Philadelphia has honored long-running hometown hip-hop act the Roots by naming a stretch of a city street “Avenue of the Roots.” The sign on the stretch of East Passyunk Avenue between South Street and Bainbridge Streets, near where the group got their start, received one of the city’s distinctive red footnotes, according to the Philadelphia Tribune.
“They had first started there on Passyunk and South Street, that’s where they would go and do their singing at night,” said Councilman Mark Squilla, who introduced the resolution to rename the street on Thursday at City Council, according to the Trib. “Philadelphia is still a land of music and arts and culture, and the more we bring attention to it, the better we are.”
The sign was unveiled earlier than expected, on Friday morning, to the apparent surprise of drummer Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, who founded the group with rapper Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter in 1987.
“….does this mean WHAT I THINK IT MEANS!!!???!!!???” Quest posted on Instagram Friday, before writing a more formal post (below) late Sunday. “[H]ell of a way to find out!!!! WOW!!!!!”
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Welp this is very Philly: technically we were supposed to wait for the vote and then like in May come Picnic Time we’d have an unveiling w confetti & kool aid lol but cats was like “NOAP!!! WE FINNA PUT THIS JAWN UP NOW!!!!!”—-“ really awesome to see the place we honed our skills and craft embrace us like this. #Repost @whyy ・・・ Philadelphia government may never have gotten anything done this quickly before… . A stretch of East Passyunk just below South Street is being dedicated as “Avenue of The Roots” in honor of the famed Philadelphia hip hop group. A resolution to add the honorific was introduced Thursday in City Council by Councilmember Mark Squilla — and by Friday morning, the little red street sign was already installed. . . ✏️ @phillydesign 📸 @imagicdigital . . . #whyilovephilly #philly #philadelphia #phillyevents #visitphilly #discoverphl #phillypulse #peopledelphia #ourphilly #billypenngram #theroots #therootspicnic #phillymusic #phillyhistory #phillyblackpride
“It is surprising to everyone that the street sign is up already,” Leroy McCarthy, who first proposed the street naming, told the paper. “[Questlove] is going to be shocked when he sees it.” He said he suggested the idea to Squilla’s office last April. Now a Brooklyn resident, McCarthy staged a long and successful campaign to name the borough’s St. James Place between Gates Avenue and Fulton Street Christopher Wallace Way in honor of Notorious B.I.G. He said he’s undertaken a similar campaign for Tupac in Oakland.
Philadelphia has honored home-bred musicians with honorary streets in the past, including Patti LaBelle, Boyz II Men and songwriter-producers Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff. The Roots are one of the longest-running acts in hip-hop, having released multiple albums, worked as a backing group for many artists — including Jay-Z, John Legend and Elvis Costello — and are the house band on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.”
“The Roots started their performance experience by busking on the streets of Philadelphia. East Passyunk Avenue and South Street was one of their main locations. Since then, The Roots have taken Philadelphia with them on television nightly and to audiences worldwide. The Roots are, and will always be, appreciated as a talented band from the streets of Philadelphia,” the resolution reads.
The official street-naming ceremony will take place in May, before the Roots’ annual picnic concert in the city.