Erykah Badu and The Roots Live at Roots Picnic 2015, Photo by Mel D. Cole for Okayplayer and Villageslum
Year after year, The Roots Picnic seems to surpass every expectation, becoming not just a day-long festival but a full-on maelstrom of talent, as acts from across the planes of hip-hop, r&b, rock, funk and electronica descend upon Philadelphia with nothing but music in mind. In the past we’ve seen Naughty By Nature and The Roots catch wreck, and just last year legends Snoop Dogg and Doug E. Fresh connected for their classic-in-common “Lodi Dodi.” We’ve come to expect that the words “Roots Picnic” guarantee new, amazing collaborations–but this year, we had no idea what sort of new wonder awaited us.
Backed by The Roots (who were quick to rock a few opening numbers of their own) and in full command of her timeless catalog, Erykah Badu took command of the festival’s headlining slot, running through “Window Seat” and “On & On.” Still, in those opening minutes of her set, Badu seemed to be playing things coy, holding something back behind her knowing smile. Between her, Black Thought and the rest of The Roots crew, something seemed to be lurking; fourteen thousand people collectively wondered, “What are we in for?”
The answer came in the form of the soothing horn line and roving bass of “Act Too: Love Of My Life” from Things Fall Apart. But rather than staying there, Badu and her Roots backers quickly eased into her 2002 number (originally a Common collabo from the Brown Sugar original soundtrack) “Love Of My Life (An Ode To Hip-Hop)” and then things exploded. Daring to chop up the song that won a best r&b song Grammy, portions of Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five‘s “The Message,” The Wu-Tang Clan‘s “C.R.E.A.M.,” Nas‘ “Made You Look” and much more. With Black Thought filling in on MC duties, nailing verses on hit after hit, “Love of My Life” quickly became a true ode to hip-hop, a mashup for the ages that tallied timeless moments in the genre, a patchwork of rap dopeness that bridged both time and space.
But things didn’t stop there; there were other levels to be reached. As the familiar jounce of “Roc Da Mic” hit, Freeway himself was welcomed to the stage, kicking off a stream of live guest appearances that included YG and The Lox. Each took their turn rhyming over their own material (and yes, we got some “Money Power Respect”) before Badu and The Roots fell back seamlessly into “Love of My Life,” and now all 16 minutes that superlative performance has been captured and made available for the world to enjoy, courtesy of OKP Films. The video premiered this morning courtesy of Billboard, and Questlove spoke with the magazine on how the mega-multi-song was conceived:
Initially the idea just started with The Roots and Erykah wanting to mash our songs together,” he continues, “but as the wheels started turning I decided maybe we should turn towards more of a full on tribute to hip-hop, and then the wheels really started turning when the budget allowed me to fly out a few luminaries to perform with us. So, for some reason, a 5-minute song turned into a 20-minute migraine for my manager…but I thoroughly enjoyed it.
This is it right here, evidence of the power of music unfolding in real time. Press play and enjoy; hip-hop, we truly do love you.