The Roots’ “Okayplayer Presents Tour” came to an end last weekend at the Roseland Ballroom in New York City, but not before the group put on an unforgettable performance in their hometown of Philly at the Electric Factory last Saturday.
In front of a sold-out crowd, the legendary Roots crew showed why they are head-and-shoulders above the rest of the hip-hop nation when it comes to stage presence.
But perhaps a justification for their greatness onstage was best told by one of their supporting acts, Mad Skillz, who took the stage during the break and boldly told the crowd that there are MC’s and there are “sick MC’s.”
Skillz said he and The Roots fell under the latter category: artists and musicians who “take shit” from the old school and “recycle it.”
Philly’s finest wasted no time. When the doors opened at 8:30 p.m., ?uestlove was onstage spinning records to an otherwise smooth R&B taste, with samples like Paul Simon’s “Take Me to Mardi Gras” and an instrumental version of the Beatles “A Day In the Life.”
To top off the set, he spun to the tunes of the Carpenters “We’ve Only Just Begun,” which left the crowd in a frenzy and hungry for more.
When The Roots took stage as a whole they received a large ovation and appeared glad to be home.
Black Thought grabbed his mic and spoke to the crowd, then the band started playing the instrumentals of 50 Cent’s “In Da Club” to which Black Thought and Scratch spit freestyles over the deep sound from Kamal’s keyboards and bass strums from Leonard Hubbard.
The 50 Cent cover was just the first of a night full of cover songs currently on the airwaves and old school beats that gave them their influence.
They later teased Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” and “Apache” as well as The Clipse’s “Grindin'” right after “Rock You,” their second song of the night.
They also teased Outkast’s “So Fresh, So Clean,” Nelly’s “Hot in Herre,” Beenie Segal’s “Freeway” and Black Sheep’s “The Choice Is Yours.”
The solo performance that had the crowd going wild was Hubbard’s, who demonstrated he’s more than just hip-hop as he gave some bee-bop plucks and escalating rifts, all while chewing on his trademark wood stick.
At the end of his solo all The Roots lined up with him and replicated Hubbard on their air bass, moving their bodies and arms in the exact motion as Hubbard.
It was a sight to see for hip-hop and rock fans alike.
The Roots played a handful of songs off their latest album Phrenology in front of a stage wall with the album cover.
Aside from “Rock You” the group played “Sacrifice,” “Break-U-Off” with Musiq, “Quills” and “Though at Work.”
“The Seed 2.0” was performed with Cody ChestnuTT , but the most powerful song was “Water,” which had a strong bass kick and an aggressive tone in Black Thought’s vocals.
The track is a direct message to former band member Malik B.
The percussion and drum solos came at the end of the five-and-a-half hour show and brought ChestnuTT and other members onstage, each using a drumstick on certain parts of the drum kit and stage itself, creating an uncanny drum solo.
When it came time to say goodbye to their hometown, The Roots paid tribute to the late Jam Master J by doing b-boy poses.
The band struck four or five poses in all, with the house lights going on and off. They topped it off by throwing posters to the crowd.
There was nothing more anyone could ask of The Roots, who blended every culture and ethnicity in the stands and every genre of music onstage, something that very few bands are capable of doing.
Chris Silva can be reached at CBSrican@aol.com