The RootsThe Legendary Philly Crew
From acid house through neo-soul and beyond, hip-hop's best band.
The Roots were far from the first hip-hop act to play live instruments -- even "Rapper's Delight" featured Sugarhill Records house band Positive Force -- but their combination of live instruments, conscious lyrics and unashamedly retro jazz and soul influences stood in direct opposition to the sample-based aesthetic and gangsta persona of mid-'90s hip-hop. But unlike earlier acts like De La Soul or P.M. Dawn, The Roots were tough, defiant and hard even when their music was at its mellowest. Although the Roots reached their biggest audience during the late '90s neo-soul boom through hits like Illadelph Halflife and Things Fall Apart, they not only continued making quality records after the hipster bandwagon jumpers moved on, they produced some of their most thoughtful and musically varied work in the first decade of the 2000s. Between albums, rapper Tariq Trotter explored an acting career, while drummer/bandleader Ahmir Thompson began a sideline career as a writer/producer, often in association with J Dilla and James Poyser as The Soulquarians. In 2009, The Roots became the house band on NBC's Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, becoming an integral part of the show's comedy sketches as well.