Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Roots to “Star” at Amherst College

The classic hip-hop group, The Roots will bring their acclaimed live act to Amherst College on Saturday. With an album release planned for later this year, they are likely to unearth a number of new tracks.

Also known as the Legendary Roots Crew, the group has been performing all over the world for nearly two decades, featuring socially-conscious overtones and an eclectic blend of jazz-infused instrumentals. Though receiving modest mainstream success throughout their careers, the seasoned musicians from Philadelphia remain relevant with a new album scheduled to be released later this year.

The Legendary Roots Crew has gained acclaim as one of the top live performances in music. In 2003, Rolling Stone pegged the group as one of the twenty greatest live acts in the world. In its most recent issue, the magazine acclaimed them as one of the “40 reasons to get excited about music.”

The Roots are as inspired now as they were when they began in the early ’90s. The group is enjoying its new role as the house band for the network television show, “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” rehearsing fervently in preparation for the release of their 11th album titled “How I Got Over.”

“Our live shows have gotten better, our songwriting has gotten better,” Questlove said to Will Hermes of Rolling Stone magazine. “Over the last year we wrote, oh, about 900 songs.”

The crew formed in 1987 when drummer Amir “Questlove” Thomson and Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter decided to combine talents after meeting at the Philadelphia High School for Creative Performing Arts. Under the alias of the Square Roots, the band gathered more members and played shows in New York City and Philadelphia.

Throughout the years, the band has gone through various members including accomplished producer Scott Storch on keyboards and the beat-boxing phenomenon Rhazel. The character of the group’s vocal sound changed in 1999 when fellow emcee and original member Malik B. left the group.

Along with the two founding artists, the band currently includes Captain Kirk Douglas on electric guitar, F. Knuckles doing percussion, Kamal Gray on electric keyboard, Owen Biddle on bass and Damen Bryson on tuba.

In 1993, the original Crew began touring in Europe without any studio albums recorded and soon gained the attention of record executive David Geffen. DGC Records (an acronym for David Geffen Company) represented popular bands such as Nirvana and Beck on his label and was known primarily for its hard rock acts. The alternative hip-hop sound of The Roots original instrumental compilations and stage presence spurred Geffen to sign them and their first album was released entitled “Organix.”

“Do You Want More?!!!??!” followed in 1995 to quiet success. The album is considered a classic by hip-hop enthusiasts, noted by The Source magazine as one of the 100 best rap albums, yet attention towards the album remained mostly underground.

Throughout the 90s, during the Golden Age of hip-hop, in which rap music was categorized by synthesized sound samples and break beats and emcees’ controversial lyrics, The Roots did not receive much consideration in popular music. But the group built an underground following by appearing at well-known music festivals such as Lollapalooza, the Montreux Jazz Festival and Woodstock ‘99.

The success of their 1996 album “Illadelph Halflife” gave The Roots its first mainstream recognition, cracking the top 40 on the Billboard 200. In 1999, the group broke out with “Things Fall Apart,” reaching #4 on the charts and going gold in sales. The album received a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Album, won for Best Performance by a Duo/Group for the song “You Got Me,” featuring Erykah Badu and Eve.

The band put out six albums since then to more elevated success. “Phrenology” (2002) went gold and reached #28 on the Billboard charts while “The Tipping Point” (2004) topped at #4 and produced Grammy nominated singles “Star” (Best Urban/Alternative Performance) and “Don’t Say Nothin’” (Best Rap Performance by a Duo/Group). One more Grammy Nomination came for the group in 2007 for the song “Don’t Feel Right” (Best Rap Performance by a Duo/Group) after the release of “Game Theory,” the first off of their current label, Def Jam. The group’s most recent album “Rising Down” was released on the sixteenth anniversary of the Rodney King Riots.

The staple of the Legendary Roots Crew remains their live performances. The act played behind Jay-Z during his “MTV Unplugged” (2006) live album and appeared in Dave Chapelle’s “Block Party” (2006). They toured with MC Lyte and Big Daddy Kane in 2007, promoting VH1’s Hip Hop Honors and headlined the Rock the Bells music festival last summer. The group has performed with Dave Matthews and was featured during the Winter Olympics on Feb. 25.

The group will take the Lefrak Gym stage at Amherst College beginning at 8 p.m. on Saturday night. Tickets are $15 for Five College Students and $25 for general admission.

Online ticket sales have concluded and remaining tickets will be sold at the door. Doors open at 7 p.m.

Dan Gigliotti can be reached at [email protected].

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