Rounding out Saturday’s BET Experience line up was the legendary Roots Crew with front women Erykah Badu and a surprising slew friends performing to a sold out club Nokia.
“We came out to celebrate J Dilla,” said Roots front man, Black Thought, as the Roots kicked the party started.
Every time the Roots perform, there seems to be a slight change in personnel. This show included the typical tuba, guitar, and elevated drum set, but in addition was a digital percussionist that played a set of electronic drum pads. Adjacent to him was a set of tall Congo drums that he would occasionally turn and strike with drum stick, then switch back to the electronic pads. A Caucasian follow played a pair of square devices called ‘Beat Boxes’ that looked like 808s but instead of drum beats, when he pushed the glowing buttons tunes played that accounted for some of the harmonies that the Roots are known for. These two square devices where tilted so that both the crowd and the cameras could see what he played.
The Roots are total professionals, going through their many hits, one after another, sounding exactly like the album in both musically as well as vocally, with Questlove both singing background vocals, playing the drum set and issuing out directions to the stage performers as well as the crew handling the sound and lights.
“It’s a pleasure to present an innovative and creative sista, Erykah Badu,” said Black Thought, as Badu skated out from back stage and spun around like wonder woman before kissing Black Thought and going right into ‘Window Seat’ from her album ‘New Amerykah, Part Two (Return of the Ankh).’
“Hip hop is bigger than the government,” sung Badu and the audience followed her lead with fists rose in the air in musical and rhythmic agreement to her lyrics. “It’s all over the world, people prey in unison to God, but it doesn’t matter where you are people nod their heads in unison to the kick and snare,” added Badu at the conclusion of that song.
Dressed in a black top hat, long trench-like flowing black overcoat, royal blue trimming on her hat and scarf, a blue jean jump suit under sparkling and hanging jewels that sat up top of her chest, wrists and fingers Badu commanded attention as she floated across the stage.
Following an unexpected departure, the first surprise of the night came in the form of Busta Rhymes who performed ‘Whoo Hah (Got You All In Check).’
“We are here to honor the late great most incredible producer J Dub,” explained Busta Rhymes.
After a moving story about J Dilla’s last days, Busta performed one of his hits that J Dilla produced, ‘Pass the Courvoisier.’
The next surprise group was Slum Village. Although they weren’t the biggest or most well-known group they still kept heads nodding as they rapped in unison and back and forth with rappers T3 and Elzhi. J Dilla was also a member of this group.
Next Pharsyde rocked with high pitch rapper Slimkid3 leading the verses and Fatlip coming in later to complete the songs. Staring lackluster, the Cali based group got it together when they performed ‘Runnin’ and had the crowd captivated during ‘Passin’ Me By.’
Neo Soul crooner Bilal was the fourth surprise performer. Bilal’s voice was tuned into the music of the Roots and became like another instrument as he tuned his tones as if his throat were a horn and he played alongside of the tuba player under the direction of Questlove. Black Thought came in effortlessly on two different verses to Bilal’s songs.
Lastly the timeless Loren Hill graced the stage in a navy and yellow overcoat with matching round brimmed hat. Hill performed some of her classic hits from her solo album ‘The Miss-Education of Loren Hill’ including ‘Everything is Everything.’
“J Dilla was a brilliant man. Right now there are billions and billions of atoms of him in this room, right now. Can you feel him?” added Badu at the ending of the show.
For more information on the BET Experience, go to www.bet.com.