Off the chain! “Roots Picnic: Hip-Hop is the Love of My Life” Hollywood Bowl concert review

Last night in L.A., the place to be was the Hollywood Bowl. Legendary hip hop outfit The Roots hosted a concert celebrating the legacy of hip hop music and the resulting collab was an event that was off the chain! For the sold out event, thousands definitely came to party. The vibe was fun, friendly and infectious.

The Roots crew invited their musical heroes and peers to celebrate the first five decades of hip-hop at the Hollywood Bowl. It was a one-night-only event, but this concert seriously needs to become an annual staple of the Summer.

It’s lucky the Hollywood Bowl is an open air amphitheater, because they woulda blown the roof off the place!

Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter
Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson.

Right from the get go, the energy was high as the band’s lead singer and talented rapper Tariq strode all over the stage delivering his punchy brand of lyrical rap. His band co-founder Questlove pounded away at the drums upstage center, providing the relentless and complex rhythms that powered the concert along.  As ever, the brass section delivered their jazzy accents and precision—saxophonist Ian Hendrickson-Smith and trumpet player David Guy (former members of late soul singer Sharon Jones’ band, The Dap-Kings).

Digable Planets were the first guests of the night. The hip hop trio formed in 1987 and is composed of rappers Ishmael “Butterfly” Butler, Mariana “Ladybug Mecca” Vieira, and Craig “Doodlebug” Irving. The group is notable for their contributions to the subgenres of jazz rap and alternative hip hop, and their energetic performance certainly did not disappoint.

Black Sheep featured hip hop star Dres on the mic. Black Sheep disbanded in 1995, after six years together, citing creative differences, so this was a rare performance indeed.

Jungle Brothers performed while Common prowled the stage, adding his lyrics to the mix. We could all see a party happening stage right, with the DJ booth hosting its own party stage left.

The place went wild when The Pharcyde came on. Their crowd-pleasing hit tune “Runnin'” (from 1995) features a seductive and hypnotic groove, again, beautifully accented by The Roots’ brass section.

Arrested Development had the whole crowd on their feet singing along to one of their memorable hit tunes from 1992, “People Everyday” chanting “I-i-i-i– am every day people.” 

Roots’ guitarist Captain Kirk Douglas dominated the stage, scatting as he plucked. Shortcut DJ brought the Beat Junkie sound.

Then, all of a sudden, the energy shifted as Queen Latifah took to the stage. A couple of roadies even brought on a large, throne-like padded chair to symbolize her regal presence, which our Queen sat in for a brief minute between spitting facts and empowered feminist lyrics. The Queen was on point, calling out rampant misogyny with lines like, “Even though he treated me bad” and “Every time I hear a girl called a bitch or a ho…” Sharing the mic with other femme rappers, including Lady Of Rage, we were treated to gorgeous harmonies and melodies underpinned by complex beats.

In all the years I’ve been enjoying concerts at the Hollywood Bowl, I’ve never seen the entire pool section on their feet.

Hope to see you there next year!!

The Roots are an American hip hop band formed in 1987 by Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter and Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Presently, The Roots serve as the house band on NBC’s The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, having served in the same role on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon from 2009 to 2014. Current regular members of The Roots on The Tonight Show are Captain Kirk Douglas, Mark Kelley, James Poyser, Ian Hendrickson-Smith, Damon “Tuba Gooding Jr.” Bryson, Stro Elliot, Dave Guy, Kamal Gray, and Raymond Angry. The Roots are known for a jazzy and eclectic approach to hip hop featuring live musical instruments and the group’s work has consistently been met with critical acclaim.

Pauline Adamek

Pauline Adamek is a Los Angeles-based arts enthusiast with twenty-five years' experience covering International Film Festivals and reviewing new Theatre, Film and Restaurants.

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