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The Roots are a Grammy Award-winning, American hip hop band from Philadelphiamarker, Pennsylvaniamarker. They are famed for beginning with a jazzy, eclectic approach to hip hop which still includes live instrumentals. Their debut album was released in 1993 and they have collaborated with a wide range of artists from different genres, including Roy Ayers and Cody Chesnutt. The Roots have generated a great deal of critical acclaim and influenced numerous rap and R&B acts. On March 2, 2009, The Roots became the house band on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.

Band History

Early History and Organix

The group's original lineup was formed when rapper Black Thought (Tariq Trotter) and drummer ?uestlove (Ahmir Thompson) became friends at the Philadelphia High School for Creative Performing Artsmarker around 1987. They began to do shows around Philadelphia and New York City with bassist Leon "Hub" Hubbard and rapper Malik B. By 1991, Black Thought began attending Millersville Universitymarker and established the line-up, under the collective name The Square Roots. In 1993, the Roots recorded an album Organix to promote at European concerts.

Do You Want More?!!!??!

The Roots' first album for DGC, Do You Want More?!!!??!, was released in 1995. It was a moderate hit among alternative music fans due in part to the group's appearance at Lollapalooza. The band also performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival that year. Touring guests, beatboxer Rahzel and producer Scott Storch, joined the Roots.

Illadelph Halflife

The 1996 release Illadelph Halflife was the group's first album to crack the Top 40 on the Billboard 200 chart, spurred in part by MTV's airplay of the video for "What They Do" (a parody of rap video clichés) and "Clones," which was their first single to reach the top five on the rap charts. "What They Do" was also the group's first single to hit the Top 40 of Billboard's charts, reaching a peak of #34. While continuing on the path of live instrumentation, the album's sound was somewhat darker.

Things Fall Apart

The group released Things Fall Apart in 1999 (named after Things Fall Apart, a novel by Chinua Achebe, which in turn was named after a line from The Second Coming by W.B. Yeats). This was their breakthrough album, peaking at #4 on the Billboard 200 charts and earning a gold record, signifying U.S. sales of at least 500,000 units. The track "You Got Me", a duet with R&B singer Erykah Badu and Eve, peaked at #39 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts and earned them a Grammy award for Best Performance By A Duo Or Group. The album was nominated for the Best Rap Album award. Black Thought intended the track for the "unconscious" population.

Steve Huey of the website allmusic perceived "a strong affinity for the neo-soul movement" in the album. First-time cameos on TFA for Philly natives Beanie Sigel and Eve helped to earn them major record deals later (with Roc-A-Fella and Ruff Ryders, respectively). After this album, Dice Raw left the collective to record his solo debut album Reclaiming the Dead. In the summer, the band performed at the Woodstock '99 concert in New York state.


Several members, including long time member Malik B., left the group. In December 2001, the Roots backed Jay-Z for his MTV Unplugged concert. With heightened popularity came mounting pressure. The Roots released Phrenology (named after the pseudoscience of Phrenology) in 2002. Despite not charting as high as Things Fall Apart, reaching a peak of #28 on the charts, Phrenology was commercially successful, eventually going gold, and earning a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Album. At the time, however, there came rumors that the Roots were losing interest in their signing with MCA.

During this time the band also backed Jay-Z for his 2003 farewell concert in Madison Square Garden, and appeared in the accompanying "Fade to Black" DVD.

The Tipping Point

After Phrenology, Ben Kenney and Scratch both left the group; Kenney joined the rock band Incubus. This culminated with the release of 2004's The Tipping Point, the byproduct of several jam sessions. The album earned two more Grammy nominations: one for Best Urban/Alternative Performance for the track "Star" and another for Best Rap Performance By A Duo Or Group for the track "Don't Say Nuthin'." The Tipping Point peaked at #4 on the Billboard album chart. In 2005, Home Grown! The Beginner's Guide To Understanding The Roots, Volumes 1 & 2, a two-disc compilation album, was released. The Roots were among several performers on the 2006 film Dave Chappelle's Block Party, whose event took place on September 18, 2004 and was released on film two years later.

