Roots Picnic This Weekend

Some things we’re excited to see this year.

By Brian McManus
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 3 | Posted Jun. 1, 2010

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Hair apparent: The Roots are hip-hop's most confoundingly unique group

Show me a festival curated by a hip-hop group headlined by Vampire Weekend, and I’ll show you the third annual Roots Picnic! Show me a new hip-hop album featuring Joanna Newsom, and I’ll show you the Roots How I Got Over, out June 22.

Both may seem a bit odd, but they’re not.

Because the Roots’ drummer/mouthpiece ?uestlove doesn’t make music for you. He makes it for 68-year-old white guys. Specifically Robert Christgau, the “the Dean of American Rock Critics” who ?uest believes is “the last true-blue record critic on earth,” according to a 2008 interview. “That’s pretty much who I make my records for,” he went on to say.

Over the last half-decade, the Roots have become the most unique (confounding?) hip-hop act on the planet, mostly because they don’t seem to like hip-hop all that much. (Or, more accuately, what hip-hop has become.) So they collaborate with Monsters of Folk and the aforementioned Newsom. They book Vampire Weekend to headline the concert they curate. They book Tune-Yards. They’re caught on tape slobbering all over an acoustic performance by Dirty Projectors backstage at Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. They book TV on the Radio.

They’ve got Pitchfork in their RSS feed.

When they do book hip-hop it’s always with a heaping helping of “back in the day.” They have a serious fetish for the Golden Era, and when they do give a nod to the modern era, the preference seems to be for blog rap. Now we know why. And not just because of ?uest’s Christgau boner.

Last Monday he went on a bit of a Twitter rant. His gripe: “the press/blogger minstrelsy embrace of hip-hop.” His meaning: if it’s “‘scary or ‘bright’ ‘clownish’/’funny’ or ‘oversexed’ or ‘watered down apolitically’ (no balls/opinion/position/eager to pleaseisms) its minstrel!!!!”

He then links to the Wiki entry for “Minstrel show” before pitting Lil Wayne and Sting against one another in a race for hypothetical political office, asking which of the artists you’d vote for if both decided to quit selling millions of records to embark on a career in politics. The answer is obvious, insists ?uesto (unless “being contrary is how you differentiate yourself from others”). You may listen to Lil Wayne, respect his art, but you don’t take him “all that serious.”

So don’t expect to see Plies at a Roots Picnic anytime soon. Or any mainstream rap, for that matter. But at this year’s Roots Picnic—Saturday at the Festival Pier—there will be plenty to see. Here now are some things we’re excited about.

Kids in boat shoes interacting with kids in Bapes.

Are Bathing Apes still a thing? Please forgive if these terrible, patent leather sneakers have already spent their time in the sun, and kids are on to a new fad in ugly clothing, but you get my meaning. Because of the Roots’ Picnic’s diverse lineup, there’s a diverse crowd. And the skinny-jeans and puffy high tops kids into Das Racist and Clipse mix with the pastel shirts and boat shoe-wearing fans of Vampire Weekend in the same space. Very rare and always fun.

Ghostface, Raekwon, Method Man.

Frankly, I was happy to see Run-D.M.C. cancel. Have you ever heard DMC speak? Why is his voice so high? Why does it crack like he’s going through puberty? Anyway, he seems to have gone off the deep end. Add that to the fact that Rev. Run is content to tweet platitudes from a day calendar of inspirational phrases, and this, legends though they are, wasn’t a reunion I was all that thrilled about. Ghost, Rae and Meth will slay, just like their new album.

Stymied rap fans watch Tune-Yards.

I imagine it will be much like watching fans of Coldplay watch Santigold when she opened for them a couple years back. After a couple songs they’ll become a bit uncomfortable and start yapping at one another, “ What the hell is this ?” Or maybe not. By all accounts Merrill Garbus’ (aka Tune-Yards) live show can melt the coldest of hearts.

I’m at the Pizza Hut. I’m at the Taco Bell. I’m at the combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.

I’m at the Pizza Hut. I’m at the Taco Bell. I’m at the combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell. Repeat 50 times. After you’ve heard it, you’ll sing Das Racist’s viral hit any time you are in or around a combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell. Stay away from 30th Street Station.

Unannounced Guests!

Last year it was a couple of the guys from New Kids on the Block. Who could it be this year? (Crossing fingers for Backstreet Boys.)

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1. Anonymous said... on Jun 2, 2010 at 10:17AM

“The "Sound Barrier Experience" a new band in Philly, sounds so much like The Roots. They need an opportunity, Thorobred, there lead MC is comparable to Black Thought. I wonder if they will be at The Roots picnic.”

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2. Anonymous said... on Sep 24, 2010 at 12:41PM

“That's sad man, real sad. If "they" are good enough, they won't need the bump a comment on PW will get them.”

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3. Anonymous said... on Mar 1, 2011 at 07:50AM

“McManus, you are a lazy journalist. The answers to your banal questions about DMC's voice are readily available, and yet you didn't even bother to check Wikipedia (the lazy journalist's best friend). Laaaaaaaaazy.
And should you bother to do a little research, you're going to feel like a jerk for inadvertently mocking a man with a debilitating medical condition. Or rather, you should feel like a jerk.

Have you ever heard DMC speak? Why is his voice so high? Why does it crack like he’s going through puberty?”

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