The two founding fathers of The Roots are known on stage as Black Thought and Questlove, who met each other as teenagers in urban Philadelphia. The pair began performing at local venues and talent shows as The Square Roots, eventually shortening the name to simply The Roots for the release of their first album, Organix. The band has since released ten studio albums, earned three Grammy Awards, performed all over the world, and continue to serve as role models of musicianship and innovation in hip hop. They are widely respected and praised by other musicians, and have collaborated with countless artists ranging from Mos Def, Common and Talib Kweli to Erykah Badu, John Legend, Sufjan Stevens, and even Elvis Costello. The group has served as the house band for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon since 2009. The late night show has offered a perfect showcase of the band’s many talents and quirky sense of humor.
The Roots are revered for writing songs of substance, often shunning the themes of superficiality and glorification of gang culture found in much of today’s mainstream hip hop while at the same maintaining an undeniably high level of street cred. The band’s actions outside of their songwriting prove that they practice what they preach, as they have offered fervent support to many charitable causes including the Red Hot Organization’s campaign against HIV/AIDS, the Common Ground Foundation in benefit of education programs for underserved youth, the Earth Day Network and the Save The Music Foundation to name but a few. The Roots also host two high profile concert events each year – The Roots Jam Session, which takes place the day before the Grammys, and The Roots Picnic, a music festival held in June in the band’s native Philadelphia. The band’s great sense of community and collaboration continues to expand their influential message and blur the dividing lines of genre.
Few bands are able to use hip hop to personify the complex evolution of American music as well as The Roots. They are a sterling example of what the combination of determination, fearless creativity, and a commitment to community, and to the music that holds it together, can achieve.