I’m kind of surprised that the Powers That Be at GE haven’t already done this, but DJ Heat has put together a mixtape made up entirely of live tracks of the Roots playing with some of hip-hop’s biggest names, all from their gig on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. We’re talking everyone from old skoolers like Q-Tip and Public Enemy to newer jacks like Wale (not to mention Mos Def, 50 Cent and damn near the entire Wu-Tang Clan). The only real “problem” with the Late Night with the Roots mixtape really is the same problem that most live TV performances have–the sound is so/so and doesn’t seem to capture the full energy of the gig. Now, with that being said, the Roots prove admirably that they’re possibly one of the only bands out there that could do justice to the job. For the most part, rap sounds like shit live, particularly if the MC doesn’t have a real, live backing band. The Roots, however, are able to create live what most DJs/producers would give their left nut for to recreate on wax. Quite simply, they have a musician’s knack for creating hip hop with instruments, and, hot damn, they do it well.
Some of the tracks here simply are of better quality than others. It’s a shame, for example, that the Beastie Boys track has a few glitches. As it appears the songs were recorded directly from the TV (as opposed to sound board quality), it’s hard to where the imperfections originated, but it’s a bummer no matter whose fault it is. Of perhaps little to no surprise, the best tracks here are from groups that are used to working with live bands. The Blakroc track, in my opinion, is heads and shoulders above everything else here.
While I don’t watch Fallon’s show (or any other talk show, for that matter), there’s still one glaring omission for my money here. The Day Wacko Jacko OD’d off to Neverland, the Roots cut some cover tracks with Erykah Badu while she was there in studio. The quality of those tracks is infinitely superior, and, more importantly, they show the band having more “fun.”
Bottom line, this definitely is worth checking out, though you might end up culling some or most of the tracks from your mp3 library after you’ve sampled them. If you really want to hear the Roots “live on wax,” look no further than “The Roots Come Alive,” possibly the greatest live in concert rap CD of all times. If you want to hear the Roots play with some of the biggest guns in the game today, though, this one is for you.