Catching up with The Roots: next Picnic, new street corner, old members doing fresh things

“The Roots started their performance experience by busking on the streets of Philadelphia. East Passyunk Avenue and South Street was one of their main locations…”

I wish I could find the canisters that held the 35mm film from every time I shot the Square Roots playing on that asphalt triangle across from that Mardi Gras-theme bar on the corner of Passyunk Avenue and South Street. It would make a lovely illustration for The Roots’ newest news: their own street corner marking. 

As of Friday, and in accordance with a City Council resolution introduced Thursday by Councilmember Mark Squilla, the 600 block of Avenue – between South and Bainbridge Streets – is now “Avenue of the Roots.”

So goes the official resolution: “The Roots started their performance experience by busking on the streets of Philadelphia. East Passyunk Avenue and South Street was one of their main locations.” The rest of the official proclamation mentions everything from Questlove and Black Thought meeting at the Philadelphia High School for Creative & Performing Arts, original members Leon “Hub” Hubbard and Scott Storch, to dropping “Organix” on Remedy Records, and other legendary back-in-the-day Roots ephemera.

In case you’re wondering if you missed The Roots accepting their honor, the answer is ‘no.’ The official dedication ceremony will supposedly happen in May and very near to the May 30 date of the 13th-annual Roots Picnic at the Mann Center with fellow Philadelphia music maker Meek Mill as the co-headliner (is his street marker still up near the Art Museum, raised before Made in American 2019?)

PS: if you want to find something priceless, check out Questlove’s reaction on his Instagram account with the drummer, pretty much finding out as we all did, what was going on with getting an avenue in your name.

In other news, of The Roots yes, they dropped their first new track since 2017 at the tail end of last year, after Questlove appeared at Philadelphia High School For Creative & Performing Arts for Citizen Bank’s Made Ready for Music event. “Feel It (You Got It)” with singer/rapper Tish Hyman, and its video, featuring his alma mater prominently, came and went quietly. More importantly, is it a part of their supposed new 2020 album “End Game,” which is also rumored to include an older track with production and beats elements from the late, great DJ Dilla?

Then there is the question of The Roots plan to continue re-releasing deluxe volumes of its older albums. While an inclusive 3 LP version of “Things Fall Apart” came out last September to celebrate its 20th anniversary with bonus tracks, rare photos, and essays from Black Thought and Questlove. The same was set to happen with “Do You Want More?!!!??!” in 2020, and “Illadelph Halflife” in 2021, both celebrating their respective 25th anniversaries.

That is until Questlove tweeted this in relation to the New York Times’ story involving the 2008 Universal music fire where countless artists lost their past material.

“For everyone asking why Do You Want More & Illdelph Halflife won’t get reissue treatment
— Questlove De La Rose (@questlove) June 11, 2019”

Stay tuned, right?

For those seeking some connection, some roots to the Roots, there’s March 25’s showcase at the Ruba Club, with Natural Information Society, led by Joshua Abrams. The one-time Roots member, a multi-instrumentalist known for his stand up bass moves, leads his big weird jazzy funk (or funky jazz) ensemble as part of the Ars Nova Workshop’s 2020 season. This is a must attend event for any lover of The Roots and-or bracingly wild jazz.

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