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The Roots will kick off Philadelphia’s annual celebration of Black Music Month with their fourth-annual Roots Picnic on June 4th. The event will take place at Festival Pier at Penn’s Landing in the band’s hometown of Philadelphia, PA.  Black Thought, lead MC of The Roots spoke to about one of the Summers best shows.  “The Roots Picnic every year is unique,” he says of the eclectic mix of performers.  “[This year] we have the return of Esperanza Spalding, [who is] returning in her Grammy New Artist of the Year glory.”

On the other end of the spectrum Black Thought also anticipates that fellow Pennsylvanian Wiz Khalifa, who is sure to give an energetic performance of his  Rolling Papers debut.  Other musicians and bands, such as Sweden’s Little Dragon and Man Man of Philly, will entertain the festival’s audience.  However, there will also be plenty for the hip-hop purist.

“There’s always an element of The Roots Picnic that’s tailored to our [musical] tastes as The Roots,” says Thought. “And for me, that part of the festival is going to be doing the set with Nas. I look forward to that.”

His Grammy award-winning band will back Nas during his performance at the picnic.  Even though the band and Nas have previously collaborated on unreleased material, Black Thought hopes that The Roots will record with Nas again soon.

The Roots have been busy as the house band for “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” but are already working on their next album. The group members are tossing around creative concepts and a core idea for the upcoming project, which will be their tenth studio album. Their manager Rich Nichols allowed TheUrbandaily to preview some “roughs” on his iPod and from the sound of things, the time working on the show continues to pay off for the group. Their first Fallon-era project, 2010’s How I Got Over, is considered by many to be their best work.

“The band is actually physically together for ‘x’ amount of hours a day, five days a week, and it affords us the ability to collaborate on whatever we might come up with,” Black Thought explains. ” And the means with which to record it immediately and be able to catalog it and refer back to it at a later date.”

While looking ahead, Black Thought takes time to look back in honor of Black Music Month.  He reflects on the recently deceased Gil Scott-Heron, who The Roots have toured with in Europe on various occasions.

“Gil Scott and The Last Poets and what they brought to the table represents radical, youthful expression of the 60s and 70s.  In many ways, it kind of reflects what’s going on right now.  But it’s very different—there’s an innocence in what they were doing back then that I feel has been lost now.”

Tariq’s words underline why we need to celebrate our artists while they are still with us, so any fan of The Roots should make their way to Festival Pier tomorrow afternoon to take in some of the best acts that Black Music has to offer.


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