Know Your Roots:
The Acclaimed Hip Hop Band The Roots Comes to CMU for Carnival

Chaman Saron

The Roots, also known as The Legendary Roots Crew, The Fifth Dynasty, The Square Roots and The Foundation, are an extremely influential band from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Known for heavy Jazz sounds and live instrumentation, they were greatly inspired by Stetsasonic. The group has worked with various artists of various musical styles, including Cody Chesnutt and Roy Ayers.

The current members of the bands include Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter (MC), Kamal Gray (keyboard), Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson (drums), F Knuckles (percussion), and Captain Kirk (guitar). Tariq Trotter and Ahmir Thompson were once classmates at the Philadelphia High School for Creative Performing Arts, where they got together and started jamming on the streets and at the school. Picking up a second MC, a new bassist, and a keyboardist, the group together began an exciting career. The band has recently toured with Damon “Tuba Gooding Jr.” Bryson, a sousaphone player.

The band started out doing shows in Philadelphia and left less than a year later to hold performances in Europe. Their first album, Organix, ended up being a live recording from a concert in Germany. After becoming more widely known and landing a record deal with DGC Records, the Roots returned to the United States to work on their next release. Although they did not hit it off at first with Hip-Hop fans, their second album, Do You Want More?!!!??!, was a hit for fans of Alternative music. Interestingly enough, no samples or previously recorded material were used to produce this album. The album instead incorporates elements of Jazz, improvisation, and beat-boxing.

Their album Illadelph Halflife contained their first single to hit the top five on Rap charts, as well as another that reached the famous Top 40 of Billboard’s charts. This album’s sound was slightly darker and appealed to a much wider audience. Things Fall Apart was their breakthrough album. It hit #4 on the Billboard 200, earned a gold record, and contained a song that got them a Grammy for Best Performance By A Duo Or Group. Their newest album will be their tenth. It is called Rising Down and is scheduled to be released on April 29.

One interesting feature of their albums is that their songs have continuously been listed numerically since their first album. For instance, their most recent album, Game Theory, contains tracks 114-127. It also features a song that samples Radiohead, and many of their albums in the past have featured hidden tracks. Game Theory, their darkest released album yet, is possibly their most serious record to date. Its lyrics speak to subjects such as the war in Iraq, the environment, and violence in music. In 2004, the band created the Okayplayer company, named after their website, which incorporated a record label and production company.

Although members of the band have come and gone through the years, The Roots continue to tour often and are known for their live sets. Experts often declare them to be the best in the genre.

Throughout the years, the band has been nominated for numerous awards, including Best Group for the 2005 BET Awards, and won Outstanding Duo or Group for the 2007 NAACP Image Awards. In 2002, Jay-Z called upon them for his MTV Unplugged album. Music lovers agree that a performance by the Roots is not just a show – it is an experience. To find out more about them and listen to some of their songs, check out