The Roots with Nas, Common, Talib, Badu, Mos Def, Chappelle

The Roots with Nas, Common, Talib, Badu, Mos Def, Chappelle
The Philly’s real bad boy, Black Thought and his counterpart ?uestlove had set the stage for one of the greatest shows NYC had ever seen. Nas, Erykah Badu, Common, Talib Kweli, Big Daddy Kane, Rahzel and even Dave Chappell all came on for a 2-nite spectacular. So what, if the Wu’s Raekwon and Ghostface didn’t show?

Leaving us no choice but to thank him for the great move, Jay-Z started Def Jam left. The very goal of the new label was signing the bands that put out few albums but have a massive fan base. The Roots was the first act signed. Jay-Z was the first in the industry to make a true home for the not-so-commercial acts. In the times when everything is getting more and more money-oriented, this move is appreciated by many, to say the least.
So The Roots finally gave everyone an equivalent of Jay’s MSG performance a few years back.

What do we know about The Roots? How many ‘Hip Hop listeners’ even know Black Thought’s name? How many of them know that ?uestlove is an accomplished DJ, with several albums out, in addition to being a true Hip Hop drummer? In a way, dark surrounds the band off stage. Same way, dark surrounded them on stage as well. Both nights, spotlights didn’t tear the stage open. The audience was to know who got on stage, even with the dimmed lights. In addition, The Roots took an unorthodox path and remained on stage throughout everyone’s performance. The band was everyone’s accompaniment, with The Roots’ emcee, Black Thought, chilling on the side during the others’ sets.

Paying his respects to J Dilla, Black Thought announced of the contribution from the concert to a foundation fighting Lupus. He even got almost a whole minute of complete silence out of everyone, to honor one of the industry’s greats.

The crowd roared in excitement and delight, when Black got on stage. Soon after, he was joined by the only other non-commercial emcee, whose life is even more of a secret than Tariq’s, despite all the publicity. Nas. Most are still shocked. After years of the industry’s most notorious beef, after the greatest diss ever written, ‘Ether’, after all the uncertainty on ‘whose baby is it really?’, Nas signed with the only man he openly, and perhaps rightfully at the time, disrespected. All of that was forgotten, when he took the stage. Thousands of fans at a sold out show sang along the classics. ‘If I Ruled The World’, ‘Made You Look’ and the very fact of one of the greatest emcees of all time on stage, got people rocking instantly. Assertively and confidently Nas announced his new album coming out. ‘Hip Hop is Dead…’ is the title of it.

The Roots and Nas together were a true representation of ‘old school doing new ways’. Both decided it was time to get paid and signed with Jay’s label. Both realized the need to make money while enjoy the art of Hip Hop. Joined by Common, they all sent out the same message. After years of turning Kanye’s beats down, Common finally let him produce his last album, ‘Be’. What a reaction! It sold ¾ of a million copies within a short time, showing all, that being commercial just means reaching people. Instead of reaching a smaller crowd, this time Common simply touched more people.

“We gonna take you to Brooklyn”, Common announced as he started off his set. He did several songs from ‘Be’ and an older classic ‘The Light’. His new signature on stage is clearly the energy of a man obsessed with getting his words across. Simply refusing to stand still, he ran from one end of the stage to another. He only stopped to do his other favorite – sit on a high stool, talk to the crowd for a minute and jump off, kicking the stool away, raging back into one of his songs. He even did a freestyle describing the night. Dropping the legendary names appearing that night, he made everyone understand how special the event is for all. He spoke of J Dilla again, announcing that the entire concert is dedicated to him. On a side note: it was refreshing to hear R.I.P. for someone who was not a victim of a bullet. As the stage was separated from the audience by a couple of feet of space, Common brought himself to the fans. He went into the crowd, smiling, full of life and full of love for his craft.

Big Daddy Kane came on as well, giving people an added sense of how much the night represented ‘old school’.

In a new fashionable twist, the stage got a bit political at one moment. There were rhymes like: “F— wack emcees like I say f— Bush”. Being politically provocative and taking sides and interest in the country’s affairs is becoming contagious. Kanye certainly paved the way during his now infamous announcement that “George Bush does not care about the black people”. For as long as Hip Hop was around, it remained the reflection of what affected and bothered people. The new way of teaching all to pay attention to more than what is here and now is just a continuation of that. Hip Hop offers its own school as always. ‘Politics through the eyes of the Hip Hop community’ would be a great title for a class for Kanye to teach upon retirement from rapping. No doubt, he’d have much to say.

“1,2,3, Mos Def and Talib Kweli” Talib dropped to remind all of an almost forgotten classic. He was acting like his usual self – caught up in Hip Hop, and put on a great set with ‘Just to Get By’ and 3 others. He was almost saying “Welcome to the Kweli lounge”. Seemingly trying to contain himself he managed to put it all out there with just a few songs.

Then Black Thought took the mic back and The Roots part of the show unrolled. ‘Break you off’, ‘You Got Me’ (it was great even without Erykah), ‘Ha-Ha music’, ‘Seed 2.0’ without Cody Chestnut, and several new songs made people want more and more out of the band. Tariq’s unmatched skills and personal passion made the walls of the auditorium shake, combined with ?ustlove’s drum play. The band’s notorious drummer went onto to do his own mini set and set off a roar in the crowd in approval.

