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First off, thanks to all the folks who have been coming over, and most importantly the Okayplayer staff for the front page link! I woke up today and was trying to think of ways to get you guys, the new readers, a reason to stick around and keep coming back. I’ve got something planned for later in the day, but in the meantime I’m just gonna stick with a name you can always trust, ?uestlove. This excerpt is a lengthy one, but for any true fan it’s a must read. The question came about as ?uest mentioned that when the group first came out, he didn’t feel that they would really last or thrive. He explains the setting during the Do You Want More!?!? era and how The Roots Movement (and Okayplayer really) came out of that.
Do You Want More!?!? Taught us a big lesson, and that’s when we took a crash course in the music industry. We did this massive search only to find the Wizard of Oz was just a man behind the curtain, and that all that glitter wasn’t gold. It’s basically like we bit the fruit of the tree of life and then all the truth was revealed to us. In our heads we thought that music would heal the world’s ales, and how could people not love us? This is some shit hip-hop ain’t seen before! From a technical standpoint, there were bands that were playing but they sounded soft or just didn’t have that boom-bap flavor, or the MC was spotty at best. We just felt man, if it’s good and and it’s innovative then we are in. We came out, and by today’s standards…Do You Want More!?! just crept up to Gold in 2004. But I was basing my model on De La Soul and all the Native Tongue stuff, and then I realized that The Chronic washed all that away. The first wave of alternative Black hip-hop was like a train at a train station that we were running about 30 seconds behind, and by the time we jumped the gate and ran up the stairs out of breath and to the platform, that train had just pulled off. It started with Jungle Brothers and ended with Digable Planets getting the Grammy in 1992, and the train pulls away form the station. We kinda knew that we wouldn’t get our chance until five years later just based on the whole pendulum swinging back and fourth vibe. We actually thought in our heads that we’ll come, we’ll be innovative and people will love us and we’ll be acclaimed and then achieve success. That’s when we realized De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising had very little to do with people applauding their wordplay or clever production. You gotta treat people like babies sometimes, you know like when you communicate with a baby it can’t communicate back so if you do the little rattle and (talks with enthusiasm, high voice). It’s tricks. Those tricks, those “hey little baby” tricks were stuff like marketing. That’s when I found out their hippie day glo image, their style of dress, their haircuts, that is what played a roll. The imaging of the group, not the fact that Pos did a great triple worldplay association with the word black on “Me, Myself and I.” All that clever lyricism and technological stuff is just the whipped cream and cherry on top of your sundae. At the time I thought that was the sundae, but then I realized that the marketing is what’s important. We came out sorta alone and uncontextualized. We were the only band our type, and clearly again, The Chronic had sorta did this Tsunami rush on the environment of hip-hop to the point where this is the first…Any of the other storms, tornadoes if you will, like Please Hammer Don’t Hurt Em, or To The Xtreme, or Tone Loc’s first album, those were tornadoes, but they didn’t affect the law of the land. The Chronic was the first time a credible street approved hip-hop artists actually started doing rock numbers. Once that happened, that changed the game to where everyone had to follow suit. Puffy won’t hesitate to say oh yeah The Chronic, we took that record and made it East Coast and that was Ready To Die. That’s all that Puff needed to start his empire. The problem was, again, the last train of alternative black hip-hop was in 1992 and once The Chronic came along it set fourth a movement that was anti what we were doing. We came out alone. It wasn’t…like all the follow up records to those alternative Black groups, primarily Tribe and De La, they didn’t release any material between 93-97. It wasn’t even like a new Tribe or De La record would have came out in 94 or 95, 96 was when Beats Rhymes and Life and Stakes Is High came out. But the point is that we realized that the only way for us to get any type of attention or success is to contextualize what we do in some sort of group form. We released Do You Want More!?!?! sorta to critical acclaim but really not making a mark, and to another extent Illadelphalflife more acclaim, but still not getting over that hump. In the middle of Illadelphalflife that’s when we realized that we had to build a movement. What we did was we told our label you have to contextualize The Roots because it’s not going to make sense, us going to war against a million people and we’re only five people. We needed an army ourselves. At the time our label could afford to do something like this. They were guilt ridden, “we love you guys, its’ our fault! We tried marketing, we thought the “What They Do” video was going to take off!” but it wasn’t about a song or nothing, you had to build a movement, unfortunately it would take five years. So starting in 97 we made a wish list of the people who should be in the movement, and then they went out like sports agents and got them for us. Wendy Goldstien went to Relativity records and got Common out of his contract and brought him to MCA. That way you can contextualize, oh Roots and Common. Then we said go to Rawkus and get Mos out of his contract and bring him over here, that’s what she did. By that time though they made a deal with Rawkus, so they basically purchased Mos, Kweli and Pharoah Monch from their contracts. They came over to our side, so now it looks like ok, Kweli, Common, Mos, Pharoah and The Roots. That’s why you can’t name one act without naming the other. If you like Mos, chances are you’re gonna like Common, and chances are you’ll like us and Kweli too. Not to mention the people we started associating ourselves with ie, Erykah and D’Angelo, and the new jacks that were coming in; us starting the Black Lily jam session which gave birth to Aires, Musiq and Floetry. All of a sudden it looks like there is a movement going on. It wasn’t a conicidence that in 1999 The Roots start making a little sense to people. They had two Erykah Badu albums, D’Angelo was an established artist and that was the ramp up that lead to our movement.”
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