How The Roots Went From Underground Heroes To TV Legends With A Little Help From Jimmy Fallon

In late 2008, when word broke that The Roots, the hip-hop group led by longtime friends Amir “Questlove” Thompson and Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter, were hired as the house band for Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, the news was met with bewilderment and bemusement. The reactions online tended to be some variation of, “Wow, that is huge for Fallon,” or, as one Gawker writer put it at the time, “The Illadelph generals opening up for that stuttering mop-headed ball of suck, Jimmy Fallon? It’s kind of tragic.”

There was definite logic to the hiring. The Roots remain one of the most versatile ensembles in all of music, comfortable and talented enough to both cover U2 classics at an NAACP event honoring Bono and serve as Jay-Z’s backing band for his legendary MTV Unplugged appearance. And they helped add a whiff of cool to Fallon as he brought his wide-eyed, constantly stoked brand of comedy to late-night TV.

But even the most ardent fan of The Roots had to wonder how this was going to work in reality. The band was coming to NBC after releasing the two darkest and most politically-minded albums of their career — 2006’s Game Theory and 2008’s Rising Down — that raged against school shootings, poverty, and institutional racism. The group was also a consistent concert draw, known for marathon-length performances and welcoming guests from every corner and era of the music world.

Underlying all of this was simple curiosity. How could one of the best hip-hop groups in the game translate their attitude and their sound for network TV, and appeal to middle-of-the-road viewers tuning in for toothless political humor, fawning celebrity interviews, and viral video-ready stunts?

The answer: by The Roots proving just how versatile they could be. For the past 13 years, even as they moved with Fallon from 12:30 am to 11:30 pm after the host was hired to replace Jay Leno as the host of The Tonight Show, the band has been game for anything.

They’ve taken part in various sketches that sometimes require them to dress in drag or act foolishly. They’ve been the backbone for beloved recurring segments like “Freestylin’ With The Roots,” “Slow Jam The News,” and Fallon and Justin Timberlake’s “History of Hip-Hop” bits. And they’ve proven to be welcome comedic foils, with Questlove and Black Thought bantering with Fallon in the manner of David Letterman and Paul Shaffer.

The Roots’ quick evolution into foils for late-night comedy was, in retrospect, inevitable. In an oft-told anecdote, Questlove remembers that, in 2008 when the band and Late Night’s producers were sizing one another up, he invited Fallon to come see them play at UCLA’s Spring Fling not expecting he’d actually show. But the lanky comedian did and quickly won The Roots over.

“I was doing an interview in a trailer,” Questlove told Brooklyn magazine in 2017, “and when I walked out… the eight of them — Fallon and the seven Roots — were making a human pyramid. He was able to disarm us in seconds… And I’m looking at my manager and we just stared there shaking our heads. I was just like, we’re stuck with this guy, aren’t we? And he just looked like, I’m afraid so.” A baker’s dozen years later and they’re still stuck with each other.

By all accounts, the members of The Roots were ready for something approximating a day job. The rigors of touring were starting to weigh on them as it meant leaving behind families and relationships for long stretches of time. As Questlove commented on around the time the news broke of their Late Night deal, “I don’t know if I want to be 40 on the road and single no more… I can’t even start to go on that path ‘til a woman takes me seriously. And ain’t no one taking a man serious who is in his home for only three months out the year.”

They were also students of music history, knowing that, although they were in a good spot financially after two decades of being together, they were potentially looking at a slow slide into obscurity. It was to the point that the group was tempted to sign a deal for a residency at The Borgata in Atlantic City.

The twist is, of course, that their nightly platform on NBC has made The Roots more popular than ever before, and, as a result, they’ve become even busier than ever. When he’s not DJing at various events around the world, Questlove has written a handful of books, directed the Sundance-anointed documentary Summer Of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised), and hosts the popular Questlove Supreme podcast. Black Thought keeps popping up on mixtapes and albums by other artists and last year released his debut solo full-length that includes contributions from Killer Mike and Portugal. The Man. Both men are also likely the only hip-hop artists your grandmother would be able to easily namecheck.

What’s perhaps the most impressive part of The Roots’ move into late-night TV is how true they’ve stayed to themselves and the hip-hop culture they grew out of. As proven by the six albums they’ve released since joining up with Fallon, they’ve not lost an ounce of their fury and power. Or for a more concentrated dose, dial up the blistering 10-minute freestyle that Black Thought performed on Funkmaster Flex’s HOT 97 show back in 2017 and went viral shortly thereafter. It’s a testament to both the vaunted realms of celebrity that he and The Roots have reached and his skills as an MC that the performance was analyzed by writers at NPR and The New Yorker — and earned him a spot on the couch at The Tonight Show to talk about it.

