By

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.

By

Six artists to watch at the 7th Annual Roots Picnic

Photo of Rudimental at Made In America by Dana Distortion via http://www.spin.com/gallery/made-in-america-fest-2013-spins-best-live-photos/
Photo of Rudimental at Made In America by Dana Distortion via http://www.spin.com/gallery/made-in-america-fest-2013-spins-best-live-photos/

Stories of old gigs from The Roots are the stuff of legend around Philadelphia. Throw a stone and you’re bound to hit a Gen-X music lover with memories (perhaps false ones) of surprise shows at now-defunct Old City venues and happenstance Questlove sightings at Northern Liberties brunch spots. These stories might be all that is left of a bygone era in which The Roots helped shape the sonic and ideological imprint of left-of-center hip-hop culture, all the while centering it in a series of extinct local hot spots.

Well, not all that’s left. They may have abandoned a rigorous touring regimen for late night glory, but Quest and co. remain committed to creating awesome moments of cross-genre delight and enlightenment for Philadelphians of all stripes. The clearest definition of this mission statement – one which has followed them into numerous genre-bending albums and collaborations – is the annual Roots Picnic, the 7th installment of which goes down at Festival Pier this Saturday. Few festivals pack such an eclectic and kinetic punch in a small, relatively inexpensive experience. While this year’s lineup is one of its strongest yet, we here at The Key have our eye on a few artists (including some lesser-known ones) who have had especially fascinating years and promise tremendous sets on Saturday.

The Roots

At the risk of sounding obvious, we’ll say that any set from The Roots is bound to set the mood for a day of gleeful head-nodding. Their reputation as a live act, honed through nearly two decades of constant touring and five years of sequence-scoring for Jimmy Fallon, is well-established. With the recent release of the excellent …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin, the band also promises to deliver some searing live renditions of their epic new material.

Janelle Monáe

The first Made in America festival got a lot of mixed reviews from local concertgoers who were mired in large-scale and largely acceptable skepticism about how a festival of that scale would play out on the Parkway. Unanimous praise was saved, however, for Janelle Monáe’s classic soul-rooted, futuristically-oriented brand of music. After near-unanimous praise for her latest album, 2013’s The Electric Lady, the aptly named Electric Lady promises a solid set of fanciful festivity.

The War on Drugs

At least one prominent Roots Picnic slot is reserved for a buzzworthy indie act who, like The Roots, looks to bridge aesthetic boundaries instead of reinforcing them. Philly’s own The War on Drugs, riding on the success of this year’s acclaimed and dreamscape-y Lost in the Dream, fill big shoes left by genre benders like Vampire Weekend and TV on the Radio. But if their unique take on shoegaze-meets-Americana has a perfect home anywhere, it’s at an open air concert along their hometown’s emblematic waterfront.

Continue reading →

By

Watch The Roots perform “Never” on The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon

Screen Shot 2014-05-21 at 9.05.52 AM
The Roots stepped out of their house band role last night into the musical guest spot, and with help from DJ A-Trak and the Metropolis Ensemble performed “Never” from their just released …and then you shoot your cousin on The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon. The stunning, celestial song, featuring Philly musician Patty Crash on vocals, was performed against an all white backdrop that visually captured the starkness of the song. The Roots will be in town for their annual Roots Picnic on Saturday, May 31st.

In his review of the album, The Key’s Sameer Rao wrote:

The Roots, to their immense credit, continue to leverage their immense fame and success to make aurally inventive music that opens worlds that other artists on their level are afraid to touch. …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin is a definitive affirmation of this band and genre’s true Roots, as well as crystal clear proof of its continuing innovation and relevance to the immensely complicated world around us.

Read the full review of the album here. Watch “Never” below.

By

Review: The Roots champion innovation on another game-changing LP, …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin

4a28f9ae
Romare Bearden’s collage “Pittsburgh Memory,” the cover art for The Roots’ …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin

It’s easy to forget that The Roots spent most of their career in an extremely different place than they are now.

Years of increasing acclaim as a live act and reverence for drummer/producer/ideologue Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson’s idiosyncratic vision – one that put him and other group members in the nexus of a turn-of-the-millenium revolution with Erykah Badu, D’Angelo, the late great J Dilla, and others – do not measure up to the intense fame and ever-growing public stage that they occupy as Jimmy Fallon’s house band. What could have been the introduction of terrible stasis, in which our beloved home town heroes trade artistic viability for the empty spectacle of primetime fame, ended up being their greatest blessing.

Now, The Roots are a veritable enterprise. They decimated and rebuilt the house band tradition with agility and irreverence. Frontman Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter has continued to stretch his underrated creative muscle as the head of his own side project, an actor, and a philanthropist. Most notably, Questlove has solidified his reputation as the hip hop generation’s main public intellectual by authoring a remarkable memoir and series of critical theory-laced essays on the pop culture vortex that surrounded this group of Philly prodigies and carried them to their current vaulted heights.

