There would be no rain.
Last year, Roots Picnic was cut short due to a relentless thunderstorm. The rain came about ten minutes into The Roots’ festival-closing set. It was a set that would have included Dave Chappelle, 2 Chainz, Brandy, MOP, and Busta Rhymes.
For this year’s festival — the 12th — the Weather Gods looked out: Roots Picnic 2019, which took place on Saturday, June 1st, was sun all day with a slight breeze at night.
It was the perfect weather for The Roots to celebrate their 1999 masterpiece Things Fall Apart. Poet and Philly-native Ursula Rucker, who was featured prominently on early Roots albums, came out and performed a lengthy spoken word intro. And then Black Thought came out: rocking a Pyer Moss robe featuring Richard Nichols’ — The Roots longtime manager before he passed in 2014 — face. It was an ode to the man that helped build this festival.
The Roots performed in their efficient, machine-like manner: going through classic album cuts like “The Next Movement,” “Dynamite!,” “Ain’t Sayin’ Nothin.'” Yasiin Bey — who performed with J Period and Black Thought earlier in the day — came out and did “Double Trouble,” followed by an emotional rendition of “Umi Says.”
The next surprise was Common. He came out to “Act Too,” the warm sequel to “I Used to Love Her.” (A funny moment came when Common rapped the self-deprecating line “when we perform It’s just coffee shop chicks and white dudes” and Thought yelled out “not anymore.”) Common finished out the H.E.R. trilogy by performing the still-unreleased latest addition to the series, which features Bilal.
The most unexpected cameo came when “Adrenaline” dropped and Beanie Sigel came out to do his star-making verse. What followed was a mini-State Property reunion: Freeway and the Young Gunz came out to perform Philly classics like “What We Do,” “Roc the Mic,” and “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop.”
The show wrapped with Jill Scott — who easily got the loudest reaction — coming out and performing “You Got Me” and a sensual rendition of “A Long Walk.”
This was the first time The Roots brought their festival to The Mann Center (after years at the now-defunct Festival Pier.) With the venue change came a rejuvenated crowd: there were over 25,000 in attendance, according to the Inquirer, 10,000 more than they had ever previously pulled in. (There was only one real hiccup; five people were injured after a mini-stampede broke out during 21 Savage’s set.)
The best thing about Roots Picnic is the kinship. Phonte and Bilal popped up for Raphael Saadiq’s set; Yasiin Bey hit the stage with Black Thought twice; Common was a guest on Questlove Supreme; and Joe Budden was seen watching H.E.R. from the sideline.
It was a beautiful day.
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