To continue the NY tradition, the concert’s DJ, Jazzy Jeff, showed off his mastery toward the end.

Kurt Douglas, The Roots’ bassist, started off with a thick base line, which turned into a solo mini set.

Then, the godfather of beatboxing, Rahzel, showed all who still holds the title. His ties with the band are traced back to the very beginning. Little known as a rapper, his ability to make beats with his mouth and throat (the real art of beatboxing) is by far unmatched. He showed just that. To warm up the crowd, he first made some non-music sounds (explosions, videogames). Then his set unrolled. Doing everything from just beats to full songs like Dawn Penn’s ‘You Don’t Love Me’, Kanye’s ‘Jesus Walks’ and Aaliyah’s ‘If Your Girl Only Knew’, he truly mesmerized the crowd. Giving respect to Biz Markie and Dougie Fresh, he also told a bit of his own story. “G-d gave me this gift” but “Ladies taught me how to beatbox.” He then explained further: “You can’t go 8 hours without music.”

The amazement of a remarkable and unprecedented event folded shortly after as the concert ended for the night and brought a lot of the band’s friends on stage to show support. Alisha Keys, Erykah Badu, Dave Chappelle and others came out to hug Black Thought and congratulate him on an amazing evening.

THE SECOND NIGHT did not go better or worse. It was shockingly different, considering the fact that it was supposed to be strikingly similar. Not only did The Roots members change their outfits. Not only were Common, Talib and Nas replaced by Mos’, Erykah and Dave. The whole feel was different.

Black announced in the beginning: “Hip Hop, you are the love of my life.” Then Hip Hip, the show, unveiled for the second time with a slightly different cast.

Mos Def came on and started his set off with the prevailing theme from his second album. He sang of a ‘Boogie Man’, while being an actor, a romantic and simply a charmingly magnetic individual. Stage is a stage for him, whether we are talking about Broadway, Hollywood or the Radio City Music Hall. “I just showed up,” he announced. Giving props to Brooklyn he reminded all about his Bedsty roots. He followed it through with ‘Respiration Song’. Then an actor in Mos came out and random jokes began to unroll. It almost seemed like a Chappelle impersonation. Yet, before too long, he was back to his ‘Boogie Man’ and back to being an unorthodox emcee. Banging on the lunch room’s tables at school as a teenager, rapping and freestyling, he established his connection with music before one with stage acting.

J Davey followed and dazzled everyone with her stunning physique; her bright, a-la Indian, feather head ornament; and her vocal talents. Accompanied by ?uestlove’s heavy drumming, her piercing voice seemed to be a bit of a mismatch for that evening. Still, she brought her charisma and her excitement with her and lit up the stage.

Then in a pleasant surprise move, Dave Chappelle took the stage. Portraying how special the night was, he said: “I don’t even show 4 my own show. I’m here and it’s a big deal.” Explaining his vanishing act of 2005 he blamed the scene for being too predetermined. “You gotta look for clues in the game,” he said. “Hollywood is too political. They got more than a billion people in India, don’t you think they could find an Indian to play Ghandi?” Then he unveiled on the role of the media in the country. “Media distracts everyone. We’ve got wars, genocide and during all that the whole country’s looking for a missing girl in Aruba. When I got lost, noone looked.” Moving on, he did a review of Iceberg Slam’s book. He called it the ‘Capitalism manifesto’. While the book talks about turning tricks and the life of a pimp, it showed many traits pertinent to almost any situation in life. Talking about the ‘mileage on a hoe’ and the ‘lifespan of a hoe’ he made everyone realize how much we’ve missed the funky funny Chappelle show. Offering advise from that book like “Beat the bitch, then run her a bath, give her pills and she’ll love you”, he made everyone want to get a copy of the reading. While it would be silly to narrate the entire bit, needless to say, everyone was intoxicated with his funny twists on truth in life.

Ballau came on fronting large sunglasses and shared his own R&B performance with crowd.

Then the moment everyone awaited came and the beautiful, sexy and mysterious Erykah Badu came on stage. So many words come to mind, trying to describe her. Soulful, casually beautiful, always a lady, forever young, a bit naughty, always playful and eternally full of herself, she deserves it all. Appearing like a real lady should appear, while not loosing her shy baby girl look, she took the audience away with her unmatched singing mastery. She did the ‘You got me’ with Black Thought and everyone melted. She said: “Baby don’t worry, you know that you got me” and we all wished it was said to each one of us individually. Her urban dress, her wild untamed hair, her grace and her tender touch took everyone away for a little while.

The entire evening was more on the singing side, as opposed to the previous night’s rapping extravaganza.

Then in the best of the tradition, Jay Z came on to check up on his new empire. Once again his “H to the OV” reminded us who’s wearing his chain.

Then, this seemingly never-ending party came to an end. Everyone but the CEO himself, walked from the stage through the rows of the spectators, on their way out, and the night ended.

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