The Roots are one of the headlining performers at this year's JAS Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Experience in Snowmass, CO. They'll almost certainly wow the crowd with their big music and bigger personalities, as they take the stage for a holiday weekend celebration. But before they bring their unique brand of funky hip-hop to Colorado, AXS has compiled this list of five facts you may not know about The Roots:
The Roots are turning 30 this year. Per Time, the band was formed as a duo between members Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson and Tariq "Black Thought" Trotter in 1987 while in Philadelphia, though their first organized performance wasn't until 1989. They also went through several name changes, as Questlove explained in his 2013 book "Mo Meta Blues," including being called The Square Roots before they realized a folk act already had the name.
The band's breakthrough came in 1999 with the album Things Fall Apart. What you may not know is that they took that title from the novel of the same name by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe, who in turn had borrowed the phrase from a W.B. Yeats poem. The band's 2002 album Phrenology also has a meaning; it refers to the study of measurements of the human skull, though phrenology is still considered to be a psuedoscience. But you can learn things just from the titles of The Roots' records, before you even listen to their albums.
Since becoming the house band for NBC's "Late Night" and later "The Tonight Show," The Roots have gained fame for playing many popular songs on classroom instruments with guest musicians. As if that wasn't hard enough, they recently upped their game by playing a song with nothing but office supplies. So they don't even need equipment to put on a good show, though thankfully they'll be bringing their gear to Snowmass.
The Roots, and members of The Roots, have made guest appearances in many films and TV shows over the years outside of their NBC gig. One of those films was the romantic comedy "Chasing Liberty" which was one of Mandy Moore's earlier movie roles. She plays the President's daughter who begins a relationship with a mysterious man she meets in Europe (played by Matthew Goode, who would go on to star in a season of "The Good Wife"). The whole movie is worth watching, but you can see the scene with The Roots here.
The Roots have maintained close ties to their hometown of Philadelphia. Every June, they host an all-day music festival known as The Roots Picnic. We don't know if there's any actual picnicking that goes on, but that'd be a pretty nifty idea if it did. And it's pretty cool that The Roots maintain a presence in the city that gave birth to their musical success.
For more on The Roots, visit their band page at AXS.