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SUNDAY & MONDAY
Employing drums, bass, electric piano, and turntables, the Roots have been proving themselves live since 1987. The Philly collective—which won the 1999 Grammy for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group—is revered by heads for actually playing the sounds heard on its records and in its shows, which is still a novelty in hiphop. Last year’s Things Fall Apart, the group’s fourth album and one of the great records of the last decade, and the live The Roots Come Alive, its title a smart-ass appropriation from rocker Peter Frampton, showed the Roots at the top of their game. Things Fall Apart, named after Chinua Achebe’s classic anti-colonialist novel, is an organic map for the future of hiphop, highlighting the spare, crisp beats of drummer ?uestlove, the deep bottom end of bassist Hub, and the contrapuntal, mad topical MC skills of Black Thought and Malik B. Eschewing the gratuitous violence and misogyny that currently rule hiphop, the Roots cast themselves as lyrical and musical heirs to politically and spiritually engaged rap innovators such as Public Enemy and A Tribe Called Quest. The Roots Come Alive demonstrates that the group is also one of the baddest funk outfits on the road today, capable of turning in satisfying, loosened-up improv versions of album cuts. On “100% Dundee,” assuming the voice of a whack group stuck on a bill after the Roots, Black Thought raps, “There’s no way we can rock after them!” And, really, who would want to follow the Roots with only two turntables and a microphone? The group performs—without an opener—at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, July 2, and Monday, July 3, at the 9:30 Club, 815 V St. NW. $25. (202) 393-0930. (Brent Burton)