Photos of Day 5 of SXSW taken by Vickey Ford of Sneakshot for Okayplayer.
The Roots are purveyors of good music. Since 1987, the Philadelphia rap group has redefined themselves as not only one of the best and talented bands to grace any stage, but as musical tastemakers. Whether that be through the group booking artists as the house band for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, or Questlove personally shouting an artist (a la Childish Gambino), The Roots have become a name one can trust, their pulse on what’s hip and what’s cool.
Such was the case for their Bud Light x The Roots SXSW Jam Session event at SXSW. Started last year the showcase was brought back again this year focusing on friendship, with The Roots in charge of an entire evening of curated live music performances with some of their closest friends in the industry.
Events such as this display The Roots’ versatility. The group kicked off their jam session with Rae Sremmurd, who had stated that they had just hopped off a plane from Las Vegas to perform with The Roots. The lag was noticeable as they went into performing “No Type,” but ultimately came back strong after performing “Swang” and “Black Beatles.”
I should also mention that throughout the entirety of this show, I was sober. Yes, on the last night of SXSW my lips didn’t touch a single bottle of Bud Light (the sponsors for the event) once. Granted, it wasn’t by choice but rather concern for my health (I was literally at this show drinking water and chewing on Ricola cough drops), but being sober in the middle of a branded event that is centered around the relationship between alcohol and music, resulted in a rather poignant observation from me. But I’ll get into that later.
The Roots continued on, bringing out “friends” such as Nick Grant, Jidenna and T.I. Witnessing T.I. live, albeit briefly, was a sight to see. Kicking off his set with “What You Know,” the Trap Muzik rapper took us back to the hits that ultimately defined his career following that up with “Bring ‘Em Out.”
“I’m about to take it back to the early 2000s with this one,” T.I. said before going into the song.
At this point a white person I was standing next to proceeded to say, “Yeah, that old school s**t,” and didn’t seem to know, arguably, one of T.I.’s most important and pivotal songs a part of his catalog. And none of that stopped him from pulling out his phone, and recording the entirety of “Bring ‘Em Out”.
Being in attendance of one of the biggest shows that happens on the last day of SXSW while treating a cold, offers a certain cynical clarity. I looked around and saw the badges, wristbands, phones, beers — excess. Normally, I’d shrug the cynicism off and continue to drink, but there was nothing to suppress how I felt.
Prior to The Roots taking the stage, Seth Herzog, the host for the night’s festivities, asked if the audience was on social media sharing pictures and videos to incite FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) amongst their friends. At that moment I perceived the remark as an acceptance on what’s become normalized in today’s social media age — that we share a curated lifestyle as a means of making people envy us.
However, in retrospect, I’d like to think that Herzog was in on his own joke, poking fun at the ways in which we engage live music nowadays. But who am I to talk? I’m a willing participant in all of this madness.
But there was a moment that took away my cynicism, and reminded me of the times I attended SXSW when “surprise guests” were a rarity. And that was when The Roots brought out Brandy.
Brandy doesn’t get the credit she deserves and I don’t know why that is. She is talented in more ways than one: ask a ’90s kid about Brandy, and what they reference could be anything from her self-titled debut album to portraying the titular role of Moesha.
Real ones know of Brandy’s legacy: Solange, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott and, obviously, The Roots. So it was nice to see her be given this opportunity, even if most of the audience didn’t realize the greatness they were witnessing.
Listening to Brandy I was taken back to the days of my youth: sunny and dry skies in El Paso, Texas; eating cereal for breakfast, lunch and dinner; and having no real responsibilities except making sure my grades remained good. In that moment all I could do was pop another Ricola into my mouth, and smile.
Meth and Red gave the crowd what they wanted — energy and, most importantly, fun. There was one moment where Meth, who seemed ecstatic to be performing onstage with The Roots, grabbed a bottle of water and doused the entire audience with it. In my Airborne and Ricola-induced mind state I said to myself, “That’s what SXSW is all about,” before walking out of the venue, coughing up a loogie and making my return to my friend’s apartment.
If you’re looking for real-time coverage of SXSW, or are “looking to build” and “f**k with the vision” while in Austin, make sure to follow Elijah on Twitter (@ElijahCWatson)!