About The Roots
American hip hop band the Roots was formed by Tariq "Black Thought" Trotter and Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1987 when they were both attending the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts. The two would busk on street corners, with Questlove's drumming backing Black Thought's rapping, and eventually the friends began to perform together on stage.
In 1989, the school organized a talent show where the duo performed under the name Radio Activity. It was around this time that they began performing together more often, under other aliases including Black to the Future and then The Square Roots. They also added another MC, Malik B., and the bass player, Leonard "Hub" Hubbard, to their line-up, and began earning both money and a following as an underground act around Philadelphia and New York.
In 1992, they came across another local band that performed under the moniker The Square Roots, and so the band became, simply, the Roots. Struggling to gain recognition outside of Pennsylvania, the band briefly moved to London, England in 1993 to work on their self-released debut album, Organix. Throughout the next year, the band built up a buzz in Europe and drew the attention of several record labels with Organix, eventually signing with DCG/Geffen.
1994-1997: Do You Want More?!!!??! and Illadelph Halflife
During the recording of their debut album, Do You Want More?!!!??!, beatboxer Rahzel and keyboardist Scott Storch, joined the band. The album was released in January 1995, and married East Coast hip hop with jazz, later becoming a jazz rap classic. It launched three singles: "Proceed," "Distortion to Static," and "Silent Treatment," and peaked at number two on the US Heatseekers Albums chart.
That year, they furthered their fanbase with appearances at the Montreux Jazz Festival and Lollapalooza.
In 1996, the Roots released their third studio album, Illadelph Halflife, which was their first to chart on the Billboard 200, peaking at number 21. One of the album's singles, "What They Do", was the group's first single to hit the Top 40 of Billboard's Hot 100 chart, helped in part by its music video's heavy rotation on MTV. The album featured several guest artists and collaborations with other musicians and rappers, including Common, D'Angelo and Q-Tip, forming the basis of what went on to be the neo-soul and hip-hop collective Soulquarians.
1998-2000: Breakthrough with Things Fall Apart
1999 brought the release of Things Fall Apart, the Roots' fourth studio album. Recorded at Electric Lady Studios with the Soulquarians collective at the same time as D'Angelo's Voodoo (2000), Erykah Badu's Mama's Gun (2000) and Common's Like Water for Chocolate (2000), the album is considered by many to be their seminal and breakthrough album. A critically acclaimed record, it reached number two on the US Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, number four on the Billboard 200, and number seven on the Canadian Albums chart. It launched the single "You Got Me" featuring Eve and Erykah Badu, which won the 2000 Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group, while album itself was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Rap Album.
2001-2005: Phrenology and The Tipping Point
2001 brought further success for the band, but it also brought with it escalating pressure. Several members left the group, including Rahzel and Dice Raw. That December, the Roots served as backing for Jay-Z's MTV Unplugged concert.
Phrenology, the band's fifth studio album, was released in September 2002 and features contributions from several prominent hip hop and neo soul artists such as Cody ChesnuTT, Musiq Soulchild, Talib Kweli, and Jill Scott. It was universally acclaimed by critics and was named on several publications best albums of the year lists, and it also earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best Rap Album.
In 2003, the band backed Jay-Z once more, this time at his farewell concert in Madison Square Garden. They were also featured in the documentary concert film Fade to Black.
The following year, after the departure of Ben Kenney and Scratch from the band, the Roots released The Tipping Point, their sixth studio album. It debuted at number four on the Billboard 200 and earned the band two further Grammy Award nominations: one for Best Urban/Alternative Performance for the track "Star/Pointro" and another for Best Rap Performance By A Duo Or Group for the track "Don't Say Nuthin'."
Home Grown! The Beginner's Guide To Understanding The Roots, Volumes 1 & 2, a two-disc compilation album, was released in 2005.
The group appeared in the 2005 documentary film Dave Chapelle's Block Party, which depicted a block party the comedian had hosted in September 2004.
2006-2008: Game Theory and Rising Down
In August 2006, the Roots released their debut album on Def Jam Recordings, having left Geffen Records. The album was Game Theory, which debuted at number nine on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart and earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best Rap Album. A darker and sparser sounding album than previous efforts, the album also has a more serious feel lyrically, and acts as a tribute to the late J Dilla.
Rising Down, its follow-up, was released in April 2008 and continued the sound, and many of the lyrical themes, of Game Theory. It debuted at number six on the Billboard 200 and at number one on Billboard's Top Rap Albums chart.
2009-2010: How I Got Over and Wake Up!
The band released its ninth studio album, How I Got Over, in June 2010. It debuted at number six on the US Billboard 200 chart and was nominated for Best Rap Album at the 2011 Grammy Awards.
That September, they released a collaborative album with R&B singer John Legend, Wake Up! Featuring guest appearances from CL Smooth, Malik Yusef, Common, and Melanie Fiona, among others, it debuted at number eight on the Billboard 200 and won the 2011 Grammy Award for Best Rap Album.
2011-2014: Undun, ...And Then You Shoot Your Cousin, and side projects
Their tenth studio album, Undun, released in December 2011, is a concept album based around the short, tragic life of fictional character Redford Stevens. The album was a critical hit, appearing on several lists of the year's best albums. It peaked at number two on Billboard's Top Rap Albums chart and number four on the Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums chart.
That year, they also collaborated with R&B singer Betty Wright on the album Betty Wright: The Movie, which was co-produced by Wright and Questlove, was nominated for a 2012 Grammy in the "Best Traditional R&B Performance".
2013 saw the release of another collaborative album, this time with English singer songwriter Elvis Costello. The album, Wise Up Ghost, grew out of Costello's appearances on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, where the Roots performed as the house band from 2009 until 2014, when they moved with Fallon to The Tonight Show. Wise Up Ghost was well-received critically and peaked at number 16 on the Billboard 200.
The band's eleventh studio album, ...And Then You Shoot Your Cousin, was released in May 2014. Another concept album, it lyrically addresses violence in hip hop and American society with satire. Once again critically acclaimed, the album debuted at number 11 on the Billboard 200.
2015-present: End Game
In September 2016, the Roots performed as Usher's backing band at a Global Citizen benefit concert in Montreal, Quebec.
It has been announced that their 17th studio album, End Game, will be released in 2019.