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Watch The Roots back Erykah Badu as she mashes “On and On” with Fela Kuti’s “Sorrow, Tears and Blood”

Erykah Badu
Erykah Badu | photo by Andrew Lipovsky for NBC | courtesy of the artist

For the past six years, the recordings of Nigerian multi-instrumentalist Fela Kuti have been reissued in a series of limited-edition vinyl box sets, curated by peers and fans including Questlove (2011’s volume 1), Ginger Baker (2012’s volume 2), and Brian Eno (2014’s volume 3).

The latest installment, Fela Kuti Vinyl Box Set 4, was just released this past Friday, and curator Erykah Badu took to the stage of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon last night with her old buds, The Legendary Roots Crew, to perform a medley of Fela’s “Sorrow, Tears and Blood” — from the 1977 album of the same name, recorded with Afrika 70 — alongside her own “On and On” from 1997’s Baduizm. Continue reading →

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Gather round tight as The Roots rock NPR Music’s Tiny Desk with the new song “It Ain’t Fair”

The Roots at NPR Music’s Tiny Desk | via NPR Music

The Legendary Roots Crew played an epic Tiny Desk Concert in DC over the weekend, and the whole place was bouncing. Most artists fill their slot at NPR with two or three songs, but The Roots were jamming out to one song, twelve minutes, eight people crammed behind the desk brass band style.

The song is a new one called “It Ain’t Fair,” and featured fellow Philly native Bilal on vocals for a performance of enormous proportions. A true ballad, it began quietly, with the drums and the tuba taking reigns on the rhythm. Then, in full force, the rest of the brass joined in, and it was electric. Bilal has a voice reminiscent of Prince, and I drew the connection instantly. So soulful and jumpy, he truly stole the show when he walked in a few minutes into the song. Continue reading →

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Watch The Roots play with The Dallas POPS Orchestra for their Night of Symphonic Hip Hop

The Roots and Pharrell at The Roots Picnic | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN

The Roots gave a performance unlike anything they’ve ever done when they took the stage with The Dallas POPS Orchestra — and guests like keyboardist Erykah Badu, Robert Glasper, Chaka Kahn and more –  to celebrate their Night of Symphonic Hip Hop concert at the Music Factory, and it was absolutely unreal. There were so many levels added to fan-favorite Roots songs with the help of a symphony to back them up, and this powerhouse band held nothing back. It was an enigmatic collaboration that we didn’t even know we needed. Watch the performance below. Continue reading →

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STS and Khari Mateen kick back and savor the simple things in “Better On A Sunday” video

Khari Mateen and STS | photo courtesy of the artist
Khari Mateen and STS | photo courtesy of the artist

For Atlanta-to-Philly rapper STS and multi-instrumentalist / producer Khari Mateen, combining their musical powers for epic results is no new phenomenon. It comes naturally to these extended Roots crew members, and this smooth easiness emanates from every fiber of their new track, “Better On A Sunday.”

With Mateen grounding the track in slow-tempo bluesiness through achey guitar twang and the soulful, steady chorus, STS peppers in texture as he raps verses in tribute to the everyday blue collar worker. Continue reading →

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The Roots have recorded 263 songs for new record because they are The Roots and they can

The Roots and Pharrell at The Roots Picnic | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Two hundred and sixty three songs. The Roots have written and recorded 263 songs for their next album. Now, after we all take a moment to stare blankly in confused awe for a few seconds, I think this is the part where we plebeians who are not The Roots go and bow in grace and honor to the musical wizards that they are. Continue reading →

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Bless your day with this performance of “It Ain’t Fair” by The Roots, Bilal and a freaking orchestra

Black Thought at The Roots Picnic | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Jimmy Fallon is lucky to have The Roots as his house band for The Tonight Show. Pretty much every night he gets to hear the Philly legends, and for Monday’s episode, though, it was a little more amazing than usual.

The Roots had the musical performance to play out the night’s show. Their longtime collab partner and soulful wizard Bilal joined them with vocals of his own, as well as a sizeable orchestra, for a rendition of “It Ain’t Fair,” a song from the soundtrack of the new movie Detroit. I already wanted to see the movie. Now I absolutely have to. Continue reading →

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XPN MusicNotes: Watch Phil Collins jam with The Roots, hear Lady Gaga sing Carpool Karaoke, read about Neil Young’s new album

Phil Collins and Questlove | photo via NME

It was a cool old-meets-new mashup on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon last night as Phil Collins hooked up with The Roots for a rendition of the classic 80’s hit “In the Air Tonight.” Check it out below, and pay attention to Questlove’s take on the song’s iconic drumming. Continue reading →