The Roots
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By taking the sounds traditionally produced by old-school DJs--spare breakbeats, scratch squiggles, burly bass lines--and recreating them in the organic context of a traditional live band, the Roots presented themselves at once as visionaries and rigid traditionalists. In the process, they also helped raise the barometer of possibilities for rap in a live context.

The Roots rose out of Philly, where lyricist Tariq Trotter (Black Thought) and drummer Ahmir-Khalib Thompson (?uestlove) attended the Philadelphia High School For Creative And Performing Arts with members of Boyz II Men, as well as bassist Christian McBride and organist Joey DeFrancesco, both of whom would go on to become jazz stars. In 1989, the two organized a loose-knit crew of rappers called the Foreign Objects and started playing gigs in Philly as the Roots. The members' familiarity with styles outside of hip-hop became evident as the band evolved, and by the time they dropped Organix (released independently overseas) and then their major label debut Do You Want More?!!!??!, the Roots' music had become a heady hybrid of rap and jazz.

With Illadelph Halflife and the tour that ensued, the Roots had become so adept as players that once they hit on certain jams it was hard to know if this was a collection of rappers grooving on jazz or the other way around--exactly what they've been trying to achieve all along. The day jazz musicians start doing medleys of old-school rap classics in the middle of their sets like the Roots do in their shows, the band's mission may finally be complete. Or perhaps by then they'll be looking for more...

This Biography was written by Brett Anderson,
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