The Roots are high on the list of artists I’ve seen live the most times. My first time was in high school at Drew University during the Things Fall Apart tour, and most recently I had the pleasure of catching one of The Roots Jam shows at Highline Ballroom this past summer. The realization that these shows were well over ten years apart was a bit disconcerting (via feeling old), but I took comfort in the fact that I was out past 2 on a weeknight!
The Highline show was the day before the new album, How I Got Over, came out and it was killer. They played very little of the new stuff, which is always fine by me, and gave me my jamming fix after a particularly poor Phish show at Saratoga a few days earlier. The Roots have been called the best live band in hip-hop for years, and rightfully so, but their live show is on a whole other level these days. If you’ve seen them once or twice, or at a festival, and are thinking “been there, done that,” do yourself a favor and get to a show.
I’ve had a little time with the new album, and it’s quite good, but one track really stands out, “Right On” which features and samples Joanna Newsom. Newsom’s appearance, along with Monsters of Folk and Dirty Projectors, have led many to point to the influence of their new indie rock friends from the Fallon show, but “Right On” is straight classic 90s hip-hop. Heck, it sounds more 90s underground than The Roots actually sounded during that time. I think it’s telling of the profound influence the late J Dilla’s work has had on them that last few albums, as the beat reminds me of Dilla’s production on Pharcyde’s Labcabincalifornia.