Editor’s Note: Our recurring “Portrait of the Artist” playlist series pays homage to the artists responsible for the most inspired and indispensable discographies of all time. We hope you enjoy these tributes, and stay tuned for many more to come.
Beyond its host’s irresistible comedic charm and undeniable passion for his craft, a huge reason why The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon is so damn watchable is its charismatic house band, The Roots. But for many of us whose formative musical experiences took place during the final decade of the 20th century, the Philly-bred group’s current weeknight gig—albeit a lucrative one that they perform quite well—still seems secondary to their true calling as one of hip-hop’s most dynamic and innovative acts of all time.
Indeed, the Legendary Roots Crew, comprised of drummer/visionary Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, emcee/wordsmith Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter, keyboardist/composer James Poyser, and a handful of expert musicians, embodies the purest strains of hip-hop music and culture. The band’s self-released and criminally underappreciated 1993 debut album Organix was the first manifestation of their fresh musical approach, followed by 1994’s From the Ground Up EP released through Geffen in the US and consummate tastemaker Gilles Peterson’s UK-based Talkin’ Loud label in Europe. The latter release actually featured a handful of songs—including the headnod-inducing “Distortion to Static” —that were subsequently included on the group’s magnificent, hip-hop meets jazz flavored major label debut album Do You Want More?!!!??! months later released via Geffen in January 1995.
Since then, the uber-productive group has released nine more studio albums over the span of two decades, each reflecting their penchant for musical adventurism and upper-echelon quality, while preserving their diehard devotion to uncompromising, unfettered hip-hop. In honor of The Roots’ prolific and consistently excellent discography to date, we’ve compiled five dozen of our most beloved tracks—including a few rarities and collaborations here and there—culled from their extensive recorded repertoire.
To quote one of The Roots’ most recognizable tunes, you shall proceed to stream the playlist below or here, and join us in celebrating The Roots today and every day. And be sure to follow Albumism on Spotify to be the first to discover future playlists.