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Music / The Roots

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Straight from the town of Philly, y'all!

The Roots are a long running Conscious Hip Hop group formed in 1987 by Tariq "Black Thought" Trotter and Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson. Unlike most of their peers, who hail either from California, New York, or Georgia, The Roots are from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Unlike many hip hop groups, The Roots are known for their relatively conservative use of sampling, often preferring to use live instrumentation instead. Though they are often labeled Conscious Hip Hop, they've actually dabbled in a wide range of styles. Ranging from Jazz Rap to full on political rap. Lyrically, they're also known to be quite diverse. They typically touch on topics like institutionalized racism, poverty, music industry politics, and in some songs just having a good time.

In addition to making music full time, they have also been the house band for Late Night With Jimmy Fallon since 2009.


  • Organix (1993)
  • Do You Want More?!!!??! (1995)
  • Illadelph Halflife (1996)
  • Things Fall Apart (1999)
  • Phrenology (2002)
  • The Tipping Point (2004)
  • Game Theory (2006)
  • Rising Down (2008)
  • How I Got Over (2010)
  • undun (2011)
  • ...And Then You Shoot Your Cousin (2014)

Provides examples of

  • Boastful Rap: Several examples. “Proceed”, “The Next Movement” and ”No Great Pretender” to name a few.
  • Concept Album: Undun, which tells a Back to Front story about the short and tragic life of a fictional character named Redford Stevens.
    • Less explicitly, Phrenology is an hour-long celebration of music, as well as a critique of the relentless commercialization of hip hop.
  • Call-Back: Things Fall Apart opens with random clips from Do You Want More?!!!??!
  • Darker and Edgier: Starting with Game Theory, the band's music took a decidedly darker and more serious tone, sharpening their political edge and incorporating rawer production styles.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Black Thought is known to be very much against drug use and has pretty strict policies with his bandmates regarding it. His solo song "Fentanyl," for example, is about the dangers of opioid addiction.
  • Free Handed Performer: Black Thought is the only member of the band who doesn't play an instrument on stage, whether it's on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon or during a concert.
  • Hidden Depths: Questlove, in addition to being a musician/producer, is a big popcorn lover and even once had his own brand of gourmet popcorn seasoning.
  • Jazz Rap: Being a full-blown ensemble band, they've frequently dabbled in it; especially in the Soulquarians era.
  • Music Is Politics: A common theme in their music, especially on Illadelph Halflife.
  • Political Rap: Pretty much everything from Game Theory on, especially Rising Down.
  • Rap Rock: Phrenology has a couple songs that could be classified as such, like "The Seed (2.0)."
  • Scatting: Black Thought does this quite a bit on Do You Want More?!!!??! He also does it on the song "One Shine" from Illadelph Halflife.
  • Shout-Out: The name "Redford Stevens" is a shout out to the indie folk/rock musician Sufjan Stevens, taking the first name from his song "Redford" and the last name from... well, his last name.
  • Stalker with a Crush: “Silent Treatment.”
  • Vocal Evolution: Black Thought's voice became noticeably deeper and more powerful, beginning with Things Fall Apart, which is especially befitting of the more politically-charged lyrics he would pen in the 2000's.