Game Theory

Game Theory was released August 29, 2006, on Def Jam records. Questlove describes the album as being very dark and reflective of the political state in America. The first single from the album, "Don't Feel Right", appeared on the internet in May 2006, and is available for free download on several web sites. Various guest appearances had been rumored, but Scratch magazine confirmed only two: Peedi Peedi and Malik B.The album's first video, titled "The Don't Feel Right Trilogy", premiered on August 21, 2006, and features three songs, "In the Music", "Here I Come" and "Don't Feel Right". It earned an 83 on Metacritic and 2 Grammy Nominations.The late J Dilla is honoured on different occasions throughout the album. Track 1 is credited to be "Supervised by J Dilla". Track 13 "Can't Stop This" is totally devoted to his persona, the first part being an edited version of a track ("Time : The Donut of the Heart") of his Donuts album, released three days before his death. This version comprises vocals by Black Thought. Secondly, a string of kindred artists reminisce about J Dilla in the form of answering machine messages.

Rising Down

The Roots' eighth studio album (10th overall), Rising Down, was released on April 29, 2008, the 16-year anniversary of the Rodney King riots of 1992.

In the weeks before the album's release, the original first single "Birthday Girl", a radio-friendly collaboration with Fall Out Boy's Patrick Stump was removed from the album reportedly because it didn't fit in with the album's tone. It remained as a digital download available from iTunes as a bonus track, as well as on international releases.

Picking up where Game Theory left off, the album maintains a dark and political tone, with Black Thought and several guests venting about the ills of society today. The album's guests include Chrisette Michele, Common, Mos Def, Saigon, Styles P, Talib Kweli, and Wale; it also features Philly favorites Dice Raw, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Peedi Crakk, P.O.R.N., and Truck North, as well as former member Malik B. Rising Down features the Roots incorporating a more electronic and synth-heavy feel into their sound. Rising Down was released to critical acclaim, garnering an overall score of 80 on Metacritic.

The album's first single was "Rising Up" featuring Chrisette Michele and D.C. rapper Wale.

How I Got Over

After Questlove confirmed on Twitter that The Roots are working on their ninth studio album (11th overall), entitled How I Got Over. Black Thought spoke more broadly about the record on Calling it a positive album, as opposed to their last two records, How I Got Over reflects the relief the band feels at the end of the Bush administration and the beginning of the Obama presidency. Guests are set to include Beanie Sigel; Young Chris; Chrisette Michelle; L.A. rapper Blu; Phonte of Little Brother; Pharoahe Monch; and Cody ChestnuTT, whose song "Serve This Royalty" is covered on the album. Rather than relying on samples, the album will be played live, with any covers (including "Celestial Blues," featuring the song's original artist, Andy Bey) being reinterpreted by the band. The album is set to release in February of 2010 . On June 24 2009, The Roots debuted the first single and title track from the album, "How I Got Over", live on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. The song features longtime Roots collaborator Dice Raw.


The Roots' original lineup included Tariq "Black Thought" Trotter (MC) and Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson (drums), who were classmates at the Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Artsmarker. As they began to play at school and on the streets, they added bassist Josh "The Rubberband" Abrams, who went on to form the jazz group The Josh Abrams Quartet. They later added another MC Malik Abdul Basit-Smart ("Malik B."), a new bassist, Leonard Nelson Hubbard ("Hub"), and keyboardist Scott Storch. MC Kenyatta "Kid Crumbs" Warren, was a part of the group for their first album, Organix, but did not appear on any later albums. Another MC, Dice Raw, joined on for cameos in later albums. The Roots filled Storch's position with keyboardist, Kamal Gray, who continues to be a member.
The Roots performing
Beatboxer Rahzel was a member of the group from 1995 to 1999. Alongside Rahzel was vocal turntablist Scratch, who DJ'd for them during live concerts. However, he abruptly left in 2003.Malik B. left the group in 1999 due to drug problems but continued to record, making occasional cameos on future albums. Guitarist Ben Kenney, had a short stint with the group and contributed to their Phrenology album, but left to join Incubus as their bassist. A percussionist, F Knuckles, was added in 2002 and guitarist, Kirk Douglas (a.k.a. "Captain Kirk"), replaced Kenney. Martin Luther, a vocalist, toured with The Roots in 2003 and 2004 and contributed to the Tipping Point album. The group announced in August 2007, to the dismay of fans, that longtime bassist, Leonard Hubbard, was leaving the group. "One of our partners is leaving us tonight, ladies and gentlemen, Leonard Hubbard" (Black Thought @ moe.down 8/31/07).

The current members of The Roots are Black Thought (MC), Questlove (drums), Kamal (keyboard), F Knuckles (percussion), and Captain Kirk (guitar). Recently, they have toured with sousaphonist Damon "Tuba Gooding Jr." Bryson and Game Theory producer and current bassist Owen Biddle.

All members have worked with PETA to promote compassion for animals and the vegetarian lifestyle.

