NEW YORK — Those who were at the Roots show at S.O.B.'s Tuesday night really wanted to be there, no doubt about that. Not only were there warnings of a snow storm, the Philadelphia band, which is performing at various NYC venues all this week, had an advertised midnight start time for its set and no opening act.
As audience members started to file in near the witching hour, the Roots' drummer, ?uestlove, journeyed to the wheels of steel and spun some oldies but goodies from Biz Markie to Big Daddy Kane to Jay-Z.
No song from yesteryear moved the crowd quite like Audio Two's classic "Top Billin'." As ?uest made his way to his drumset and the rest of his partners came onstage, the group's lead vocalist, Black Thought, let everyone know he had a special guest to introduce.
Audio Two's Milk D then came on to perform his timeless hip-hop banger.
"I took your girl while you were in prison,' he said in his high-pitched voice, "Jail for MC assault/ You were jealous, it's all your fault ... Milk is chillin', Giz is chillin'/ What more can I say?/ Top billin' ... "
"We dedicate this to Jam Master Jay," Thought said at the end of the song, before rapping for the first time.
Songs from their new album, Phrenology, the head-banging "Rock You" and "Thought @ Work," which samples the Sugar Hill Gang's "Apache," followed.
"Here go the rap of the year/ Year of the rap/ I'm from Philly where the guns clap," Thought rhymed on his theme song, later urging the crowd to join in on the sing-songy chorus. "You feel this sh-- soon as they throw it on."
The crowd felt "The Next Movement" as soon as the band started playing its opening chords later in the show. In what has become a staple of their live shows, Thought and the spectators interacted, both giving props to the crew from the City of Brotherly Love.
Chants of "We got the hot music, the hot music," echoed throughout S.O.B.'s.
The enthusiasm level was turned up when another special guest, Common, came on in a burgundy Adidas tracksuit, to join in on the beloved Roots jam "Love of My Life."
While performing "Proceed," Thought started rhyming over Black Moon's beat for "How Many MCs?" and surprised everyone by introducing Moon's lead lyricist Buckshot.
The Brooklyn marksman took everyone back to one of the golden ages of rap when he started spitting the words to his early '90s street sweeper.
"I break, you take/ Whatever type of sh-- the n---a Buckshot make ... I hit my head on the concrete to beat defeat/ Another dead n---a in the street."
For a few more minutes, the Roots concert turned into a Boot Camp Clik affair as Buck's brethren the Cocoa Brovaz came on to perform their Smif-n-Wessun hit "Sound Bwoy Bureill."
"We're not done, we're not done," Thought warned the crowd, giving the audience a chance to catch its breath. By this time, S.O.B.'s was so hot and crowded that you might have felt like passing out, but the energy kept you lucid.
Musiq nonchalantly took the stage to sing the chorus on the Roots' current single "Break You Off," which centers around a cheating "Bad Mrs. throwing raspberry kisses" at Thought.
The excitement seemed to peak when rebel soulman Cody Chesnutt made for another surprise cameo, playing the guitar and singing on the sexually suggestive ode to rock, "The Seed (2.0)."
The hip-rock motif reached its zenith when Jill Scott came onstage for a remix version of the Roots' biggest commercial hit, "You Got Me."
"I'm gonna take my time," Jill sang, almost inaudibly because of the screaming for her. "If I sex, I make it right ... I'm gonna take this slow."
"No, no, no," Scott ad-libbed further into the song, while Black Thought rhymed about relationship infidelity: "That snake could be that chick/ And that rat could be that cool cat/ That's whispering 'She's tryin' to play you for the fool, Black.' "
"Don't worry," Scott commandingly belted to end the set.
As with most concerts, the band left and then returned to the stage for the grand finale. During another dedication to Run-DMC, the Roots displayed some famous b-boy poses — including the jailhouse pose, standing confidently with your head to the sky and both hands behind your back — garnering chuckles.
Human sound machines Rahzel and Scratch capped the two-hour-plus performance by using their mouths to not only recreate special effects noises, but to act as turntables.
For the encore, they re-enacted the climatic lightsaber duel from "The Empire Strikes Back," where Luke fights his masked father and performed songs such as "React," "Planet Rock" and, fittingly, "Peter Piper."
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