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The Roots makes rap come alive live

"People ask me, 'How did y'all get hooked up with Erykah?' People ask me that question. Professional people."

Last fall, Rolling Stone had a big-ass rap music spread which knighted The Roots as "the best live band in hip-hop." Once you assess how subversively unorthodox that statement is -- praising an actual musical ensemble in a genre that's usually populated with overwrought samples and familiar beats -- then you realize how much chutzpah these cats have. These guys choose not to have their music, as one would say, "Puffified," not because they aesthetically dislike it, but because they think it doesn't make good business sense.

"The thing is, the Puffy thing works because it's just one person, you know," says Hub. "And that one person dealing with royalties paid out for samples. The new kids on the block, as a figure of speech, don't have the money to pay for their favorite sample that they're hearing or whatever. They find out that the people who want the clearance are gonna take their money anyway. So, the prospect of the new age of being your own original composer of something that's sly and phat and, you know, put together and tweaked and do whatever that's original, it leaves more money in the pocket for that individual. The more kids learn the business, [they'll know that] being organic is healthy, you know."

The Roots is continuing to be a healthy rap band even within the mainstream confines of a mighty corporate label. The band has already launched a record label called Motive where it plans to feature new artists (such as the Jazzyfatnastees, who also appear on the album) as well as possible solo projects. From the looks and sounds of The Roots, it is going to form a solid foundation that has everyone, not just fans of rap and hip-hop, relishing its music right into the new millennium. Here's hoping that it never falls apart.

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