The Roots

You never know what you're going to get when you see the Roots in concert. The band has roughly 14 years of material to draw from and ten albums full of hits that often keep audiences dancing from the start of their concerts until the last note is played. They thoroughly wear the title of "legendary" well, not just because they're one of the best hip-hop groups of all time (which they are) but collectively, they're one of the best bands of the 20th Century. Back when their breakout album, Do You Want More?!!!??!, was released in 1995, the rap world was instantly spun in a new direction by this Philadelphia-based group's merger of bebop and hip-hop. While playing all their instruments live, the Roots caught off-guard the legions of golden-era boom-bap fans who had, until then, become accustomed to overproduced rap. Three years later, when their seminal release Things Fall Apart came out , the group evolved yet again. The impressive rhymes were still there, but spine-tingling superproducer J. Dilla was brought on board. The band kept all its live instrumentation yet peppered the material with the fresh beats that hip-hop fans crave. Fast-forward ten years and the group is still evolving. It's added a sousaphone player named Tuba Gooding Jr., and it's creating thinking-man's hip-hop that challenges the status quo yet still makes you shake your ass on a nightly basis.

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Jonathan Cunningham