The Roots in Shanghai, Whut! Whut!

the_roots_2-bio1.jpg I have respect for all y’all who still remember that hot, 1996 Root’s joint What They Do, featuring the sexable Raphael Saadiq.  For those of you who can’t recall this tune, I’m a little disappointed. And with that said, let me refresh your memory. It’s that old skool jam that makes a mockery out of every ignoble, hip hop artist who ever bred and continues to breed formulaic hip hop tracks and videos. The chorus of the song reiterate “never do, what they do, what they do, what they do.” In terms of The Roots they did exactly what no other hip hop act has done till this day. They performed in Shanghai, on April 16th at the Yunfeng theatre.  

The Roots have set the bar quite high and in a different direction, in terms of establishing themselves as a hip-hop act. Some consider their music as ‘alternative hip hop’ because the band relies heavily on explicit, melodic sounds. Others may perceive the group as a carbon copy of the primordial band that lived through the early 80’s, known as the Stetsasonic. The Stetsasonics proved that jazz and rap extract a gravity defying, new age sound, The Roots endure that sound.

I was genuinely anxious to see what kind of crowd would congest the Yunfeng quarters. Expats? Visitors? Chinese posers or bona fide Hip Hop fans?

As I expected; tons of Wallys, the whole African population that resides in China, a handful of real artists and the rest were confused Asians who had clearly popped some pills before arriving. I say this because they danced as if they had entered an afterhours drum and bass/electro joint.

One by one, the band members took their place on stage. For a split second, a spotlight hit MC Black Thought. The few that knew who he was bellowed out a noise. My eyes panned across the theatre; the crowd was motionless. I’ve seen The Roots on numerous occasions in Toronto, and the energy that circulates throughout the room hypes up the whole concert experience. But not here. I did however notice some beautiful people in the audience, faces I had never seen in the last two years of living in Shanghai. Obviously, I’ve been hanging out at the wrong places.

Half way through the show, the band broke out into a collage of old skool joints, Biz Markie’s- Just a Friend, Sugar Hill Gang- Rappers Delight, Salt-N-Pepa- Push It, Tribe called Quest- Awards Tour, among others. The crowd applauded only to the snippets of mainstream rap renditions performed. MC, Tariq Trotter took the stage by imitating the moves of the late James Brown, during an instrumental solo. This had the throng of people amused and on their feet. As soon as these all-stars fluently moved into their own sounds, most of the audience was dumbfounded. The Roots performed various tracks from five of their nine albums. Stay cool, don’t say nuthin, Off the Tippin Point. You got me from the album Things Fall Apart, with Badu’s vocals performed by Captain Kirk (guitarist). Datskat, from the Do You Want More record. In the music, off their latest LP, Game Theory. Wrapping up the show with the illest track, The Seed, from their 2002 album, Phrenology. 

The Roots have an illustrious reputation for producing live music and original sounds, unlike their counterpart, P. Diddy- Mr. Copy-Cat extraordinaire. The false representation of hip hop culture in China is as fake as the Gucci, Prada and Louis Vuitton bags sold on the street corners of Shanghai.

Clearly, the hip hop movement cannot swiftly be relocated from one culture to another. I have a feeling President Jintao is not fond of hip hop music spewing from the West. To prove my point I have an  example, back in October, of 2006 Jay-z was scheduled to appear in Shanghai however, last minute the show was cancelled due to ‘vulgar language,’ say Sun Yun from Shanghai Daily Newspaper. Clearly, China doesn’t want music laced with obscenities blasting in their concert halls, clubs and music stores.

Hmmm, it’s funny because one of the first words I learned from my Chinese hair stylist was a very, very bad word.



~ by deliciousnoize on December 27, 2007.

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