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Watch The Roots and Erykah Badu’s 20-minute hip-hop history lesson from the Roots Picnic

Erykah Badu performing at Roots Picnic | Photo by John Vettese
Erykah Badu performing at Roots Picnic | Photo by John Vettese

There were lots of standout performances at this year’s Roots Picnic, which took place at Festival Pier on May 30th. One in particular that is gaining buzz in various corners of the web is Erykah Badu and The Roots‘ 20-minute hip-hop medley. The two music powerhouses teamed up to create a tribute to Grandmaster Flash, Snoop Dogg, Nas, Wu-Tang Clan, and more, and included their individual songs in the mix as well. Watch the performance below, and read our recap of the Picnic here. Continue reading →

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Love of My Life: The 8th Annual Roots Picnic celebrates a generation of innovative music

The Roots | Photo by John Vettese
The Roots | Photo by John Vettese

Every year, the Roots Picnic inches closer to Philly musical utopia. The pre-summer day fest is curated by local hip-hop heroes The Roots, the self-proclaimed hardest working band in America. True to their own innovative and barrier-breaking approach, the lineup is always a unique, eclectic and interesting trip. The setting and its vibe has historically been a bit rockier, beset by exponentially swelling crowds and typically sweltering heat beating down on the minimally shaded asphalt of Festival Pier.

But the eighth annual installment of the Picnic yesterday, while not perfect, was a tremendously positive event, with major improvements in the layout and organization of the festival and a trimming of the musical fat (for the most part). Continue reading →

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Other than The Weeknd and A$AP Rocky, 5 Artists to Catch at The Roots Picnic this Weekend

 

Donn T | Photo via Facebook.com/pages/Donn-T/105596011218?fref=photo
Donn T | Photo via Facebook.com/pages/Donn-T/105596011218?fref=photo

The 8th annual Roots Picnic is headed to Festival Pier this Saturday, May 30. Major names are set to perform at the all-day festival (The Weeknd and Phantogram, anyone?), but the lesser known artists will undeniably rock Penn’s Landing just as hard. The Questlove-curated lineup includes longtime Philly favorites and emerging young artists. Here are five not to miss. Continue reading →

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The Roots (of course), Miguel and Jennifer Nettles playing Wawa Welcome America

The Roots | Photo via https://www.facebook.com/WawaWelcomeAmerica/posts/900391980002753
The Roots | Photo via https://www.facebook.com/WawaWelcomeAmerica/posts/900391980002753

Wawa Welcome America announced the first several artists playing the 2015 Philly 4th of July jam on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. Once again, The Roots will be holding down the day’s events, along with R&B singer and songwriter Miguel and country music star Jennifer Nettles. Continue reading →

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Erykah Badu, Phantogram, The Weeknd and more to play Roots Picnic 2015

Erykah Badu | Photo via facebook.com/erykahbadu
Erykah Badu | Photo via facebook.com/erykahbadu

The eighth annual Roots Picnic will bring its eclectic, Questlove-curated lineup to the Festival Pier on Saturday, May 30th, and the lineup is, as usual, pretty damn exciting. In addition to a set from hometown heroes The Roots themselves, this year’s “old school guest” will be Erykah Badu – the progressive soul singer who notably sang the hook on The Roots’ 1999 hit “You Got Me” (and who The Roots earned their first Grammy with in 1998, for production on her album Baduizm). Continue reading →

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Dice Raw’s hip-hop musical The Last Jimmy will show at the Prince Theater next month

Photo by John Vettese
Photo by John Vettese

After the death of the Prince Theater’s board chairman and chief fundraiser, Herb Lotman, it seemed that the theater would be closing its doors for good. But next month, the Prince will be showcasing a new hip-hop musical, “THE LAST JIMMY!”

