It was 80 degrees and sunny on Saturday, June 1 in Philly for the 201 Roots Picnic. It was a perfect day for a festival full of music, food, drinks, and lounging on a blanket with your friends.
We visited the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection to catch it all. The festival was everything we expected and more.
However, there was a sudden shift in mood when panicked festival goers rushed towards emergency exits in fear during 21 Savage’s performance on the Fairmount Stage. “There’s someone with a gun,” one person said. “Part of the stage collapsed,” said another. It was ultimately found that a gun scare caused a stampede and five people were injured as a result.
In today’s world, the thought of an active shooter is very real–and very terrifying. Blankets and shoes were left behind on what had been lounge space. But in less than thirty minutes, the show was back on. H.E.R. didn’t miss a beat. She was on stage in time for her set.
Ultimately, the show went on–and it was an unforgettable one. Here’s the top highlights from the 2019 Roots picnic.
The festival’s switch to the Mann Center in the sprawling Fairmount Park was perfect.
While festivals are exciting and provide a chance for fans to share space with their favorite artists, they can oftentimes be cause for irritation and problems due to overcrowding and a lack of space. The Roots picnic attracted 25,000 people this year and the Mann Center for the Performing Arts provided more than enough space for everyone to enjoy the show.
There was something for everyone. Multiple food and drink stations were available throughout the venue. Music could be found at both the Fairmount and Mann stages. The Cricket Wireless stage provided an up-close look at podcasts in action like the Joe Budden Podcast, The Read, Questlove Supreme, and more.
AMC’s activation gave us a glimpse into the Songs that Shook the world of Hip Hop.
To help festival goers beat the heat, AMC offered a stylish lounge space which provided a glimpse of their new show set to debut in October called “Hip Hop: The Songs That Shook America.” This 6-part series produced by the Roots members Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson and Tarik “Black Thought” Trotter, highlights iconic songs that not only transformed the hip hop genre, but also American music and culture.
Artists including Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, and Queen Latifah discuss the experiences that inspired their work as well as the impact their music had on them personally. Each episode also dives into the socio-economic and cultural forces that impacted the artist and the music of their era.
Interested? You can check out part of the first episode which takes an in-depth look at “Jesus Walks,” Kanye West’s gospel inspired track, in celebration of the song’s 15th anniversary.
This year felt like a special nod to Hip Hop, Soul and R&B in honor of the 20th Anniversary of “Things Fall Apart”
The lineup this year featured artists influenced by and contributing to the hip hop, R&B, and soul genres. From Nigerian artist Davido to 21 Savage and Ari Lennox, each artist represents and celebrate black culture and music. Ari Lennox sang “Shea Butter Baby,” from her album of the same name. Later, festival goers waved danced to Afro-beats by Davido and san along to 21 Savage tracks.
For the 20th anniversary of one of the greatest hip hop albums, the lineup fit the bill.
H.E.R. stole the show
The 21-year old two-time grammy winner donned a red jumper over a highlighter green shirt and her signature shades during her set. H.E.R. showed off her raw talent. She switched between acoustic guitar for quiet ballads, electric guitar, and keys. She also showed the audience her vocal prowess, making it clear that she is a true talent. We even saw Joe Budden enjoying a fan favorite, “Hard Place,” on the stage riser.
The soulful singer also nodded to her influences like Lauryn Hill and Prince and even shared a brand-new song with the audience. She told the crowd that she is working on a new album. She’s one that we’ll be watching.
The Roots performed tracks from their iconic album “Things Fall Apart”–and brought special guests on stage to wrap up the festival.
To honor the 20th anniversary of their iconic album entitled “Things Fall Apart,” the Roots put on a show with the help of Common, Yasiin Bey (formerly known as Mos Def), and Jill Scott who all contributed to the album.
Anyone who enjoys listening to true hip hop immediately recognizes the front cover of the Roots 1999 album “Things Fall Apart”. The cover shows two black teenagers are running down the streets of Bedford-Stuyvesant during the Civil Rights movement. They are in fear of police officer who is chasing them.
The album title is from Chinua Achebe’s novel of the same name. Th novel explores the effects of colonialism on African society and culture. It’s clear that The Roots weren’t shy to political and societal commentary then. That was also clear during the opening of their set.
Philadelphia poet, Ursula Rucker performed her entire poem entitled “Return to Innocence Lost.” Only a part of the poem appears on the album. Live–it was even more gripping. It’s worth a listen.
When the album was first released, it was also available with multiple cover options. Keeping on theme , the screen behind the band presented black and white images of each guest performer.
The Roots played a number of songs from the album with seamless transitions. Then, Yasiin Bey joined them onstage to perform “Double Trouble” and some of his solo records. Common also joined the stage to perform “Act Too (The Love of My Life),” an ode to hip hop and later performed his own ode to the genre “I Used to Love H.E.R.” (Not this H.E.R.!)
Jill Scott joined the Roots on stage to sing the chorus of “You Got Me,” which she helped to write. Erykah Badu sings the chorus in the recorded track.
The Roots have always stayed true to, well–their roots. The Philly-based group is loved for their deep, hip hop tracks and commitment to true soul and thought music. They’ve never forced themselves in the limelight, which was clear when they let Jill Scott wrap up their 20th anniversary show with some of her own songs, including “A Long Walk.” Though the crowd grew thin, many stayed until the very end to catch every last moment of the show.
Questlove tossed drum sticks into the crowd at the end of the show. It was a way to show thanks to festival goers for celebrating 20 years of “Things Fall Apart,” the success of another Roots Picnic, and, most importantly, music.
Aside from sudden crowd panic halfway through the day–the Roots Picnic was everything we wanted and more.