Since 2009 the world has known The Roots as the fantastic house band on NBC’s Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. But, to anyone who knows anything about the hip hop/neo-soul movement knows that at it’s very core lies one amazing Philadelphia band. Formed by childhood friends Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter and Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, The Roots burst onto the scene with their album Iladelph Halflife. A combination of jazz and hip-hop, it brought the sound of The Roots to the public’s eye gaining them a charting single and even rotation on MTV for their song “What They Do”. The group followed up with a string of excellent albums ranging in stylistic and lyrical directions. Things Fall Apart, their 1999 album hit No. 4 on the Billboard charts and featured the addition of many guest musicians such as Mos Def, Erykah Badu, Common and Eve. They picked up a Grammy the following year for the single “You Got Me” and it led to the success of their following album Phrenology .
At this point in their career The Roots were earning a reputation as one of the best hip hop live bands. Having backed Jay-Z for both his MTV Unplugged taping and his Fade To Black show at Madison Square Garden, the versatility of the band was unquestionable. The band was the house band for comedian Dave Chappelle’s Block Party, with drummer Questlove serving as musical director. This also marked a period in the bands career when they started writing material directly reflecting the state of America, including both politics and world views. Beginning with Game Theory which birthed the theme song of Late Night, “Here I Come”, it was followed up by Rising Down. The album featured collaborations from artists such as Wale, Styles P, Common and Talib Kweli. Sonically it saw the band lean more towards an electronic feel. The last installment of this series is How I Got Over which, lyrically, is a reflection on the end of the Bush administration and the beginning of the Obama administration.
They also collaborated with R&B singer John Legend for the album Wake Up!, which features the band and the singer covering political songs from the 60′ and 70’s by such artists as Bill Withers, Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye and Donny Hathaway. Their most recent release was titled Undun, taking a narrative lyrical route, it tells the story of a fictional character Redford Stephens and the struggles he goes through while growing up.
With such a large catalog to draw from, seeing The Roots is like seeing a medley of old-school hip-hop and soul all in one concert. The band is a tight machine, being able to blend songs together seamlessly. Don’t miss when one of the greatest hip hop crews of all time comes to Boston’s House of Blues on December 26th. Be sure to grab your seats right here!