A stage performance created by local playwright Phillip Brown in collaboration rapper and Roots affiliate Dice Raw, it is based in part on Dice’s socially-charged Jimmy’s Back mixtape, which is a call-to-arms against mass incarceration. In turn, the mixtape and musical were inspired by Dr. Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow, a study of race and the American prison system.  Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: Sameer Rao’s Top 5 Musical Gut-Punches of 2014 (Philly edition)

Brielle | Photo via twitter.com/aprilfoolchild

Year-End Mania is the Key’s survey of the things below the surface that made 2014 awesome. In this installment, contributing writer Sameer Rao talks about songs that make you feel.

In case you didn’t read and feel what I wrote and felt last year, let it be known far and wide that 2014 was yet another hell of a year for nerve-poking chords, chill-inducing croons, and all manner of music that brought on heavy cases of the feels. And since this was a banner year for local artists of all stripes, we’re making this one Philly-exclusive. Get your tissues out for this list. Continue reading →

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RIP: Richard Nichols, longtime manager and “guiding spirit” of The Roots

rich-nichols-RIP
Longtime manager, friend, and “guiding spirit” of The Roots, Richard Nichols, passed away today.

The Roots released this official statement:

“The Roots Family are devastated to announce the passing of Richard Nichols, the band’s longtime manager, after a long battle with leukemia. Nichols, 55, a Philadelphia native, managed the band from its inception in 1992, and was instrumental in every aspect of The Roots’ creative, cultural, and professional life  over the past two decades. Nichols is survived by his wife, Mercedes Martinez, his sons Amiri Nichols and Rakim Nichols, his sisters Rochelle Nichols-Solomon, Rebecca Dennis, his brothers Russell Nichols and Reginald Nichols, and the many individuals and artists he mentored in his lifetime.”

In Chapter Two of Questlove’s Mo’ Meta Blues, there’s an e-mail exchange between Quest’s co-writer, Ben Greenman, and the editor of the book, Ben Greenberg. In the e-mail, Greenman outlines the potential way in which Nichols can have an ongoing voice throughout the book. Greenman describes Rich:

Rich is supremely analytical, extremely verbal, and entirely determined to digest, process, present, and represent the Roots’ whole experience. He has been central to the growth of the enterprise – in helping to strategize the moments when they grabbed for the brass ring as well as the moments when they sat back and thought about what the brass ring meant. He conducts an ongoing interrogation about what it all means. What’s black culture? What’s hip-hop? What are the responsibilities of a society and the people in it? And his inquiry isn’t bloodlessly academic, either; there’s something very consequential about his approach.

I’ve had the privilege of a handful of dealings with Rich over the years, in the context of the music business and the various events and interviews WXPN has done with the band. When I read the above paragraph in Quest’s book, which came out about a year ago, I felt that Greenman expressed how I always felt about Rich, in the little that I did deal with him. What I noticed right up front when I did meet Rich for the very first time – I think it was at a Roots house party in Grays Ferry back in the early 90′s, I always admired Nichols’ thoughtfulness, as well as his incredible love of music. Perhaps it was the “consequential-ness” of his approach that I felt, but couldn’t articulate.

In addition to his work visionary work with The Roots, Nichols also held down production, mixing and Executive Producing duties for a number of records, including those by Al Green, Common, Jill Scott, Zap Mama, Jay Z, Elvis Costello, and others.

In his acknowledgments to Mo’ Meta Blues, Questlove offers a thank you to Richard Nichols: “For being in the lighthouse. Actually, I think you are the lighthouse.”

Our thoughts go out to Nichols, family, friends, and the entire Roots crew.

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Check out this cool behind the scenes video from last year’s Fourth of July Jam

DJJazzyJeff

On the latest edition of Vinyl Destination, a documentary series featuring DJ Jazzy Jeff, the cameras go behind the scenes of 2013′s July Fourth Welcome America event, featuring not only Jazzy Jeff, but also artists like Jill Scott and The Roots (I watched the first half of the video thinking it was from this year’s, but oddly enough, it’s actually from last year’s). The video shows conversations between the artists about Jeff learning to swim and Jill learning to drive, and interestingly enough, there’s a scene just around the corner of WXPN’s World Cafe live as Jazzy Jeff checks out the food trucks on 30th Street. Check out the episode below: