THE ROOTS RECAP: The Kings Of The Picnic Bring Out Rakim, Wale, Danny Brown and Beyond


Join us back here all week for select ARTIST VIDEO PROFILES from The Roots Picnic 2012, including the god MC Rakim, Detroit’s Danny Brown, hometown hero Freeway, and more!

From in front of the stage, it was what you might expect from an event billed after a legendary Hip-Hop band that has stood the tests of nearly a quarter century together. For Roots Picnic-goers, this past weekend (June 2 and 3) was a two-day occasion for the ages.

Host Amanda Seales, a.k.a. TV and rap’s Amanda Diva, kept the flow of the daytime acts going which, for a festival of its size, ran amazingly close to on time. (Shout out to Okayplayer and Live Nation for that.) Seales even pulled MCs from the crowd during one break in the action on Saturday, holding her own with humor in front of a largely Philly, partially tough as nails crowd.

Danny Brown

On Day 1, there was the “income tax swag” of Danny Brown – with his toothless grin and hyper showmanship, the diverse crowd was all in while he commanded the stage. He talked “progressive Hip-Hop” with backstage, clearly unapologetic about his zany, permed hair and unruly lyrical content. Beyond his unique sound was that of OCD: Moosh & Twist, Stretch Armstrong, Diplo, and a host of DJs both on the main stage and a huge tent nearby.

The Roots led the crowd of several thousand into the night on both days, saving the heavyweights for perfectly chosen breaks in their nearly three-hour long sets.

On Saturday night, Black Thought rocked over a vicious go-go inspired set, paying homage to late genre king Chuck Brown, who passed just weeks ago. The late MCA of the Beastie Boys wasn’t forgotten either, as he received another of several tribute moments performed in his honor by Black Thought. And, reminiscent of his Lyricist Lounge appearance the week before, Mos Def a.k.a. Yasiin Bey made his lyrical domination felt during his set with The Roots.

Wale (Photo credit – Brian Hineline)

The go-go music (handled amazingly on percussion by drummer ?uestlove, and slaughtered in the “pocket” by The Roots lead MC) played the segue for Maybach Music Group’s Wale to enter stage left and rock along with Black Thought. It was a welcome treat to hear the D.C. rapper make a quick time travel back to his go-go heavy days of just a few years ago. He nailed his performance, running through his recent hits such as “Sabotage” and taking a step back on the go-go track, “Pretty Girls”, which featured Gucci Mane on the album version.

Native Tongue legends De La Soul served as an anchor to “the roots” of Hip-Hop during their appearance, which blended new “First Serve” material with late ’90s classics like “Oooh.” Never missing a beat, it was refreshing and welcome to see the vets keep Hip-Hop timeless and talented.

Sadat X and Lord Jamar of Brand Nubian

On Day 2, another set of Hip-Hop heavyweights stopped by – Lord Jamar and Sadat X of Brand Nubian – on their way to a show with Roxanne Shante and Sweet Tee in Philadelphia’s Germantown section. Check out a video greeting from Malik B, one of the original Roots MCs, followed by Sadat X and Lord Jamal of Brand Nubian (sans a still-around Grand Puba) talking the end of  “Old School” and more:

A passing Philadelphia thunderstorm on Day 2 threatened to shut down the funktastic festival gathering, but Mother Nature had mercy on the Hip-Hop, and the show kept going. First, there was a run-through of classic Roots songs, dating back to around the turn of the millennium. With ease the live instruments grooved as Black Thought took a trip through their lyrical and musical legacy.


Then. There was the shop stopper. Rakim, the elusive rap legend of over 25 years, rocked a nearly 45-minute set, first with Black Thought and The Roots and then by himself – not once showing signs of being marred by time, but rather, by a pesky, thunderstorm rain-logged sound system that kept giving out during the set. Ever the professional, Rakim obliged, giving the capacity, outdoor crowd what they’ve been missing, in the form of his classic Eric B collaborations, “Paid In Full”, “Microphone Fiend”, “I Ain’t No Joke”, and many more.

Black Thought, Freeway and Friends

When “smoke in the cockpit of his plane from L.A.”, according to one of his road crew members, kept Kid Cudi from his scheduled appearance, Philly’s own Freeway was more than happy to oblige a trip to the stage. He also took a few moments to speak with about the legacy of The Roots Picnic, why he stormed the Jay-Z/Mayor N##### stage a few weeks earlier, and what he and State Property were lining up for the rest of 2012.

From behind the stage, in the “well-stocked” artist/VIP village, it was truly a picnic atmosphere. A couple hundred people filled the catering tents, artist trailers and dressing rooms, and a large open space for doing whatever it was you did – libations and herbals included. And, ever the hometown heroes, there was also a booth to allow VIP concertgoers to support The Roots charitable causes for women and girls – the GrassROOTS Community Foundation – through the purchase of a T-shirt or a monetary donation.

The fact that all of couple hundred people (mostly family members, artist entourages, journalists, and VIP ticketholders) in the artist village were likely just two to three degrees of separation from just two people – Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter and Amir “?uestlove” Thompson, who started out as youngsters jamming together in Philly – is proof positive that The Roots reign supreme.

…In Philly, worldwide, and possibly on planets far beyond our galaxy.