Despite recent commercial trends, hip-hop music does still boast a small number of dope crews who stead-fastly represent positivity and honor, including Philadelphia’s the Roots and Atlanta’s Goodie Mob, both of which feature skilled live musicians to compliment their powerful wordplay, more and more a rarity in the genre.
After an engaging but brief set from hyped DreamWorks act Parental Advisory (or P-A), the Roots took the stage (despite being billed as the evening’s headliner) and set the packed-house to rocking with an impressive display of individual ability and awesome teamplay, testament to the group’s 11-year journey that began on Philly street corners.
Manipulating a succession of classic R&B grooves, the Roots (who are currently finishing their fourth album in L.A.) waxed poetic on such topics as Millennium-era sociopolitics and brotherhood, while the band, anchored by the thundering drum work of percussionist ?uestlove, laid out smooth, seductive dance music.
Their hourlong perf peaked, as usual, when the members traded on a series of solos and duets, starting with turns from ?uestlove and bassist Hub, who offered a Hendrix-inspired, feedback-filled bass solo that shook the club’s floor, and ending with vocalist Malik B and “human beatbox” Rahzel dueling with an array of lyrical flows and vocal tricks, including Rahzel’s uncanny ability to mimic a record being scratched back and forth.
Goodie Mob’s closing effort, which opened to the sound of elegant gospel music, was much more hard-edged then the Roots, laden with sobering tales of gangster excess and life’s harsh realities that were carefully and proudly delivered amid the talented backing band’s infectious R&B jams.
Commanding tracks from the Mob’s recent sophomore LaFace release, “Still Standing,” combined variable vocals from the group’s main foursome — hardcore one moment, multipart harmonies the next — with a progressive, rock-steady musicality from the musicians. An overwhelming sentiment of spirituality throughout their show, like during the female tribute “Beautiful Skin” or single “Black Ice,” gave the group’s fans much to contemplate.