THE ROOTS FACTS
Members: Black Thought, Questlove, Kamal Gray, F. Knuckles, Kirk Douglas, Damon Bryson, James Poyser, Mark Kelley
Hometown: Philadelphia, PA
Genre: Hip Hop
Awards: Won 4 Grammys
Albums: Do You Want More?!!!??!, Phrenology, Game Theory, Rising Sun, How I Got Over, Undun
Hits: “You Got Me,” “What They Do,” “Stay Cool”
While The Roots may not have achieved widespread commercial success in the U.S., the band has been a fixture in the hip-hop movement since the late '80s and has worked with some of the world's top recording artists. With a fan base that includes hip-hop, jazz and rock fans alike, the band has built a reputation as one of the best live acts around.
In 1987, drummer Questlove (Ahmir Khalib Thompson) and rapper Black Thought (Tariq Trotter) began playing small shows at their high school and around downtown Philadelphia. After hooking up with bassist Hub (Leon Hubbard) and rapper Malik B, The Roots became one of the hottest underground acts in the country and sparked significant buzz all around the industry. After the release of their first album, Organix, in 1993, the band was signed by DGC and began work on their first major-label album.
The band dropped Do You Want More?!!!??! in 1995 and just missed the Billboard Top 100 by a few slots upon its release. While the album received a lukewarm reception by hip-hop fans, it gained traction in alternative rock and jazz circles. With the band members' boasting a wide variety of musical backgrounds, additional styles began to emerge as the band evolved.
In 1996, The Roots released the first single off their second album, Clones, which surged to the Top Five of the rap charts. This helped create significant buzz for the band's second record, Illadelph Halflife, which soared to number 21 on the charts. The Roots' third album, Things Fall Apart, was easily the band's biggest commercial success. The track "You Got Me," which the band recorded with Erykah Badu, made it to No. 39 on the Billboard charts and showcased the band's soulful groove and versatility.
The Roots would release a slew of albums over the course of the 2000s, such as the highly anticipated Phrenology in 2002 and The Tipping Point in July 2004. After signing with Def Jam Records, The Roots released Game Theory and Rising Dawn, both of which received warm praise from critics and featured a variety of new freestyle jam session-inspired tracks.
Ever since the late '80s, The Roots have been one of the most unique acts on the music scene, combining hip-hop, jazz and rock into a dynamic cross-section of musical backgrounds that seem to get better with age.