The Roots are unique and a serious, hard working band, anyone who has witnessed their live sets will concur that the accolades heaped upon them in the Hip Hop world are most apt. Recent live sessions include, a concert in NYC’s Radio City Music Hall with Common, Nas, Talib Kweli and Big Daddy Kane. Drummer ?uestlove was also the musical director for Jay-Z for his Reasonable Doubt Concert, a celebration of the 10-year anniversary of the release of his first album.
The Roots albums that followed the Grammy nominated ‘Tipping Point’ – ‘Game Theory’ and ‘Rising Down’ – were a trip to the dark side but their inimitable drummer, ?uestlove, simply maintains the albums were a reflection of America at that time. It’s a year since they released the Grammy nominated, Clara Ward inspired ‘How I Got Over’ – a potent expression of the period of transition from the dark to the light, from Bush to Obama and that album was promptly followed by the uplifting ‘Wake Up’ – their three time Grammy winning R&B collaboration with John Legend.
It was in London, back in 1993/4 that The Roots, championed by Gilles Peterson at Talkin’ Loud records, gathered their initial momentum. In 2011 The Roots roll into London town to perform at the HMV Hammersmith Apollo on August 19th, hard on the heels of curating and performing at Philadelphia’s 4th of July Jam and organising their fourth annual Roots Picnic in Philly – an event that boasted a typically radical line up of Nas, Esperanza Spalding, Wiz Khalifa, Yelawolf, Mac Miller, Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Little Dragon, Dismemberment Plan and ?uestlove’s little sister, Donn T.
Having been a part of so many festival tours like Lollapalooza and Smokin’ Grooves with the Beastie Boys and Cypress Hill, The Roots’ No.1 wordsmith, Black Thought, maintains they always wanted to bring that “genre mixing element” home to Philly.
The Roots said “London holds a very special places in our hearts. It was our home base from the summer of 1994 until the summer of 1995 and has proven to be a consistent source of inspiration both musically and socially across the years. We’ve missed the town profoundly and we’re really looking forward to what we think of as a homecoming”
In a recent interview with Billboard, ?uestlove and Black Thought revealed a brand new project. Their first “full-fledged narrative concept album" is currently in the making. While Black Thought explained this album, due to materialize in 2012, would this time be a lyrical and musical journey, ?uestlove’s future vision is clearly inspired by the ‘Philly-Paris Lockdown’ – a recent collaborative performance which focused on a period of French music from Debussy to Satie and Stravinsky and featured a number of classical musicians and French singer/songwriter Keren Ann. According to the drummer, it was akin to tuning into “the dawning of jazz in the early 1900s” and of its impact on the forthcoming album he predicts the overall sound will be heavy on “orchestral chamber music with harder beats in it”.
But that’s for another day and The Roots at the Hammersmith will undoubtedly deliver what they do best: powerful, musical and thought provoking live performance which embraces a host of eclectic influences but remains steeped in two decades of Hip Hop innovation and ingenuity.
Kano is another musician who prefers the uncharted path and his 2010 album, Method To The Maadness, sees him acknowledge his roots with his old spar Wylie guesting on “Get Wild” while other tunes feature the likes of Vybz Kartel and Hot Chip. But perhaps his biggest boost in terms of innovation and experimentation comes from his experiences as part of Damon Albarn’s Africa Express and Gorillaz (Kano featured on White Flag from the latest album). The tours have taken him around the world: to Ethiopia, Nigeria (where he was rapturously received), Syria, Beirut and a headlining appearance at Glastonbury. Albarn was originally slated for an executive producer role, but Gorillaz commitments encroached. “Even though he’s not executive producer he gave me the chance to borrow his ears, gave me his opinion on certain tracks,” says Kano.
Venue Address: HMV Hammersmith Apollo, 45 Queen Caroline Street, Hammersmith, London W6 9QH
Date: Friday 19th August
Tickets: £35.00 – £50.00
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