That adherence to their personal politics did come at a cost back in 2011 when the band played on Tonight Show guest, and then-Presidential hopeful, Michelle Bachmann with a portion of Fishbone’s “Lyin’ A** B****.” The blowback was considerable and almost cost The Roots their cushy new job in network TV. But after agreeing to clear all walk-on music choices with the NBC brass ahead of time, the band was allowed to keep their spots.

Probably the most concrete example of how The Roots have moved easily into this strange land of TV celebrity while not losing an ounce of their credibility can be found in another video from the Late Night era. In it, the band is doing the job of helping get the crowd warmed up for taping an episode — playing some upbeat music to hype folks up. But for this moment, they’re joined by one of that night’s guests, rapper and actor Ice Cube, and with him, launch into a version of N.W.A.’s “Straight Outta Compton.” It’s a blast. The Roots drill down to the core of Dr. Dre and DJ Yella’s dense production and the rappers do their best to blur out the coarse language of the original song.

The key moment, though, comes when The Roots’ guitarist Captain Kirk Douglas puts down his axe and takes a turn on the mic, rapping Eazy E’s verse. Though they knew it was coming, the whole band seems to explode at that moment, watching their buddy step outside his usual role and play the part of a smack-talking, girl-chasing gangsta MC. Even the person holding the smartphone that’s filming the clip seems to shake with excitement at what is going down. But no one is more delighted than Questlove and Black Thought. As Roberts keeps spitting, they look over at each other with wide grins and sparkling eyes, giddy at what they’re witnessing and what they’re getting away with.

Paul McCartney Announces A Collaborative New Version Of ‘McCartney III’ With A Cover From Dominic Fike

It appeared yesterday that a cryptic video Paul McCartney shared was teasing upcoming collaborations with Anderson .Paak, Phoebe Bridgers, Idris Elba, EOB (Ed O’Brien), Dominic Fike, St. Vincent, Damon Albarn, Beck, Khruangbin, Josh Homme, 3D RDN (of Massive Attack), and Blood Orange. Today, he has confirmed that to be the case: He is releasing a reworked version of his 2020 album, McCartney III, titled McCartney III Imagined, which features contributions from the aforementioned artists.

Tracks from the original album have been covered and/or otherwise reimagined by the guest artists and McCartney kicked things off today by sharing Fike’s rendition of “The Kiss Of Venus,” which he transformed from an acoustic ballad to an R&B jam.

During a Reddit AMA from December, McCartney cited Fike and other artists involved in McCartney III Imagined as modern performers he listens to, writing, “I’m lucky, I have a friend who sends me new music which helps me keep in touch with the modern scene. So I listen to people like Dominic Fike, Beck, St Vincent and Khruangbin. I also listen to a lot of classic oldies coming through, from rock n’ roll to 60’s to soul to R’n’B, with a sprinkling of classical music now and then.”

Listen to Fike’s “The Kiss Of Venus” cover above and check out the McCartney III Imagined art and tracklist below.

Capitol Records

1. “Find My Way (feat. Beck)”
2. “The Kiss Of Venus (Dominic Fike)”
3. “Pretty Boys (feat. Khruangbin)”
4. “Women And Wives (St. Vincent Remix)”
5. “Deep Down (Blood Orange Remix)”
6. “Seize The Day (feat. Phoebe Bridgers)”
7. “Slidin’ (EOB Remix)”
8. “Long Tailed Winter Bird (Damon Albarn Remix)”
9. “Lavatory Lil (Josh Homme)”
10. “When Winter Comes (Anderson .Paak Remix)”
11. “Deep Deep Feeling (3D RDN Remix)”
12. “Long Tailed Winter Bird (Idris Elba Remix)”*

* physical release exclusive track

McCartney III Imagined is out 4/16 via Capitol Records. Pre-order it here.

Some artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.

The Roots Reveal Their 2021 Jam Session Lineup Including Ari Lennox And Tobe Nwigwe

Each year around Grammy Week, The Roots hold an annual Jam Session inviting special guests from their endless list of collaborators and connections for a one-of-a-kind live show experience. Unfortunately, with most venues still shut down due to COVID-19 safety precautions, there won’t be a live show this year, but the fact that it’s streaming via Tidal means there’s no capacity limit, and fans from outside of Los Angeles get to “attend” as well. Also, this year, the band partnered with Oculus, granting virtual reality access so it can still feel like you’re front row.

