NEW YORK — The Roots just might have the most ironic name in hip-hop, because those guys never stay planted anywhere. They even took time off the road to back Eminem during his February 23 performance at the Grammy Awards.
"He called us while we were on the road promoting [Phrenology,]" Roots drummer Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson said backstage at Madison Square Garden after the performance. "We were on the West Coast at the time. We had to make a few date adjustments, but we respect him as an artist first and foremost. He's an incredible MC. We came here to do it, simple as that."
Keeping it simple was the general consensus among both acts when outlining a Grammy plan of attack.
"People were pretty much expecting Eminem to do a lot of fireworks and all the hoopla; he just wanted to do something simple and sweet," ?uest said. "We wanted to pay tribute to [Jam Master Jay,] so we threw a little Run-DMC inside his rendition of 'Lose Yourself.' He's an artist above the controversy and all that stuff."
And while the Philly beat bashers were giving props to Slim Shady, they didn't forget to praise themselves before flying to Los Angeles to resume their tour.
"What our group is bringing back into the music industry is musicianship," bass player Leonard Hubbard said. "We've always been the top hip-hop band in the music industry, but now the music industry is starting to honor musicianship again. Who's Jay-Z and Eminem gonna call if they have to do a live performance? There's no other band in the world that can do that."
The Roots, who backed Jay-Z for his 2001 Unplugged album, will soon hit the airwaves with a video for "The Seed (2.0)." The mostly performance-based clip, featuring soul man Cody Chesnutt, was shot recently in New York.
Shaheem Reid, with additional reporting by John Norris and Curtis Waller