An abridged history of the Roots' collabs

Tangled up
By CHRIS FARAONE  |  January 20, 2009


The making of the Roots-versus-Antibalas Sound Clash: How ?uest got his groove back. By Chris Faraone

COMMON | The Second City’s king storyteller first conspired with the Roots on “UNIverse at War,” off the latter’s Illadelph Halflife. From there they co-rocked many a Black Lily night in New York and Philadelphia, linked through the Soulquarians delegation (which includes Common, ?uestlove, Mos Def, and Bilal, among others), and, perhaps most memorably, absolutely ripped “Love of My Life” together at the Bowery Ballroom for a 1999 The Roots Come Alive session.

JIMMY FALLON | Even though it would be preposterous to describe the Roots’ decision to back Jimmy Fallon’s late-night talk show as anything but disappointing, some leniency is called for. Here are some points for haters to consider: 1) Now we get to check the Roots five nights a week; 2) Maybe these guys deserve a break after nearly two decades of non-stop gigging; 3) Are you paying their fucking mortgages?

JAY-Z | Although most serious Roots fans loathe few things more than the group’s relationship with corporate whore Jay-Z, some recognize the magic that the rap-innovator-turned-shameless-materialist sparked with ?uest and company during his 2001 MTV Unplugged performance and subsequent Fade to Black concert at Madison Square Garden. Overall, though, the ringing message in these meetings has been clear: Jay-Z is no Black Thought.

DEF JAM | Once hip-hop’s most essential imprint, Def Jam — particularly under the leadership of the aforementioned Hova — has devolved into a deplorable bubblegum factory responsible for the likes of Rick Ross and Rihanna. The saddest display of the label’s prioritizing sales over substance: it barely marketed the last two Roots discs, Game Theory and Rising Down, and then executives bitched that the albums were selling poorly.

ERYKAH BADU | Although neo-soul queen Erykah Badu has worked closely with almost every prominent black hip-hop act that renounces ignorance and greed, I contend that the finest such union came between her and the Roots on Things Fall Apart. The epic “You Got Me” had every Tyrone on Earth praying for our very own gloriously piped princess to lust unconditionally for us through success, failure, health, and sickness.

SCOTT STORCH | Of all the bandmembers who have revolved through the Roots’ line-up — from beatboxers Scratch and Rahzel to bass master Leonard Hubbard — the most interesting has to be ex-keyboardist Scott Storch. The self-proclaimed “Tuff Jew” left the band to pursue beatmaking, then quickly became one of hip-hop’s priciest producers, nailed some B-list sluts, and wound up broke and hocking all his ice on eBay.

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