February 12, 2003


Digging Deeper: Excavating hip hop's history with the Roots (Britt Robson, 2/12/03, City Pages)
Through its first quarter-century of existence, hip hop has spawned merely two self-contained live bands whose influence has had any longevity. The first was Stetsasonic, featuring DBC doubling on drums and keyboards and Prince Paul slicing and dicing the mix. When I slapped my vinyl version of On Fire, Stet's 1986 debut, on the turntable the other day, the anachronistic, nursery-rhyme flow mimicked Run-D.M.C.--albeit with buoyantly live beats, and, on "Rock De La Stet," some inspired guitar wankery. Although Stetsasonic would go on to release two more records over the next five years, they soon became an obscure footnote in hip-hop history: Members Prince Paul and Fruitkwan found more lucrative, higher-profile settings with De La Soul and Gravediggaz.

Then there is the second band: the Roots. A decade after dropping their first disc (the now out-of-print Organix), the Philly stalwarts sound better than ever--indeed, better than anybody. With Phrenology, the band's masterfully ambitious sixth CD, the Roots take a quantum leap forward, living up to their name by exposing and enlivening the essence of hip hop. Phrenology makes explicit the connective roots between rock and rap music--specifically the mutual debt both genres owe to blues and gospel--as the group delivers ferocious, electrified updates of hollers from the cotton fields, gin joints, and pulpits of (mostly Afro-) America. (Southern bass music and hip hop from the Cash Money and No Limit labels provide the cartoon version of this history, which isn't all bad.)

Friends since high school, founding members Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson and Tariq "Black Thought" Trotter had, before Phrenology, been somewhat covert about their affinity for rock. But even then, its resonance was unmistakable, especially onstage. ?uestlove's precise snare-drum accents resembled no one so much as the Rolling Stones' Charlie Watts (that's a compliment, young'uns), and rapper Black Thought customarily lost points among followers of Jay-Z, Nas, and the late Biggie because his conservative flow emphasized thrust over gymnastics and message overwordplay.

I'm fairly certain that's the first time anyone's ever said that emphasizing thrust is conservative. Posted by Orrin Judd at February 12, 2003 8:20 AM

Judd Kink Kaid
(killah tribute to the the gym teacher, Chet Kincaid, played by Bill Cosby in the original (late 60's) The Bill Cosby Show (with theme music by Quincy Jones and sung by Cosby... Coot Lord!

If you don't like that one, then how about O-ring
Advantages include the fact that it rhymes with "bling-bling" and Richard Feynman once used one as an "Ice Cube."

Posted by: "QYang" at February 12, 2003 10:31 AM

I'm not sure I can explain "Kink" to the Wife...

Posted by: oj at February 12, 2003 11:25 AM
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