Remarkably, they have time for the one thing that every diehard Roots fan was afraid of losing – great, game-changing albums. Three of them, in fact, since they hopped on Fallon’s road to unpredictable success (if you don’t count their handful of flashy, fun collaboration albums). The third of these and their eleventh overall, …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin, officially dropped today via Def Jam. The concept album functions both as a definitive statement and a continuation of the evolution charted since 2010’s How I Got Over. Continue reading →

By

Listen to The Roots new record …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin at Pitchfork, get amped for The Roots Picnic

4a28f9aeAs we’re getting our sunscreen and stamina ready for The Roots Picnic on May 31st, we’re also gearing up for the release of …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin, the legendary Philly hip-hop band’s eleventh studio album. The record is out Tuesday, but you can get a sneak preview between now and then by checking out the album streaming in full over at Pitchfork Advance. We’re taking our first spin through right now, and it sounds like the album elegantly recorded and evocatively structured, with hints of everything from 20th century classical (atonal Philip Glass crescendos, what?) to trip-hop (Massive Attack moments) and dubstep (of the Deadmau5 sort) – and of course ?uestlove’s trademark big drum sound. Cousin boasts a freaking cavalcade of people who worked on it, too, including Philly crew The Wurxs, Dice Raw and Greg Porn (check out the full credit list here). The Roots Picnic – featuring The War on Drugs, Janelle Monae, Snoop Dogg and more – happens all day on May 31st at the Festival Pier at Penn’s landing, and tickets / info can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar. Below, check out the lyric video for “When The People Cheer.”

By

Listen to a new song by The Roots, “Tomorrow,’ featuring Raheem DeVaughn

Raheem DeVaughn – Photo courtesy of the artist

The Roots have shared another new song, “Tomorrow,” from their forthcoming album, …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin. The album is out on May 13th. R&B singer Raheem DeVaughn grabs all the spotlight on this mid-tempo feel good song. Based on a simple piano chord progression and a beat that falls just short of a breezy reggae tune, the song has no rapping at all. The beginning of “Tomorrow” opens up some whistling and a lilt that begs comparisons to Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” with the sentiment of Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds.”

Listen to “Tomorrow,” today, below. The Roots’ host the 7th Annual Roots Picnic on May 31st at the Festival Pier with Janelle Monaé, War On Drugs, Action Bronson, Rudimental, a DJ set from Biz Markie, A$AP Ferg, Jhené Aiko, araabMUZIK, Just Blaze, Bad Rabbits, Chill Moody, and more.

By

Listen to a new Roots song, “When The People Cheer”

Photo via http://www.okayplayer.com/
Photo via http://www.okayplayer.com/

Below, listen to the first new song, “When The People Cheer” from the forthcoming Roots album, …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin. No date has been announced for the release of the album yet, however, Okayplayer did call it a “concept LP/anti-rap opera” album. Greg Porn leads off the song, then Black Thought steps in with his “existential rhymes” over Questlove’s always on point drumming. Check it out below, and don’t miss The Roots Picnic on Saturday, May 31st.

Update: Questlove announced on his instagram that the new Roots album will be released on May 13th.

By

Snoop Dogg, Janelle Monae, The War on Drugs and Chill Moody top The Roots 7th annual Roots Picnic lineup

Now in its 7th year, The Roots Picinic will bring an eclectic array of music to Festival Pier on May 31, and the band today revealed everything you need to know about this year’s installment.

The year the legendary hip-hop crew will share the stage with Snoop Dogg (backed by The Roots), as well as Janelle Monáe, Action Bronson, A$AP Ferg, araabMUZIK, The War On Drugs, Rudimental, Jhené Aiko, Biz Markie (DJ Set), Bad Rabbits, Electric Wire Hustle, Chill Moody, Emily Wells, Roman GianArthur & more.

Get tickets when they go onsale this Friday at 10 a.m. on Ticketmaster and watch a few of the latest clips from acts on this year’s incredible lineup below.

Continue reading →

By

Chill Moody pays tribute to The Roots’ 1999 classic Things Fall Apart LP in new track

Photo courtesy of the artist
Photo courtesy of the artist

It’s been 15 years since The Roots released what is widely considered their breakthrough record Things Fall Apart. The album earned them two Grammy nomination, a top 40 hit (“You Got Me” featuring Erykah Badu and Eve), and platinum status.

To honor the local legends’ milestone, Philly emcee Chill Moody packs quite the lyrical punch on his new track “nicethings Fall Apart” delivering rhymes that detail his thirst for success over a selection of beats drawn from The Roots’ 1999 classic.

Ever the local favorite, fans recently named Moody the Indie Hip-Hop Artist of the Year at this year’s Tri-State Indie Music Awards where he also performed. Listen to “nicethings Fall Apart” below.

By

Barry Gibb jams with The Roots

beegees
(L-R) Robin, Maurice and Barry via http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2356426/Barry-Gibb-tells-guilt-remorse-loneliness-the-Bee-Gees.html

Bee Gee Barry Gibb has announced a limited six-city tour with a stop at the Wells Fargo Center on May 19th. The lead singer of the Bee Gees was on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon last week, jamming with The Roots on “You Should Be Dancing.” Gibb’s a little rough around the vocal edges, but the band swings and it’s good to hear the disco side of ?uestlove’s drumming.