By Daniel Paiz
After a mixture of bad winter weather and lots of travel delays resulting in flight cancellations nationwide, The Roots and Big K.R.I.T make it to Denver. The rescheduled February 24th, 2023, concert at Mission Ballroom was supposed to take place December 27th, 2022. Fortunately for both the fans and artists alike, it was a show well worth the wait. It was a fairly concise concert, but it was packed to the brim with rhymes and rhythm everywhere.
No love for the South?
Stylistically Big K.R.I.T and The Roots differ in some respects. The founder of Multi Alumni has a wide array of sounds, tending to merge between bass rattlers and soulful, funky tracks. The Meridian, Mississippi emcee has been performing and recording for easily over a decade, but this crowd didn’t seem to know that. There was a vocal third of the crowd who were clearly fans, bouncing along to most songs and providing energy back to this charismatic emcee.
However, as the venue began to fill in a bit more towards the end of the opening set, it was evident newcomers weren’t all that familiar with this staple of 2010s Southern Rap. Ever the showman and stage worker, K.R.I.T kept talking to the crowd, calling on those day one fans to make some noise. First timers were encouraged to vibe with the tracks, and to beware they were likely next to someone who knew these songs word for word (I spotted a few of those fans). If nothing else, this guy likely is getting googled this weekend after his efforts.
I can’t remember the last time I watched a veteran act have to rally the crowd like that, which I more so chalk up to a good block of Roots fans being unfamiliar. I misjudged a block of those fans, who I thought tended to be fans of a LOT of stuff, diligent in digging into music from anyone, and fairly open; seems like they would’ve casually browsed the opener’s discography. They did not, and as a fan of The Roots and Big K.R.I.T that disappoints me. Enough finger wagging for now, because after arguably the best emcee out of Mississippi finished up, it was time to wait awhile for the headliner.
There really isn’t another way to describe The Roots, and it’s meant in the best way possible. I’ve witnessed this act three times now, and yet every time it feels like it’s the first time. The routine is well-known in terms of highlighting different musicians as the night goes on, then different duos and trios either riff with each other and get the crowd going. After that, Black Thought pulls the crowd in with some genre-specific staples or just drops bars like he’s known to effortlessly do.
Somehow, it feels like a blip of history unfolding as all in attendance get to observe and absorb this musical magic. Hard work is clearly what this group of musicians put in, yet it feels like Bruce Lee himself told them the secret to being like water. Perhaps that’s over-the-top hyperbole. But the musical language these guys speak with one another is one of one. Hip-Hop likely doesn’t still fully recognize what this culture and genre has with this group.
I’ve tended to not write about The Roots after their concerts because it’s difficult to paint a picture of their setlist after feeling such musical bliss. There were a handful of classics such as “You Got Me”, “The Seed (2.0)”, Don’t Say Nothin'”, “The Next Movement”, and more. Sprinkled before any of their own tracks were jams across the musical genre landscape: Soul, Funk, R&B, Pop, Rock, and Reggae all made an appearance at some point. The set sounded familiar yet different. Perhaps that’s due to only seeing this group every handful of years. It could also be that unless the group is touring new music, they only slightly vary what they play on each tour; thus, if you catch them every time they stop in your city, it could be a repeat episode. It’s still a lot of fun, and the show wrapped up around 11pm on a Friday night, which was a cherry on the top of this intriguing clash of two different sounds in Hip Hop.