(AllHipHop News) The oppressive heat and traffic gridlock didn't deter several hundred thousand people from converging on downtown Philadelphia last night (July 4) for the city's annual "Welcome America" festival.
Fourth of July in Philadelphia, the birthplace of democracy, typically means a performance from The Roots. This year was no different, as the city's lauded rap band, along with Mayor Michael Nutter and sponsor Wawa, hosted a nearly five-hour concert held across from the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum, where "Rocky" once famously cheered himself on.
With The Roots at the helm, opening with a "go-go" flavored set, the evening included performances from some of rap's most successful, longtime stars, Common and Queen Latifah.
The trio of industry greats volleyed themselves back and forth between sets, chiming in on each other's hits through the night. The highlight of the night, however, was a surprise performance from Lauryn Hill.
The former Fugees member, who recently plead guilty to tax charges, was in high-energy mode in a frilly, white tu-tu style dress and red boots. She ran through a medley of chart-topping hits from her classic, solo album, 1998's The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, and the Fugees' epic, The Score.
Common's "Go" set the crowd into a frenzy, while his "Act Too (The Love of My Life)" performance with The Roots solidified the lyrical bond between himself and rap impresario, Black Thought. Behind the scenes, he talked his love for Philadelphia and what he most looked forward to during the event:
"For me, one of my favorite artists ever is Lauryn Hill. So, for me to be able to see her playing - especially with The Roots playing along with her, that's just a high-level of artistry," said Common in an interview with AllHipHop.com. "And, I know she's ready to rock. It's a good feeling."
From backstage, a svelte-looking Queen Latifah peeked out from her trailer from time to time, unwilling to give many interviews, but happy to smile for the cameras and chat with old friends.
Fans were serenaded mostly in song by the Oscar-nominated rapstress/actress, who came back out later for a surprise collaboration on "Sarah" with soulful singer Darryl Hall of Hall & Oates, but didn't forget to include her rap classics, "Ladies First" and "U-N-I-T-Y", in her act.
Philadelphia legend, Jazzy Jeff, played DJ for some of the show, while in between acts, The Roots played emcees and hosts, keeping the crowd engaged in a show that had few snags outside of the sheer enormity of the crowd.
For the teeny-bopper set, Joe Jonas was also on hand to offer some of his solo hits, as well as a few from his successful run as part of The Jonas Brothers.
"Welcome America" is just one of many festival appearances The Roots will make during Summer 2012; however, global fans can see them on August 1 and 2 at Paradiso in Amsterdam.