On June 2nd, The Roots celebrated their 11th Annual Roots Picnic. In a season filled with music festivals, The Picnic has a unique flare to it - it is an unabashedly, black music festival that pays special attention to the legacy, and future, of Hip-Hop. This year's Picnic dealt with the threat of rain for much of the day, and then, well, it actually rained. And there was a thunderstorm, so much so, that The Roots were only able to do a couple of selections before ending the show. While the rain was a bummer, there were still plenty of good moments from the day. To recap the day, I spoke with friends of the blog Christopher and Kevin.
Stanley: What are some of y’all’s takeaways from the Picnic?
Kevin: Okay so I have to admit--this was my least anticipated Roots Picnic coming in. Not to say that there weren't artists I liked on the bill because there were several but compared to years past I wasn't giddy coming in. The only thing that had the possibility to provide that real excitement was The Roots Jam Session and let's just say the weather had the final word. Some of my general takeaways from the Picnic is that this jawn has turned into a true stomping ground for B to C-list celebrities to come in and have their shine. I actually liked the idea of the panels and podcasts as it allowed us to have an even closer look at these people. It allowed us to cross paths with 9th Wonder, get initially get stunned by but eventually get that elusive hug from Scottie Beam (shoutout Chris) and see other local celebrities. I will say that I've come to accept that this space at Festival Pier is perfect for The Roots and allows for a tight-knit event primarily shared by black people. The washout from the rain left me upset and looking for a partial refund but all in all, it was a great event and I'm sure I'll be back next year.
Christopher: As a native Philadelphian, experiencing a Roots Picnic had been on my bucket list for many years, and thankfully this weekend I was finally able to cross it off the list. My excitement for the Picnic was not only rooted in the opportunity to witness Philly's most prominent band live, but also to hear from popular artists like Rapsody, Goldlink, and 6lack, and prominent resistance and social thought leaders like Marc Lamont Hill, Angela Rye, and Jemele Hill to name a few. And while I was wildly impressed by all of the performances of the aforementioned, I was most enthused by the general camaraderie and cookout-like atmosphere that engulfed the Festival Pier; an atmosphere that allowed me to say "what's up" to the legendary 9th Wonder and receive a hug from Scottie Beam. In all, music has a way of drawing people together and setting a soundtrack to a good time, I thank the Roots for continuously providing a platform for artists, creatives, thought leaders, and blackness to shine and permeate the hearts, minds, and souls of many. 'Til next time!
The Roots' nostalgic curation felt like a concert from 2003 where baggier jeans, long white t-shirts, and Air Force One's were the uniform, Allen Iverson was the king of the NBA, and rap lyrics mattered. - Christopher
Stanley: The Roots are really intentional on paying homage to Hip-Hop and some of the legends. This year it was Jadakiss, Fabolous, and Styles P, who joined Black Thought. What do y’all think about The Roots’ nostalgic curation?
Christopher: In recognition of the 11th Annual Roots Picnic, it only was fitting that they paid homage to a few legendary, throwback artists. The Roots' nostalgic curation which featured Jadakiss, Fabolous, Styles P, and Black Thought felt like a concert from 2003 where baggier jeans, long white t-shirts, and Air Force One's were the uniform, Allen Iverson was the king of the NBA, and rap lyrics mattered. It was pretty cool to witness. Additionally, that curation reminded me that the genre of rap/hip-hop is still relatively new and ever-evolving; however, there is a prominent component to the art that must be preserved: rhymes. In a world where mumble rap sells records, packs out arenas, turns up the clubs, and bumps through my speakers, it was quite refreshing to re-capture and celebrate artists who have something to say.
Kevin: It's funny because The Roots are intentional about paying respect to these legends and I feel like Black Thought is just now getting recognized as a true GOAT in the game. They have always paid the ultimate respect to the agreed upon legends of the genre but this year it really felt like the general consensus is to place Black Thought on the same level as the guys he brought onstage. It was always easy for The Roots/Black Thought to have these legends come through because they clearly respect The Roots/Thought but I feel like that consensus in the crowd was palpable this year. In response to The Roots nostalgic curation, I think it's vital for them to continue to do so because as we move forward in Hip Hop we continue to move farther and farther from that style of rap being the prominent way to express the culture and art form. So it's imperative that we are reminded of the OGs because Uzi wouldn't be stage diving in full leather outfits and all the others wouldn't be allowed to have this platform to do what they do without them bringing respectability to the genre. So I'm all for the oldheads getting the shine and all the "this is real hip hop" sentiments being shared every year during the Live Mixtape.
I've come to accept that this space at Festival Pier is perfect for The Roots, and allows for a tight-knit event primarily shared by black people. - Kevin
Stanley: I’m with y’all - I like the nostalgic feel they have. I think their emphasis on Hip-Hop history allows them to corner a market, and shows their unique qualities as a group. After all, they are the one group that has the range of talent, and years of experience to pull off what they do. They really are an anomaly when it comes to being a Hip-Hop band. I also think by them focusing so heavily on Hip-Hop and it’s legacy, they have a range other festivals simply don’t have. Not many festivals have a bill with Jadakiss and Lil Uzi, and I like that they do.
Since it’s been a thing, I’ve really enjoyed Black Thought and Jay Period’s Live Mixtape. Following Black Thought’s 10-minute freestyle on Funk Flex, going viral, and gaining some of long overdue recognition; his cipher felt little special coming into this year. And it’s always cool seeing him adapt to whoever he’s on the stage with, too. He fit right in with Fab and Jadakiss - almost like it was his own music.
Stanley: What/Who were you most surprised by at the Picnic?
Christopher: I was pretty blown away by 6lack and Goldlink's respective performances. 6lack's 3-piece band (keys, drums, and DJ) smashed the stage and rocked the crowd. Goldlink's set was full of energy and charisma, and his voice largely resembled his studio sound. Goldlink introduced the crowd to a few hits from his "At What Cost" album while also performing bangers like Chief Keef's "Don't Like." 6lack and Goldlink's performance made me a bonafide fan.
Kevin: Honestly, I think I was most surprised at Goldlink. He really had a command of the stage and crowd not many people at the Picnic possessed. I'm not sure how talented he is as a rapper or singer lol but I think it's clear that doesn't matter. He has charisma.
Stanley: I think The Roots have a way of curating the lineup where they kind of get artists before they REALLY blow up, or after their prime (but still very talented). After leaving The Picnic, I can say I really enjoyed the artists they chose! Rapsody was incredible, Badbadnotgood was great. I was kind of surprised by Goldlink - he had his stage rocking. I liked his music going into The Picnic, but I left really impressed!
For me, without a doubt, 6lack had the best set. I thought he had great stage presence, his music connected well with the audience and he kept the energy high. And he randomly did a cover of Badu’s On & On, like, c’mon. And you could tell his band/DJ had no idea he was going to do that but they just flowed with him. It’s great to see an artist take risks but also be super confident in their ability.
We almost cheated death with the rain, but it ultimately caught up with us. The little we did see of The Roots was great. But I really wanted to see how they were going to do the Jam Session with Brandy and 2 Chainz.
While we didn't get a chance to see The Roots perform their entire setlist, we were gifted a look inside their setlist for the show. Bittersweet.