Twelve albums, multiple Grammy awards and a late night gig to round it all out. The Roots have come a long way from playing on the streets of Philly. In their present, an extremely packed audience is willing to stand on top of each other for the chance to hear their latest opus live. This show is the third and final in a series to introduce the world to Undun, their first concept album. Each member of the one and only hip hop band took the stage to individual applause. Questlove playing the role of musical director and drummer lead the band in proving that The Roots work for everything they get.
The Roots have always been known to share the wealth with their peers and those who are still looking to find their niche in the game. As the set list moved through dark poignant Undun cuts like Sleep and Make My Def Jam’s hot new artist Big K.R.I.T seemed happy to share the stage with Philly’s finest. The evening only got better when a horn section supplied by Brass Heaven got their moment in the spotlight. Their gritty rendition of Kool and the Gang’s funk classic Jungle Boogie with Black Thought on the vocals made everyone bump their neighbor just a bit. New comers Greg P.O.R.N and Truck North got plenty of stage time rotating with the 6th man on the Roots Dice Raw for their many features on the new album. Dice “sings” on a few of the hooks for the album and is used more like an instrument than a featured rapper this time around. His performance on the undun standout Lighthouse is just epic. It’s good to see someone who’s been down with the crew since the Do You Want More?!!!??! era still around. And because The Roots don’t want those early fans to feel left behind, they perform an old favorite like Mellow My Man. There’s something for everyone at this show.
Between the synchronized dance steps by the musicians, and the Kool Aid smiles on their faces, you can see The Roots truly enjoy what they do. With all of the talent on stage giving an A+ show, Highline nearly explodes when the ever soulful Bilal pops out of thin air for The Other Side. It’s always a gamble seeing Bilal perform. He can either exhibit extreme talent, or extreme crazy and fortunately tonight it was the former. His voice was in rare form as he walked slowly across the stage in his own zone, snapping out of his trance to seemingly add his vocals just in time. Other members of the band like Tuba Gooding Jr. and Captain Kirk provide enough flair and crowd interaction to keep this heightened energy at a feverish pitch. Questlove follows through with a screw face inducing drum solo to send the crowd home with one thought. The Roots legacy built on integrity and showmanship and respect for their fans, can be underestimated, and at times outright ignored, but it can’t be undun.
Written by Dashaun Simmons for Fusicology NYC | @13Rose