The Roots - Hip hop's best live act

  • The List
  • 17 July 2008
The Roots

Five reasons why the roots are the best live hip hop act ever

The struggle

Originally ignored by rap audiences in the US, the band gained notoriety on the 1994 Lollapalooza tour where the alt.rock crowd took to them with gusto. They have slowly broken through and carved a niche for themselves.

The eclecticism

On paper The Roots are a live hip hop band but in actuality they're so much more. The righteous Philadelphia septet cover many bases in their full-on live shows: rap, funk, rock, soul with flashes of metal, jazz and gospel for good measure. They're as likely to crash into a bit of Black Sabbath or AC/DC as they are to give you a live lesson in hip hop history.

The drummer

That's Ahmir '?uestlove' Thompson to you, the bear-like mastermind and founder of The Roots. Live hip hop is only as good as its beats and there's no one to touch ?uestlove for real live rap drum action.

The conscience

The video for 'What They Do' was a parody of rap clichés, demonstrating that they understand the fickle, hollow nature of the 'rap lifestyle'. The band are politically charged and ended up as house band on US satirical TV show The Colbert Report when it came to Philly.

The chops

Rolling Stone named them one of the 20 greatest live acts of all time in 2004. And you know what? They were right.

The Roots play the Unknown Pleasures Tent, Sat.


Returning for a second year after its successful debut the boutique festival has corralled headliners Kasabian, Manic Street Preachers, Bloc Party, Paolo Nutini, Grinderman, Franz Ferdinand, Sigur Ros and Goldfrapp. There will be five stages: 'The Oyster stage', 'Guitars and other Machines', 'Manicured Noise', 'Unknown…

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