Today’s listen comes to us from Philadelphia hip-hop group The Roots, otherwise known as Jimmy Fallon’s house band. I picked a live version of this song, from 1999’s The Roots Come Alive, because it’s the best example of rapper Black Thought’s incredible talent. Most emcees will skip some lines when performing live, since it’s difficult to control your breathing when you’re jumping around a stage as opposed to standing in an isolated recording studio booth. Not Black Thought, who manages to flawlessly nail lines like “I plug in the mic/Draw like a gunfight/I never use a cordless/Nor stand applaudless/Sip chlorophyll from ill silver goblets” while simultaneously hyping up a crowd full of Swiss rap fans (the track was recorded in Zurich.) His dizzying internal rhyme schemes never fail to make my head spin. Black Thought’s unreal performance is complemented by a tight, jazzy instrumental courtesy of Questlove on drums, Leonard Hubbard on bass, Kamal Grey on keys, and the aptly monikered Scratch, well, scratching away at a raucous vocal sample. While it’s cool that The Roots get to play on NBC every night, “The Next Movement” finds them in their element.
Listen to more by The Roots: Tune in to Fallon or see them live at the Roots Picnic in Philly