By

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 →

By

Tonight’s Concert Picks: Man Man at Union Transfer, Beach Fossils with Heavy Medical at Johnny Brenda’s, Penrose at Underground Arts, Erykah Badu at The Electric Factory

389640_10150850829721277_1335692574_nLocal wild men Man Man close out a month long national tour at Union Transfer tonight.  About to release their fifth studio album this summer, the eclectic rock outfit talked to The Key’s Kate Bracaglia recently about pre-show tea drinking rituals, Instagram posts and the “natural progression” of the new album from 2011’s standout Life Fantastic.  Tickets and information for tonight’s all-ages show with Murder By Death and Northern Arms can be found here.  Stream and download “Mayan Nights” from Man Man below. UPDATE: tonight’s Man Man show is sold out.

Continue reading →

By

Eight things we loved about the new and improved Roots Picnic (and three things we didn’t)

The Roots | photo by Ben Wong for WXPN | brotherlylost.com

For the twelfth year running, Philly icons and global hip-hop heroes The Roots brought their pre-summer throwdown back to their hometown. The Roots Picnic touched down in its new home at The Mann Center at 1 p.m. on Saturday, June 1st, with rap-soul duo &More opening a day of sun, sounds, and multi-sensory experiences, all the way up to the show-stopping performance of The Roots’ breakout album Things Fall Apart, which turned 20 in February. The Key was on hand from bottom to top, and here is what we saw all day — beginning with the immense amount of stuff there was to love. Continue reading →

By

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 →

By

The Key Studio Sessions: Masie Blu

Philly’s Masie Blu was vying for an unsigned artist spot at the 2017 Firefly Music Festival when she first grabbed The Key’s attention with the gauzey, cirrocumulus soundscape of “Kundalini.”

Masie wound up not winning that competition (called the “Big Break Contest” or something of a similar nature), and in a way, she’s probably all the better for it. For sure, she would have played a striking set at the Delaware megafestival, and while she isn’t averse to traditional venue gigs, her meditative style is much more at home in art spaces and open mics, in yoga studios and living rooms, in community centers with ital food simmering very nearby.

Masie Blu’s music circles around themes of love, creativity, and personal transcendence, and with the release of last year’s uplifting Transform EP, she brought her skills as a producer and songwriter to new heights, delivering soaring, Erykah Badu-esque melodies to imaginative tapestries of bright horns and buoyant beats. The set she played for The Key Studio Sessions touches on all of that, with the aid of two backing musicians: Antonio Robinson on electric upright bass, and Nathaniel Savoth on electric guitar.

The instrumental arrangements added light and texture to songs like the dancefloor groover “Mocha,” and the atmospheric zen koan “Warm Reflection of Cool Hues.” Their collective playing also transformed Masie’s music further, with the cosmic spoken word bounce of set closer “Balance,” where Masie folded up her laptop and riffed along to reflective instrumental licks as she accompanied her bandmates on kalimba.       Continue reading →

By

ILL DOOTS and friends will celebrate the 20th anniversary of The Roots’ Things Fall Apart at World Cafe Live

The Roots’ Things Fall Apart | via Okayplayer

Philadelphia hip-hop heroes The Roots broke new ground on February 23, 1999, with the release of their album Things Fall Apart. It was the album that produced their highest-charting Billboard hit at that point (“You Got Me”), it was the album that solidified their tastemaker status (the record introduced names like Eve and Jill Scott to wide audiences), and it was an album born of the intense creativity of the Soulquarian music community (featuring collabs with D’Angelo, Common, Erykah Badu, and Mos Def).

Twenty years later, this February 23, a new generation of Philly hip-hop peers will pay tribute to this landmark record with a show downstairs at World Cafe Live. Continue reading →

By

The Key’s Year-End Mania: Mariah Hall’s Top 7 TV Soundtracks of 2018

The cast of GLOW season 2 | via YouTube

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2018 incredible. Today, Key contributor Mariah Hall recaps seven of her favorite television soundtracks from 2018.

I don’t watch movies anymore. I can’t remember the last time I went to a movie theater, and there’s something about a two hour running time that makes me want to scroll past— maybe it’s an underlying fear of commitment, or the fact that my iPhone has destroyed my attention span. TV shows are so much easier to invest in, and Netflix has made them abundantly accessible. Click on a promising pilot and six hours later you’ve finished an entire season and all of the munchies in your kitchen cabinet. The only way to escape that nagging hole in your chest is to start the next show, and one session of binge watching has turned into a full-blown addiction. Welcome to the Golden Age of Television. Here is my roundup of best binge-worthy shows with killer soundtracks of 2018. Continue reading →