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ISSUE 117 VOL 12 PUBLISHED 3/5/2004

Diggin' The Roots' at Northrop

By Anonymous
Contributing Writer

Friday, March 5, 2004

On Feb. 29 The Roots, a critically acclaimed hip-hop group, performed in concert at the University of Minnesota's Northrop Auditorium. Atmosphere, a Minneapolis hip-hop group, opened for The Roots. The first song, "Trying To Find A Balance," from the "Seven's Travels" album, typified the rest of the performance.

Slug, Amosphere's emcee, floated self-deprecating lyrics above a crisp beat. The performance reached its climax in the middle of the song "Like Today" when Slug paused for comic relief after the line "It appears as if a piece of me as has got motivation/Ain't nothing wrong with a little morning to do a political poem. Granted, Slug isn't Bono, but he actually brought up some excellent arguments -- attacking issues that other artists prefer to stay away from. During the poem, Ant, the group's DJ, maintained an infectious rhythm. The performance's only downfall was that Atmosphere didn't complete many of their songs, which appeared to be due to time constraints.

The Roots, with their hip beats and talent for twisting intelligent lyrics, gave a strong group performance. Unlike other rap groups, The Roots do not use a DJ. They featured a solo from drummer Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson, which was just long enough to keep the intensity of the concert rolling, as the group transitioned into a rendition of Rick James's "Super Freak." This was a digression from emcee Black Thought's usual truth-telling lyrics, but it went over well and seemed to surprise the audience. Maintaining the energy from "Super Freak," the group's bassist Hub performed a jazzy solo with some rocking licks at the end. It could have been the venue -- the expansive Northrop auditorium took away from the intimate club atmosphere most fans prefer -- but the Roots struggled to reach the audience. The band indulged the crowd with a crazy remix medley of random Top 40 hits, including songs from artists such as Beyonce Knowles, Lil' John, The East Side Boyz and Salt-N-Pepa. The crowd's reaction was enthusiastic but rather short-lived. Why did they do it? Was it a sell-out ploy to motivate a stagnant crowd, or a deliberate foray into the saccharine? It's a tough call.

First of all, it's important to point out that overall, The Roots and Atmosphere gave great original performances offering a refreshing break from the canned beats of Nelly. This was certainly jamming -- minus the "bling-bling." One of the reasons why The Roots are held in such high-esteem is that they stretch far beyond a pre-packaged style.

However, The Roots have been together for over a decade and have recorded six albums. They have recorded with Eryka Badu, Meshell Ndegeocello, and Mos Def -- to name a few. Although theirs was a quality show, they performed only six pieces from their own repertoire; they should have played a few more originals before resorting to quick sugar-fix crowd-pleasers.

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