As is becoming increasingly customary, The Roots gave another memorable performance – this time for a sell-out Academy crowd. It will be described as one of those nights when hip-hop removed the veil under which its essence is today being spoiled, and instead laid bare its true self.
Approaching the venue I was concerned that the atmosphere of a big event failed to materialize. Ticket scalpers, so prevalent at most events, were distinctly missing, and reaching the front of the queue wasn’t a fight. Upon entry, I was greeted by a vacant but well-furnished stage. Music played at a calm volume offered the soundtrack to my careful gaze at the scenery around me. Waiting time was filled by two guest DJ’s who spun tracks, old and new, for the ever-increasing congregation. Trailing this was Estelle, the female face of British hip-hop, and a refreshing addition to the industry. Calmly working the stage, her rendition of ‘1980’, the first release off her debut LP, was the highpoint and a fitting way to ready the audience for the main event.
With the pre-performance complete, and the arrival of Black Thought and his crew imminent, the atmosphere seemed to warm and any impatience became almost palpable. The collective anxiety was soon satisfied as the lights dimmed and Questlove, as he has for the last decade, broke the airwaves with his distinct drumbeat. Black Thought wasted no time engaging with the prompt as he skillfully acquainted himself with the microphone and us, at long last, to hip-hop. Seemingly minutes went by before he would pause for breath yet, as if spellbound, each word was hung upon. Amazingly, this proved merely a warm-up in contrast to the showcase displayed following this. Classic tracks such as ‘What They Do’ were performed and cleverly blended with more contemporary hits like ‘You Got Me’ and ‘Don’t Say Nuthin’ as if to highlight their evolution. The adeptness of the band has always been well documented, and was swiftly justified by their spontaneous and immaculate execution throughout the night. As is custom, each individual band member was given time to flaunt their skills, much to the delight of the audience. Black Thought capped the occasion with some freestyles.
Upon leaving the stage, optimism of an encore caused the audience to remain motionless. However, this proved fruitless as hip-hop, at least for this night, had gone for good.