The Roots are really a breath of fresh air in a genre where artists are constantly trying to out-sample one another. After seeing The Roots live for the second time, I have to wonder why all hip hop acts don’t bring live bands with them on tour? The live band setup allows for the obvious advantages of improvisation, much improved sound quality, actual musical talent, and of course more to watch than a few people hopping around on stage with microphones.

In really taking advantage of their backing band, Roots’ shows feature multiple virtuoso solos from bassists, keyboardists, guitarists, drummers, and trumpet players. You might even see a tabla solo, if you’re lucky. Their sets undergo so many transformations, medleys, and covers, they begin to transcend the hip hop genre altogether. You’re likely to see a strong variety of covers from Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” to Kool & the Gang’s “Jungle Boogie,” and of course, their 11-15 minute cover of Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War.” The group usually begins and ends their sets with a full, 10+ member band set-up, with 2 distinct sections in-between, one featuring the rock band set-up for the Zeppelin and Dylan covers, and the other featuring the group’s horn section.

The Roots’ are taking the hip hop live show to a new level of musical ability. Below are a few, mostly bootleg, examples of their set, showcasing their musicianship and their successful blending of genres:

A bass solo from Hub:

Midway through “Masters of War,” check out Kirk Douglas’ vocals 2 minutes in:

?uestlove drum solo:

A professionally shot Roots’ show from early in their career:

The Roots are on tour now (go see them!) and released their new album, “Rising Down,” today.  It’s great, go pick it up!

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