Endlessly innovative Hip Hop band The Roots are an entity unto themselves. Although they aren’t the first rap band to actually play (Stetsasonic) they are certainly the only ones who do ‘what they do’. Always doing things in their own left of center fashion, here comes HomeGrown! The Beginner’s Guide to Understanding The Roots Vols. I & II. The release of this mammoth compilation serves many a purpose, not the least of which is mightily fulfilling their obligations to longtime label MCA/Geffen. Simultaneously, they deliver a grand 29 song foray into their phenomenal catalogue, and throw in rare mixes and slamming live cuts, spoiling the jam band-like obsessive Roots fan with a definitive and positively banging collection.

Sure, they backed Hov on the bananas Unplugged jawn. Yep! That was them, behind Eminem at the Grammys on the Oscar winning “Lose Yourself”. But don’t kid yourself, the beauty of the Roots lies within their own music. Some of the most artful hip hop ever created, without losing a truly boom bap aesthetic, the group goes through sonic, mood and personnel changes throughout the nearly fifteen years they have been recording, going back to South St., the lay-up days, the Square Roots is comin’ Goats daze… as I digress. Drummer wunderkind Ahmir ?uestlove Thompson meticulously breaks its down with painstaking precision in the fine print 20-page liner notes that detail a who-what-when-where-why-how of nearly every damn track. The notes are a fascinating look behind the scenes of an enigma of a band, looking at the forces, within the band and externally, that affected and shaped the music they created.

The other mainstays throughout the Roots have been bassist Leonard ‘Hub” Hubbard, keyboardist Kamal, and the criminally slept-on emcee’s MC Tariq ‘Black Thought’ Trotter (no relation to Jeremiah54), a fearsome foursome who have been augmented by a wild style cast of characters, hip hop innovators, sultry songstresses and homies from round the way. Those included on these discs include Beanie Sigel (his debut verse on “Adrenaline”) Eve, Jill Scott (alternate take on the huge single “You Got Me”), Common (Love of My Life act II), Mos Def (Double Trouble), former members Dice Raw and Malik B, Jaguar Wright (“What You Want”), D’Angelo, Raphel Saadiq, a laundry list of influential hip hoppers.

The hardcore legendary fans will appreciate the hard to find gems that are kindly distributed throughout this compilation. The live medley of “The Seed/Melting Pot/Web” culled from BBC Radio’s Giles Peterson program is some of the strongest Roots material this writer has ever experienced. Unreleased bangers like the ultra-rare “Quicksand Millenium” had ?uest reaching out on to heads for choice vinyl copies of the minimally pressed song. The O.G. version of the classic “Essaywhuman” from Organix, and the rugged and rough dubbed out “Break You Off” are also tracks for heads to check for.

As yet another Roots era, comes to a close, the future couldn’t be brighter for the Philadelphia crew. Their upcoming new studio release Game Theory will be released on the new Def Jam Left, headed up by new Def Jam CEO Shawn Carter. The last time the God MC linked up with the Legendary, the shit was magical. One can only hope for the same the second time around.

JamBase | Philly
Go See Live Music!

[Published on: 12/22/05]