Volume 92, Issue 89

Wednesday, March 18, 1999


The Concrete Beat

Blur's risk with 13 truns into personal success

Philly five revives The Roots of hip hop

Vivaldi revitalized for its audience

Danko Jones knows he's still on top

Ralston Saul paves way for individuality

Comedy group Laughs

Ripley's version of Welsh animal music

Celebrity sightings

Philly five revives The Roots of hip hop

Photos by Chris Simmons and Mark Lewandowski
THE DOWNTOWN TORONTO HMV WAS COOKING LAST WEEK FROM THE RAW ENERGY OF THE ROOTS. The Philly based group is on a North American tour in support of their new album, complemented by Common and Melkey Sedeck. The band capped off a brief press conference with a wild in-store performance to a mix of media and mayhem.

By Mark Lewandowski

Gazette Staff

Last week the Toronto hip hop community was treated to a double dose of everything which is good about the industry. The double dose was a show at The Guvernment and a press conference at the downtown Toronto HMV.

The "everything good" is The Roots. Straight outta Philly, the five member band has just released their fourth full length album and if they were to epitomize the hip hop industry then things definitely wouldn't fall apart.

At the press conference, the Philly five answered a variety of questions from their elevated post at the back of the music store while hungry fans waited outside.

"Hip hop is having a renaissance right now. It was down for a while, it was in rehab," Black Thought laughs. As The Roots' lead singer, it wasn't his place to claim his group has revitalized hip hop but this was definitely his implication.

The Roots are special because they play all their own instruments. Their studio work is only an extension of their live capabilities. "We used to play on the streets of Philly," B.T. exclaims.

Their new album Things Fall Apart combines their live capabilities with advanced studio styling. "Every time we go into studio we learn something new," B.T. explains.

Things Fall Apart has been enormously successful for The Roots and has helped them get on a bill with Santana and Dave Matthews for an upcoming tour. When asked about the tour B.T. admits it is not his baby.

"It's Dave Matthews' call. He's calling the shots on this one." He commented later that the group respects both artists for what they have achieved musically.

The group also addressed their recent label swap. "When we joined Geffen we were the first urban group on the label. MCA has much more experience," B.T. explains, with respect to the move.

The press conference was brief as it got off to a late start, but the fun was not over. On this current tour The Roots are complemented by Common and Melkey Sedeck, the latter opened the in-store performance. She quickly got the crowd into it by asking them if they like it raw. Her vocal wails were like Aretha Franklin does Screamin' Jay Hawkins. Powerful – definitely powerful.

Melkey was hot but The Roots were on fire. From the start of their set the full crowd swashed into the front as late comers could not be stopped from getting a good spot. Some thought without Erykah Badu their hit single "You Got Me" would suffer, but the crowd was asked to fill in and did an admirable job.

In place of samples, The Roots have Scratch, who is the ultimate human beat box. "When he came on I started looking around the stage to see where the sounds were coming from," said Kris Sarnia, a devout follower of the scene and amateur hip hop photographer who freelances out of Calgary. "They have the best flow I've seen since Maestro."

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Copyright The Gazette 1999