The band revealed this year’s lineup in a press release sharing the details of the new partnerships. Special guests for this year’s event include R&B singers Ant Clemons, Ari Lennox, and Emily King, as well as rapper-producer Tobe Nwigwe and pianist-singer Jon Batiste. Burgeoning country star Brittney Spencer and soul icon Kathy Sledge of the legendary Sledge Sisters will also appear. Clemons is nominated for Best R&B Album for his 2020 debut Happy 2 Be Here, while Batiste has two nominations at this year’s awards.

Ahead of the Jam Session, The Roots have updated their Essentials Playlist on Tidal. You can check that out now, and watch the Roots Jam Session Saturday, March 13 at 6 pm PT / 9 pm ET in-app or via the embed below.

Tekashi 6ix9ine Does The Most Cruising Through NYC

Tekashi 6ix9ine Does The Most Cruising Through NYC

New York rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine really believes he’s the king of his city. The hip-hop troll lights up Instagram with fresh footage of himself turning up cruising through the Big Apple. The clip shows him both inside a whip and leaning outside the vehicle. Recently, Tekashi found himself making some dicey headlines. Reports claim he […]

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Adam Silver Comments On Meyers Leonard Controversy

Meyers Leonard found himself at the center of controversy this past week as he went on his own Twitch channel and yelled an anti-semitic slur while playing a video game. The clip immediately went viral and now, Leonard has been suspended indefinitely from the Heat, and he’ll also have to pay a $50,000 fine while also attending the NBA’s cultural diversity program.

Today, NBA commissioner Adam Silver weighed in on the matter and noted that the league will not tolerate any sort of racism or discriminatory actions. Silver noted that what Leonard said has “no place” in society and that the league will always make sure to punish such actions.

“Meyers Leonard’s comment was inexcusable and hurtful and such an offensive term has no place in the NBA or in our society,” Silver said. “Yesterday, he spoke to representatives of the Anti-Defamation League to better understand the impact of his words and we accept that he is genuinely remorseful. We have further communicated to Meyers that derogatory comments like this will not be tolerated and that he will be expected to uphold the core values of our league — equality, tolerance, inclusion and respect — at all times moving forward.”

Leonard has apologized for the comments but at this point, the damage has already been done. Only time will tell whether or not he will be able to continue his NBA career.

Meyers Leonard

Michael Reaves/Getty Images

2 Chainz Announces Documentary & Several New Songs

2 Chainz famously declared himself to be “Different,” a boast that left many analyzing his self-imposed criteria. And while there are many qualities that set Tity Boi apart from his peers, one of the most notable distinctions has to be his absolutely prolific work ethic. Not only has 2 Chainz dropped three albums in the past four years, but he also continues to work on new music and plot out future releases.

Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Today, the rapper has moved to lay down the law on his Instagram page, teasing a batch of newly-recorded songs as well as an upcoming documentary. “I don’t think some people understand how much and how hard I work, so im putting a documentary together anyway,” he teases, alongside a clip of a promising track. “Tonight I did 2 songs with @junethejenius, I did a song last nite and 3 songs nite before that, you see I talk in past tense cause I ain’t been to sleep yet so it’s not tomorrrow yet to me, if that makes any sense at all.”

In the accompanying clip, 2 Chainz shows off the fruits of his labor — namely an unfoldable stack of cash and an upcoming banger. It’s unclear as to whether or not he’s already working on his follow-up to So Help Me God, but knowing 2 Chainz, we’ll see another studio album before 2021 winds to a close. Check out his new preview below, and sound off if you’re excited for what he’s got cooking. 

NF Releases New Single “LOST” With Hopsin

Michigan-based rapper NF is one of the leaders in his field, ushering in a new era of lyrical rap that the masses have connected with. The chart-topping artist is known to sell out arenas on any given day, exciting fans with the recent announcement of his upcoming CLOUDS mixtape. The introspective releases that have preceded his latest drop have piqued people’s curiosity and, on Thursday, NF came through with yet another single to lead us into his new tape.

Dropping “LOST” with Los Angeles-based rapper Hopsin, NF speaks about finding himself, walking through the Colorado mountains with a number of black balloons tied to him. 

This is the latest release from CLOUDS, which will be out on March 26, 2021. Listen to it below and let us know what you think.

