The Roots | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

The Roots 

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As attempted fusions of jazz and hip hop become ever more pervasive, so do the failures. All too often uninspired horn and keyboard riffs get sampled and that's it, throwing only the most minuscule wrinkle into hip hop's often predictable fabric. Augmented by well-integrated electric piano and a variety of horns, the recently released second album by Philadelphia's the Roots, Do You Want More?!!!??! (DGC), features contributions from top-notch jazzers like Steve Coleman, Graham Haynes, Joshua Roseman, and Cassandra Wilson. But it's the sublimely elastic rhythm team of drummer B.R.O.THER.? and stand-up bassist HUB, along with the sophisticated rapping of Malik B. and Black Thought, that makes this jazz-hip hop blend succeed. The Roots don't try to re-create bebop or 70s fusion directly; their liquid creations draw upon the inherent freedom of jazz--improvisation. Their rapping avoids posturing on social issues in favor of a spirited investigation of rhythmic possibilities--elaborate wordplay, human beatbox scatting, and crazy wordless sounds: Malik B. and Black Thought revel in invention for the sheer hell of it. Through several European tours, including an unprecedented gig at the prestigious Moers jazz festival, they've earned a reputation as a hot live act. Shunning samples altogether, the Roots don't offer canned renditions of their tunes. Those put off by the dynamic flatness of nearly all live hip hop are encouraged to view this appearance and reconsider the genre. Saturday, 10 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee; 489-3160.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo/T. Eric Munroe.

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