A commercially successful, critics' darling is oftentimes an oxymoron in music. Then again, it should come as no surprise that the endlessly innovative hip-hop band, The Roots
, have managed to accomplish both. They have sold over three million records since debuting with Organix in 1990. At the same time, they've won a Grammy for best rap performance by a duo or group in 2000 for "You Got Me," and kept fickle critics and their loyal fan base satisfied with groundbreaking experimentation that deftly mixes elements from rock, jazz, soul, house, and any other genre that will make the speakers pop, while maintaining an undeniable hip-hop aesthetic. Add to that their reputation for giving legendary live shows, and it's easy to see why they've come to embody the musical integrity that so few artists can truly claim to possess.
Luckily, for those whose familiarity with the Philadelphia crew doesn't extend beyond watching them play with Jay-Z
for his unforgettable Unplugged
album or Eminem
at the 2003 Grammys, Home Grown! The Beginners Guide To Understanding The Roots Volume One
, will provide the sonic DNA for the illustrious group. Their last Geffen release will be released separately on November 15th. The comprehensive collection showcases everything from popular hits like the soulful "What They Do," to unreleased heat like "Quicksand Millennium" and "You Got Me," featuring Jill Scott
(the Grammy winner featured Erykah Badu
), to hard-to-find remixes of "Don't Say Nuthin'" to live performances like "Sacrifice (Live On BBC's Radio One's Worldwide Show with Gilles Peterson
)." The 29-song opus features Beanie Sigel
(who made his major label debut appearance on "Adrenaline"), Eve
, Jill Scott
, Roy Ayers
, Raphael Saadiq
, Dice Raw
, Jaguar Wright
, and Mos Def
, and is undeniable evidence of the influence they've had on the musical landscape over the course of their incredible career.
The Roots consist of MC Black Thought, keyboardist Kamal Gray, bassist Leonard "Hub" Hubbard, and drummer Amir "?uestlove" Thompson
. They were initially considered opaque by many because they favored live instruments at a time when hip-hop was sample-crazy. However, as their genius has been recognized, they have come to be appreciated for their ability to transcend genres and continually add depth to hip-hop's perspective.
Of course, as evidenced by album titles like Phrenology
and The Tipping Point
, The Roots have always taken a very cerebral approach to making music. ?uestlove's musings on each song in the liner notes shows just how much thought the group puts into their creative process. Each volume has a 20-page insert that is filled with behind-the-scene insights that offer amazing glimpses into the group's experiences. Gems like their unbelievable tale of having to go through 11 different singers before finding someone to sing on "Break You Off" or dealing with the controversy surrounding Eve
and Jill Scott
on "You Got Me," makes this as worthwhile a read as a listen.
Although they are preparing to blow even bigger with their upcoming Def Jam debut, Game Theory, in 2006, after accomplishing so much, these releases serve as what ?uestlove refers to as a "progress report" for the group. "This is a love letter to our Okayplayers and an introduction to the fans that have yet to dive in to see what the madness has been about for the last 13 years," he says. "This should prepare them for the next 13." While they continue to move forward, a moment to reflect clearly illustrates that The Roots deserve every accolade and plaque they've received thus far.
Review of Home Grown! The Beginner's Guide to Understanding the Roots, Vol. 1
Review of Vol. 2
The Roots photos, bio/history, album reviews & more...