3 Reasons The Roots Should Be on Your Radar (Besides 'The Tonight Show')
Now that Jimmy Fallon has made it to the big Tonight Show stage, even the oldest and dowdiest Americans have heard of the The Roots. Questlove and Black Thought are now household names. While we've come to expect Fallon's humor to rely on the pitch-perfect musical punchlines, we often await The Roots' covers and collaborations with more anticipation than his monologues. They've revolutionized the role of the house band, but they've also showed the world that a house band can still have a healthy career off the Tonight Show stage. Case in point, their seventh annual Roots Picnic Festival announced its line up, and of course, it's stellar.
This isn't to imply that we don't love the things they've done on Late Night and The Tonight Show. Their cover of "Blurred Lines" with classroom instruments somehow made us hate that rape-culture anthem a little less and all of the volumes of "The History of Rap" have caused us to giggle a little. And seeing Questlove's adorable face every night — well, that's just good television.
But now that The Roots have made it to the big Tonight Show stage, we hope that late-night television fiends and lovers of great music won't forget all of the great music they make on their own. Here are all the reasons you should pay attention to The Roots when they're not sharing the stage with Fallon.
1. They're prodigious musicians
Let's start with the basics. The Roots are a BAND. No need for any modifiers, these guys are sick. Whether its a surreal piano-driven trilogy or a basic pop-funk groove, The Roots can not only play it, but make it into something unexpected and fun. Their latest full album, undun, brings the idea of a concept album into the 21st century, and apparently they plan to extend their conceptual work with another album, called ...And Then You Shot Your Cousin, which will examine the themes of violence in hip hop. Black Thought seems excited about it, so we probably should prepare ourselves for some sort of Questlove-fueled sound revolution.
So, in case you've been living underneath a rock, go to Spotify and see the range of the Roots' abilities. Check out Things Fall Apart or Phrenology if you need a Roots education, or listen to the last three tracks on undun if you want to freshen up your Roots library.
2. They know when to share the stage
There is probably an old proverb about the most mature performers knowing when to share the spotlight, and The Roots have heeded its wisdom. They have released entire collaboration albums with greats like John Legend, Betty Wright, and Elvis Costello. Their breakout single, "You Got Me," was itself a collaboration with Erykah Badu, and almost every album they produce has multiple "feat." tags after each song.
If you've already heard the smooth, joyful teamwork with John Legend on Wake Up!, check out their most recent collaboration with Elvis Costello, called Wise Up Ghost and Other Songs. It is physically impossible to listen to the single from this LP, called "Walk Us Uptown," without desperately wanting to strut down the street in a fedora.
3. They kick ass live
If you think their live work on The Tonight Show is their best, check out any one of The Roots' shows. Soon they'll be hosting their seventh "Roots Picnic," where they invite bands they love to Philly for a one-day musical blowout. Questlove introduced this year's picnic in this adorably Questlovian video. Also, they're going to collaborate with Snoop Dogg, which will probably be sick.
If you're still not sold on their live shows, picture this possibility: Janelle Monae and The Roots. If you go to Philly for their picnic, it's possible that you could witness this, then watch Twitter crumble from the amount of musical genius.