The Roots have always gone against the grain. While many rap acts perform live with DAT machines and drop one or two albums per year, this fully functioning band takes its time between releases.
For their next LP, the Philly collective whose last studio album, 1999's Things Fall Apart, spawned the Grammy Award-winning track "You Got Me" will really be testing their fans' loyalty, as it will be close to another year, at least, before the new album drops.
"It's risky, especially in hip-hop, where you only have a year before your parking meter runs out," the band's drummer and backbone, ?uestlove, admitted. "We're sort of faithful in our fans. Our fans aren't necessarily the fly-by-night ones that are on you as long as you have a single out. The music is quality, and it's definitely A-list."
The Roots aim to get the LP out in June 2002, "God willing," ?uestlove said, explaining that the group has completed seven songs and wants to do five more.
"This is slowly looking like Fleetwood Mac's Rumours," he said of the recording process. "If you're familiar with Rumours, ... [Fleetwood Mac] basically use [their music] to communicate with each other. Their anger, so to speak. As a unit, we're tighter than ever, but this album is probably the most therapeutic sh-- we've ever done. Direction-wise, we're trying to rewrite what we're about."
The Roots are also in the process of rewriting what they planned to title the record. "It was originally called Introducing the Roots," ?uestlove said. "We might switch it to Phrenology. It's not a definite. When the songs jell together and we have some sort of concept to it, that's when the title process comes in."
And while their musical direction may be altered a bit, the band's MO of incessant touring will definitely pick up again.
"We're a group that needs to produce and perform to survive," ?uestlove said. "We've never used the actual album as the final point. If anything, we've used the album as a promotional tool to say, 'OK, the live band exists.' If anything, the Grammy and the gold record afforded us to perform even more. More and more opportunities came up. "
Those opportunities included a starring role for Roots frontman Black Thought in the film "Brooklyn Babylon" and high demand from artists for the studio services of ?uestlove, a.k.a. Ahmir Thompson.
"There was production stuff I wanted to do, between the D'Angelo record, the Common record, the Erykah [Badu] record, the Bilal record," said ?uestlove, who is executive producing Common's next effort, Electric Circus. "Those were projects I really wanted to sink my teeth into. We kind of put the Roots on the back burner."
That should end sometime around February Black Thought's long-talked-about solo debut drops then, as well as the first single from the Roots' new album.
"Right now it's a tie between a song called 'Rock Ya' and 'Pussy