Quotable Lyrics:

I love to pack arenas and all
But what I really wanna do is learn to handle my thoughts
And put the reigns on ’em, show ’em I’m the one that’s the boss
And pull ’em back when they get out of hand, I’m breakin’ they jaws
I’m takin’ the flaws, that told me I could never evolve
Then pull a Bane on ’em, ask ’em, “Oh, you think you’re in charge?”

You oughta know better, ain’t no way around it, I’m flawed
The traits that I want, they say I can’t afford what it cost

Lil Uzi Vert’s “Eternal Atake” Surpasses 2 Million Units Sold: Report

Although he is understandably enjoying his relationship with City Girls’ JT, Lil Uzi Vert has also recently been promising fans that new music is on the way. Last month, he came clean and admitted that his previous studio album, Eternal Atake, wasn’t his best musical effort, going as far as to call the album “tolerable.” However, Uzi‘s sophomore album clearly has legs as it has reportedly pushed over two million units in the United States alone.

An official declaration of Eternal Atake‘s double-platinum status has yet to be announced by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), but according to Chart Data and SOHH, the album has reportedly done enough numbers to earn Baby Pluto yet another platinum plaque. Last year, Eternal Atake officially went platinum less than four months after debuting atop the Billboard 200, which is an extremely impressive feat considering the album only housed one top 10 Billboard Hot 100 single, “Futsal Shuffle 2020,” at the time of its release.

Once Eternal Atake‘s status as a two-times platinum-selling album is confirmed, the record will join the ranks of Luv Is Rage 2, which is Lil Uzi Vert‘s only other album to move more than two million units. Hopefully, this grand achievement will inspire Uzi to treat fans with the new music that he’s been promising sooner rather than later.


Meyers Leonard Receives Further Discipline After Using Anti-Semitic Slur

Meyers Leonard became a trending topic on Twitter just a couple of days ago as he was immediately flagged for shouting an anti-semitic slur while playing a video game on Twitch. While Leonard maintains he didn’t actually know what the word meant, it became quite clear that he had offended numerous people, including his own fans. It became obvious that he would be suspended for what he did, and that’s exactly what happened as the Heat announced he would be gone from the team indefinitely.

According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, Leonard has received additional discipline for his actions. The player has been fined $50,000 and now, he won’t be able to enter the Heat’s facilities for at least a week. In addition, Leonard has been in contact with leaders from the Jewish community, where he will be learning from his mistake. Leonard will also need to enter the league’s diversity program.

The Heat issued a statement on the matter when the incident happened, and as you can see, they’re taking this situation very seriously.

“The Miami HEAT vehemently condemns the use of any form of hate speech,” said the team in a statement. “The words used by Meyers Leonard were wrong and we will not tolerate hateful language from anyone associated with our franchise. To hear it from a Miami HEAT player is especially disappointing and hurtful to all those who work here, as well as the larger South Florida, Miami HEAT, and NBA communities. 

Meyers Leonard will be away from the team indefinitely. The Miami HEAT will cooperate with the NBA while it conducts its investigation.”

It remains to be seen what will happen with Leonard although we’re sure he is thinking long and hard about what happened.

Meyers Leonard

Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Remy Ma & Papoose Show Out On “Smack/URL Freestyle”

The Drake, Ultimate Rap League (URL), and Caffeine streaming collaboration is the Hip-Hop gift that keeps giving, as fans of battle rap have been continuously treated with high-profile events and unforgettable moments. In 2020 alone, URL’s battles notched over 8.7 million total viewers on Caffeine’s platform, and this year, the collaboration shows no sign of stopping. One of last month’s premier events was a battle of the sexes style program titled Kings vs. Queens 2, and in honor of the event, Hip-Hop heavyweights Remy Ma and Papoose stopped by to perform a freestyle.

Now the Remy Ma and Papoose’s “Smack/URL Freestyle” is available on YouTube, giving fans who aren’t subscribed to Caffeine the opportunity to enjoy the couple’s joint performance. The two artists take turns over hard-hitting nostalgic production courtesy of Rain, with Remy going first and Papoose closing things out. In the spirit of Kings vs. Queens 2, Remy and Pap keep their joint freestyle competitive by giving their respective verses all that they’ve got, from Remy’s aggressive and slick lyricism to Papoose’s witty, tongue-twisting delivery.

Check out their freestyle below to see whether Remy Ma or Papoose had the harder verse.

Quotable Lyrics

I ride on ’em in a second, you must got a deathwish
My n*ggas is hungry, you lookin’ like breakfast
Y’all n*ggas be textin’, y’all think that’s a weapon?
Spray ya momma crib, now that’s how you send a message