The Roots rock Showcase Live

A review of The Roots at Showcase Live on January 15, 2011

, Contributing Writer

Who hasn’t thought about working in a different profession? I mean we have all had fantasies about working in exciting new jobs but whom, particularly in this economy, is going to leave their job? Nobody. With that cold reality staring many of us in the face we are left to wonder what might have been had a different path chosen us. This hip hop scribe, for one, often wonders about the other jobs that he feels he was meant to do. I always felt that I may have been destined for something bigger, like professional sports. To this day I know that if I got a shot with any MLB team, I could convince them of my talents enough to let me be their bullpen catcher. Or maybe, in hopes of helping mankind, there is this noble notion that I could have turned my sights to science. I could have been a Horticulturalistic Genealogist, or to the layman, a guy who mixes stuff up and makes up new stuff to better society and change the future.

Think about some of the greatest inventions of all time; peanut butter and jelly, cookies and cream, Pepsi and milk. Somebody had to think to themselves The world needs something new and funky, and then went out and came up with it. Last Saturday at Showcase Live in Foxboro, I bore witness to a group of musicians who shared the same thought, The Roots, and like those other great thinkers before them, they came up with something that changed the face of the cultural landscape.

The Philly-based hip hop group changed the game. Spanning their career The Roots have always found ways to mix different elements into their craft in hopes of enhancing listeners’ enjoyment. Front man Black Thought’s melodic delivery plays well over the eclectic mixture of jazzy, neo soulful riffs that would make Winston Marsalis nod his head in approval. By taking elements of jazz, hip hop, soul and R & B, The Roots created a sound that has become synonymous with enjoyment.

By covering hip hop acts that span the spectrum of ability, I can tell you one thing for certain: Most hip hoppers don’t have stage presence. That can’t be said for The Roots however. Ironically, The Roots are probably better live than they are on their albums. Who hasn’t gone to a show and left wondering why the band just doesn’t sound like they do on their album? The Roots live performance on Saturday was a display in musicianship and showmanship. By having Black Thought MC, ?uestlove on the drums (minus the trademark afro and pick), a cat named Cap’n Kirk on guitar, Kamal playing keyboard, Phillies hat-sporting Frank Knuckles on percussion, mix in a sunglass wearing sousaphonist (a tuba a player for those of you not looking that word up) aptly named “Tuba Gooding Jr.” and bassist Owen Biddle all on stage and the result is truly tremendous. Mixing all of these musical influences negates fans from wondering about the former question regarding performance, but rather leaves them wondering, when is the next jam session going to be? That is what a Roots show is like, a jam session, with fans and performers alike nodding their heads in unison, bearing witness to the funky, neo-soul, jazzy, hip hop infused grooves being generated.

With a catalogue spanning nearly a quarter century (1987-present), The Roots had plenty of jams to choose from. In promotion of their eleventh album How I Got Over, the group set about having fans in Foxboro enjoy the arrival of their unique sound. While mixing in old school tracks like “Proceed” and “The Seed” a new jam called “The Fire” spread through the crowd like cracks in Arizona pavement. “The Fire” is the type of track that can take something as pointless and as boring as making a ham sandwich and make it cool. It is a song that takes mundane tasks and makes them feel funky, literally. Like this scribe experienced, while listening to “The Fire” you too could be pantomiming your inner-MC while brushing your teeth giving yourself a feeling like you are in the video, all the while being left breathless with a mouth full of toothpaste staring back at you in the mirror. The Roots are that type of cool.

After giving it more thought, you know maybe I could change my career after all. With my ability to rhyme anytime and drop heat to any beat I always felt I could have become a rapper. Who knows, with the state of hip hop today there may be a market for a thirty-something, male, Caucasian who can rap about student loans, buying dog food and paying rent. On the other hand maybe I could spawn a growing field in 2011, something like a musical horticulturalist, wherein I could manipulate and mix different musical genres in hopes of creating a new listening experience. Who knows maybe within the next twenty five years it could be a growing field with all types of music sprouting from my musical ‘tree of life’. Hopefully then, like now, fans will realize that the strongest, purest form of any art can be found in The Roots.

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