change Coming” features a collaboration with legendary Philly rapper Freeway, who has served as something of a mentor to the emerging Philly rapper in recent years. Says Chill:

We’re always in the same venues; every time I’ve had a show for past year and a half, somebody else has always brought him on as a guest spot. So we got to talking, and he’s dropping jewels on me, telling me things about the industry. It’s very big brother / little brother.

The track has a nice bounce and a soulful refrain; stream it and download it below.

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Interview: Chill Moody on wrapping up a great year by headlining The TLA

When he played the Roots Picnic this summer, Chill Moody caught the eyes and ears of the folks at Billboard Magazine, who highlighted his set in their rundown of the festival. For Chill, this was an unexpected honor- the magazine tracks the music business, and so far, he’s never actually sold his music. It was also one highlight in a string of highlights for the Philly rapper: he released the tremendous Freshman Take Cover mixtape this summer, he threw a concert in Love Park in September, he became the first rapper to perform at City Hall in October, performing alongside poet Sonia Sanchez. Tomorrow night, he brings the year to a close on a high note, headlining The TLA on South Street. We caught up with Chill via phone last week to recap his breakout year, get a preview of the TLA show – and the new album, RFM, that comes with it – and to hear what’s in store for 2013.

The Key: What does it mean to you to be playing the TLA?

Chill Moody: It’s everything. It’s a great way to end this year. It’s a been a great year for my career. We had word we’d get this show around June when it first got in talks, and I found out for sure in October. But I figured I should keep rolling throughout the year, and use it to put on a big show at end of year. It’s good to be looked at as the main attraction in your own city, and people who’ve been following me and my career know this is huge for me. They’re proud of me.

TK: Seems like it’s going to be a big lineup – Mic Stew, Jade Alston – I heard The Astronauts are involved. Did you hand pick the artists who are with you?

CM: Yeah, it was a mixture of people who I’m fans of their music and also fans of them as performers. They’re people where their music transcends to their live performance. It’s not like people coming to this show will come just to see me. If you get there on time, you’ll get a good show front to back, and be excited that whole time up until I get on stage. Continue reading →

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Freeway at The Blockley, Rone at Kung Fu Necktie

Philly rap icon Freeway – he of #TeamEarly fame – is celebrating the release of his latest LP, Diamond in the Ruff, tonight at The Blockley. The album drops on Tuesday, and features collabos with Musiq Soulchild, Nikki Jean and Wale. The 21+ show begins at 9 p.m., more information is available here. Below, dig on the ominous “Numbers,” Free’s collaboration with fellow Philly rapper Neef Buck.

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Freeway’s album release concert rescheduled for 11/26 at The Blockley; listen to a new track, “Numbers”

Philly rapper Freeway is dropping his latest full-length, Diamond in the Ruff, later this month on Babygrande Records, and he’s been teasing us. First with music – there was “We Up” and “Jungle,” as well as the Freedom of Speech mixtape.  Then there was the question of when exactly he’d celebrate the album’s release in his hometown. His label originally announced that it was this past Monday night, the 12th, at The Blockley – but it never appeared on the venue’s calendar, and all signs on Tuesday morning pointed to “it did not happen.” Turns out it just took some time to get everyone’s schedule aligned. The venue told us yesterday that the show has been rescheduled for Monday, November 26 – a more timely date, with Diamond in the Ruff coming out the next day – and tickets will be $20 at the door. And hey, there’s new music in the mix too! Below you can check out “Numbers,” another track from the new album, and get ready to party.

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The Week So Far: 14 must-read stories on The Key

Photo by Eric Ashleigh | showtographe.com

Interview: Talking wood nymphs and a show at Ortlieb’s with Brooklyn’s Savoir Adore. [link]

Hear a new song from Nothing, sign up to be in their Key Studio Sessions audience. [link]

Interview: Craig Hendrix of Philly’s Auctioneer on songwriting and Shaking Through. [link]

Lehigh Valley jazz-psych duo XVSK stop by to record a Key Studio Session. [link]

Photos of a spellbinding night at Union Transfer with Beach House. [link]

Breaking down the numbers of WXPN’s 885 Songs that Rock countdown. [link]

Watch a jangling new music video from Low Cut Connie, filmed at the North Star Bar. [link]

Get a taste of the new record from Freeway with his Freedom of Speech mixtape. [link]

Listen to The Dead Milkmen recorded live on WXPN…25 years ago. [link]

Download a free mixtape from Black Dub’s Trixie Whitley. [link]

Watch Rap City, the WHYY documentary on Philly’s hip-hop scene circa 1988. [link]

Couldn’t make it to Austin City Limits? Neil Young and Crazy Horse‘s entire set is streaming. [link]

Also in Austin, Philly sons The War on Drugs played a killer “Arms Like Boulders.” [link]

Jack White dances and beatboxes in his music video for “I’m Shakin’.” [link]

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Today in Freeway News: Download the new Freedom of Speech mixtape

You’ve got to hand it to Freeway – the man knows how to build buzz. After announcing a tour and dropping a video, then following it up with a new track, today it’s an entire new mixtape from Mr. Team Early. Download Freedom of Speech from Datpiff below, get psyched for Diamond in the Ruff‘s November 27 release on Babygrande Records; his hometown release party is reportedly November 12 at The Blockley, but there’s still no ticket onsale information at the venue’s website. We’ll keep you posted with more info on that as we find it.

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