Because the band members hail from Philadelphia, they showed their support for the Phillies during the 2009 World Series against the Yankees, displaying Phillies memorabilia when peforming on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. On the episode which aired the day after the Yankees clinched the title, "Questlove" stated "No comment!" on the show's intro (when he usually states the episode number), and had a Yankees logo purposely displayed upside-down on his drumset.

Touring and other work

The band tours extensively, and their live sets are frequently hailed as the best in the genre. Recently, the band played a concert in NYC's Radio City Music Hall with Common, Nas, Talib Kweli and Big Daddy Kane. They also backed Jay-Z a third time, for his Reasonable Doubt Concert, a celebration of the 10-year anniversary of the release of his first album.

The Roots have been featured in four movies: Dave Chappelle's Block Party; both performing album songs and playing as a backing band for other artists, Spike Lee's Bamboozled, and Marc Levin's Brooklyn Babylon, in which Black Thought plays the protagonist, Solomon, and former band member Rahzel narrates, and Chasing Liberty; starring Mandy Moore. Black Thought and Questlove were both featured in the movie Brown Sugar. Black Thought also made an appearance in the film Love Rome as Tariq Trotter, and Questlove currently appears in the recent "terrific" ( and "inspiring" ( documentary movie about TBC Brass Band called From the Mouthpiece on Back, which lists The Roots as one of the executive producers of the movie.

The band guest performed on August 25 and August 26 with the Dave Matthews Band during their 2007 summer tour. Members of The Roots played in various forms as well as a whole band on DMB's back to back concerts at Alpine Valley Music Theatremarker in East Troymarker, Wisconsinmarker.

The group hosts a highly-anticipated Jam Session every year the night before the Grammys. The Roots Jam Session, produced by Okayplayer, Goodtime Girl Entertainment and Keldof, has been attended by everyone from Jay-Z, Beyoncé Knowles and Tom Cruise to Don Cheadle, Jeremy Piven and Prince with impromptu performances from Snoop Dogg and Corrine Bailey Rae to Queen Latifah, Matisyahu, Fat City Reprise and Dave Chappelle.

Billed as The Roots, Questlove, Kirk and Owen made an appearance on The Colbert Report on April 15, 2008 when Stephen Colbert spent a week in Philadelphiamarker prior to the 2008 Pennsylvania Democratic primary. During the appearance, they performed the intro song to the show, and closed the episode with a rendition of the Star Spangled Banner.

The song "Here I Come" was featured in the movies Superbad and Hancock.

The song "Here I Come" is also featured in many video games including Project Gotham Racing 4.

The song "The Seed 2.0" featuring Cody ChesnuTT was featured in the movies Collateral and I Think I Love My Wife.

The song 'Don't Say Nuthin' was featured in the first season episode, "Busey And The Beach" of HBO's Entourage.

They have also performed on the popular kids show Yo Gabba Gabba, singing "Lovely, Love My Family" in 2008.

In March 2009, The Roots became the new official house band on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, with "Here I Come" as the show's theme.

The Roots host an annual all day music festival in Philadelphia, PA every June.

The Roots are also featured on the Men in Black Original Soundtrack (1997) with the song "The Notic" with neo-soul singer D'Angelo.

On October 24, 2009, The Roots performed on the Middlebury College campus.

On November 7, 2009, the Roots performed on campus at Tulane University.


  • Grammy Awards
    • 1999: Won for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group for "You Got Me" (featuring Erykah Badu and Eve)
    • 2002: Nominated for Best Rap Album for Phrenology
    • 2004: Nominated for Best Urban/Alternative Performance for "Star"
    • 2004: Nominated for Best Rap Performance By a Duo/Group for "Don't Say Nuthin'"
    • 2007: Nominated for Best Rap Album for Game Theory
    • 2007: Nominated for Best Rap Performance By a Duo/Group for "Don't Feel Right"
  • MTV Video Music Awards
    • 2003: Nominated for MTV2 award for "The Seed 2.0"
  • mtvU Woodie Awards
    • 2004: Nominated for Road Woodie and Welcome Back Woodie
  • BET Awards
    • 2005: Nominated for Best Group
    • 2009: Nominated for Best Group
  • NAACP Image Awards
    • 2005: Nominated for Outstanding Duo or Group
    • 2007: Won for Outstanding Duo or Group

  • Named one of the "twenty greatest live acts in the world" by Rolling Stone, 2003
  • Won a "Heroes Award" from the Philadelphia chapter of the Recording Academy, 2004
  • First Hip-Hop group to perform at Lincoln Center in January, 2002
  • Won Max Stevenson International Hip-Hop Award for Game Theory album, 2007


Studio albums

Live albums


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External links

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