While most modern hip hop acts have shied away from playing actual instruments, The Roots have made a hugely successful career out of it. Their unique brand of hip hop and soul with a full band (including horn section) has led to sold-out tour dates and four Grammys. In addition to their own acclaimed albums, The Roots have also participated in acclaimed collaborations with artists like John Legend, Erykah Badu, and Duffy. As The Roots continue to evolve and grow, nothing seems too out of the ordinary for this groundbreaking hip hop collective.
The Roots was formed in 1987 by vocalist Black Thought and drummer Questlove while they were friends in high school. The duo began performing around Philadelphia and New York City, gathering a line-up of musicians that would change frequently throughout the band's career; including beatboxer Rahzel. After gathering a following of both hip hop and alternative fans with strategic tour dates, The Roots roared onto the mainstream with the release of Things Fall Apart in 1999. The album quickly went gold and won The Roots their first Grammy that year, and was followed by a performance at Woodstock '99. The Roots' political and social commentary began to grow stronger and stronger beginning with Game Theory in 2006 and continued on their next few albums.
The Roots album, Wake Up!, combined the group's increasing social commentary with the smooth R&B sounds of John Legend; an undeniably winning combination. After a collaborative album with Betty Wright, The Roots released their 13th album, Undun. The record was a concept album, following a man named Redford Stephens who's seduced by a life of crime. After a collaboration with Elvis Costello, the band released ...And Then You Shoot Your Cousin, which satirically dealt with the subject at violence in America.