WEST HOLLYWOOD, California — On Saturday night at the Key Club, the Roots held their annual Grammy all-star jam session. And while in previous years a plethora of well-known performers like Common and Erykah Badu got down with the group, this time around the Illy Philly funksters had the star in attendance — Tom Cruise.
Hollywood's Top Gun didn't get onstage, but he did take in the sounds of hip-hop's top band and of his friend Jada Pinkett-Smith.
Smith, dressed in a Baltimore thug-style black hoodie and jeans that surely made Tupac look down from heaven and crack a smile, started the night off early by leading her band, Wicked Wisdom, in a rowdy punk-rock-flavored set.
Either Jada really loves rocking the mic, or she had her acting skills working for her, because she bobbed her head and flailed her arms like a seasoned rock star. After her show, the petite performer chilled with Tommy C.
When the Roots took the stage, they kept the night moving with a medley of covers of old-school jams and their own ditties, like "Star."
"Introducin' the band you gotta see to believe," rapped Black Thought. "He got the mic in his hand, so keep the heat up your sleeve/ It's Black Thought, he rockin' sharp so the speakers'll bleed/ I run a triathlon, you wouldn't see me
But the Roots' all-star jam isn't about them hogging the spotlight; they love to hand the reigns over. While they brought up a slew of local Los Angeles artists, they ended the night with the pro-fess-sho-nals. Mos Def came out to drop a few lyrical gems with the backing of R&B soul children Anthony Hamilton and Musiq. Not to be outdone, Canibus was out to prove he can never be lyrically busted on the mic. The rapper, who's returning to the music scene, came out by himself for a freestyle. As the jamming neared its end, Fiona Apple even popped up for some time under the spotlight (see "Whatever Happened To Fiona Apple? Online Campaign Tries To Find Out").
For the Roots' drummer/spokesperson, ?uestlove, rubbing shoulders isn't happening only on the stage this week. A bevy of artists out here for the ceremony have been hollering at him to produce their albums.
"Hey man," ?uest said on Friday, "that's my bread and butter. I network, I shake hands, I kiss babies. I'm a musical politician."
So far, he says, his dance card is filled with Common, Musiq and Mike Shinoda from Linkin Park, who's working on a solo album. With all his hobnobbing, the Grammys are the last thing on his mind.
"We got two nominations, that's cool," ?uestlove said on Friday, "but I'm more concerned with what I'm gonna wear to the Jill Scott concert on Valentine's Day. Nominations are the best things about the Grammys. Losing ain't fun. I do not envy Kanye West. You know how vocal he is about his work — if he loses, that's all we gonna hear for the next year. I don't even wanna go through that. If we win or lose on Sunday, it's cool."
As this year's Grammys approach, you can get all the latest news on the show, the scene and the nominees in our Grammy news archive. On the big night, February 8, be sure to tune in to MTV at 7 p.m. for our "All up in the Grammys" preshow. Plus check out videos of the nominees and more right here on mtv.com.