2010 was–by anyone’s estimation–a triumphant year for Philadelphia-native soul/hip-hop band The Roots.
It was their second year as the house band for Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, each night providing interstitial music as well as stepping in as the band for guests as varied as Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, Todd Rundgren, Mos Def and Justin Timberlake (with Fallon doing an amazing “History of Hip Hop”).
In June, The Roots released their ninth album How I Got Over. It earned an 8.1 on Pitchfork, “…one of their most lyrically straightforward, and a work of strong stylistic cohesion.” As a casual follower of The Roots dating back to Illadelph Halflife (1996), I agree with Pitchfork on this point. Every Roots album to date has had standout tracks, but How I Got Over is for me their most satisfying effort beginning-to-end. Possibly this has to do with the fact that the album draws its inspiration as a collective sigh of relief with the election of President Obama. How I Got Over is itself a “reaching across the aisle,” if you will, featuring collaborations with indie darlings Monsters of Folk on “Dear God 2.0” (a re-engineering of the MoF single), harp-wrangler and Van Dyke Parks BFF Joanna Newsom on “Right On,” and members of The Dirty Projectors on the opening acapella track “A Piece of Light.”
September brought the release of The Roots collaboration with Philly native, John Legend Wake Up! The sessions were started in 2008 and were inspired by the campaigning that Legend was doing for Barack Obama which explains the overall tone of urging for change. “I was in the middle of campaigning for Barack Obama,” Legend said in an interview with Billboard, “and feeling inspired by the atmosphere in the country at the time, so I wanted to do something musically that reflected that moment.” The album was a collection of inspired–if obscure–R&B covers from the likes of Baby Huey, Donny Hathaway, Bill Withers and others, as well as an original song, “Shine.” The album, an instant critical and briefly commercial hit, led with the single “Wake Up Everybody,” which was bolstered by guests Common and Melanie Fiona. The song had a video which played regularly on VH1 and spent time on the VH1 Top 20.
The real recognition for the work put into Wake Up!, however, was evidenced by the three GRAMMY’s that Legend and the Roots took home: Best Group or Duo R&B Vocal Performance for “Shine,” Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance for “Hang On in There” and Best R&B Album! One of the great music success stories of 2010 to be certain.
Fueled by the afterglow of the GRAMMY wins, the possibilities for The Roots seem limitless. The beginning of March marks the third season for “the greatest band on television” supporting Jimmy Fallon. The band hosted their 7th Annual star-studded “Pre-GRAMMY Jam Session,” and just this past week the band announced the Fourth Annual Roots Picnic, which will happen on June 4th, in Philly, and will include among other acts The Dismemberment Plan, Yelawolf, Ariel Pink, Nas and fellow GRAMMY recipient Esperanza Spalding, who will be performing with The Roots as her band.
With this packed schedule the band still manages to squeeze in some very rare tour dates and Iowa City will be graced with their presence Wednesday, March 9th, at 8 p.m., in the IMU Main Lounge.
Tickets went on sale February 9th at the IMU Box Office (where students can U-Bill up to 8 tickets), the Hancher box office located in the Old Capital Mall and all Ticketmaster locations. There are a limited number of student-priced tickets, brought to you by the UI Office of Student Life.
Click Here for the IMU page on The Roots show.
Click Here for the SCOPE Productions Page on The Roots show.