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the roots

The Roots

The Roots are a Jazz, Hip Hop & R&B collective from Philadelphia, who were (originally), formed in 1987, as the Square Roots.

The group comprise of:

Current members:

Questlove – drums (1987–present) (b. Ahmir Khalib Thompson, 20th January 1971, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.)

Black Thought – rap vocals (1987–present) (b. Tariq Luqmaan Trotter, 3rd October 1971, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A)

Kamal Gray – keyboards (1994–present)

F. Knuckles – percussion (2001–present)

Captain Kirk Douglas – guitar (2003–present)

Tuba Gooding, Jr. (Damon Bryson) – sousaphone (2007–present)

Mark Kelley – bass guitar (2011–present)


James Poyser – keyboards

Former members:

Malik B. – rap vocals (1987–1999)

Kid Crumbs (Kenyatta Warren) – rap vocals (1993)

Rubberband (Josh Abrams) – bass (1992)

Rahzel – beatboxing (1995–2001)

Dice Raw – rap vocals (1995–2001) (frequent collaborator with the band)

Scott Storch – keyboards (1993–1995)

Ben Kenney – guitar, bass (2000–2003)

Martin Luther – vocals (2003–2004)

Scratch – beatboxing (1996–2003)

Leonard 'Hub' Hubbard  – bass (1992–2007)


Owen Biddle – bass (2007–2011)

The group were created by Tariq ‘Black Thought’ Trotter and Ahmir ‘Questlove’ Thompson, who then added Malik B., Leonard ‘Hub’ Hubbard, and Josh Abrams to the band.

Staring out as a neo-soul/hip hop ensemble, the Roots have developed into an in-demand group of musicians and producers, by several artists from all musical genres.

Ahmir ‘Questlove’ Thompson and Tariq ‘Black Thought’ Trotter met whilst attending the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts.

They originally performed in the street, and performed at a talent show in 1989, under the name of Radio Activity.

The group underwent several (sometimes humorous) name changes, before becoming The Roots in 1992.

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Organix - 1993 / Do You Want More?!!!??! - 1995 / Illadelph Halflife - 1996 / Things Fall A Preview - 1999

They signed to the Remedy Recordings imprint, releasing their debut album, ’Organix’ in 1993.

On the strength of this release, the Roots were picked up by Geffen Records, who released a follow up set in 1994, entitled ‘Do You Want More?!!!??!’.

The roots toured for a while, performing at the Montreux Jazz Festival, and adding the artist Rahzel, and the producer Scott Storch, to the group’s line-up.

In 1996, they released the album ‘Illadelph Halflife’, which later climbed the Billboard charts.

After leaving the Geffen imprint, the Roots signed to MCA Records.

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The Roots Come Alive - 1999 / Things Fall Apart - 1999 / Phrenology - 2002 / The Tipping Point - 2004

At MCA, the Roots released 4 albums, namely ’Things Fall A Preview’ (in 1999), ‘The Roots Come Alive’(in 1999), ‘Things Fall Apart’ (in 1999) and ‘Phrenology (in 2002).

They returned to Geffen for 2004’s ‘The Tipping Point’, before switching to Def Jam Records.

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Game Theory - 2006 / Rising Down - 2008 / Wake Up - 2010 / How I Got Over - 2010

Their Def Jam debut was 2006’s ‘Game Theory, after which t ey released ‘Rising Down’ (in 2008), ‘How I Got Over’ (in 2010) and ‘Undun’ (in 2011).

By this time, the Roots had begun collaborating on several projects involving other performers.

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Undun - 2011 / Betty Wright: The Movie - 2011 / Wise Up: Thought - 2013 / ...And Then You Shoot Your Cousin - 2014

In 2010, they released ‘Wake Up’ with John Legend, ‘The Movie’ (in 2011 with Betty Wright) and ‘Wise Up: Thought’ (in 2013 with Elvis Costello).

They released ‘...And Then You Shoot Your Cousin’ in 2014 for Def Jam.

Between 2009 and 2014, the Roots performed as the house band on NBC's Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.

Questlove’s father, Lee Andrews was a member of the doo wop group, Lee Andrews & the Hearts, (and later a member of the R&B group Congress Alley).

Lee passed away in 2016.

Questlove, himself, has produced music for the artists Elvis Costello, Betty Wright, Common, D'Angelo, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Bilal, Jay-Z, Nikka Costa, Al Green, Amy Winehouse, and John Legend.

Real Player


Organix (Remedy Recordings Records 1993)

Do You Want More?!!!??! (Geffen Records 1995)

Illadelph Halflife (Geffen Records 1996)

Things Fall A Preview (MCA Records 1999)

The Roots Come Alive (MCA Records 1999)

Things Fall Apart (MCA Records 1999)

Phrenology (MCA Records 2002)

The Tipping Point (Geffen Records 2004)

Game Theory (Def Jam Records 2006)

Rising Down (Def Jam Records 2008)

John Legend and The Roots - Wake Up! (GOOD Music Records 2010)

How I Got Over (Def Jam Records 2010)

Undun (Def Jam Records 2011)

Betty Wright And The Roots - Betty Wright: The Movie (S-Curve Records 2011)

Elvis Costello And The Roots - Wise Up: Thought (Blue Note Records 2013)

...And Then You Shoot Your Cousin (Def Jam Records 2014)

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