Rolling Out

Hip-hop takes center stage at annual Roots Picnic 2024

The Roots Picnic featured Lil Wayne, Sexxy Red, Jill Scott, Nas, the Roots and dozens more
Hip hop artists Freeway, Black Thought, Common, Method Man and Redman (Photo by Derrel Jazz Johnson for rolling out)
Hip hop artists Freeway, Black Thought, Common, Method Man and Redman (Photo by Derrel Jazz Johnson for rolling out)

The Roots Picnic, the two-day music festival started by the legendary Philadelphia hip-hop collective the Roots, took place June 1-2 in Fairmount Park in Philadelphia. The event, which began in 2007, saw many legends from different music genres, but hip-hop took center stage.

One of the annual highlights of the Roots Picnic is the J. Period Live Mixtape, which always features original Black Thought rhymes that sometimes mimic the flows on songs he performs with featured guests — and this year was no different.

Legendary hip-hop artist and actor Method Man and Newark hip-hop pioneer Redman were the two advertised guests. They performed several of their solo hits, collaborative songs and features.

But the true highlight was Black Thought’s freestyles, as well as guest appearances by hip-hop legend and actor Common, Harlem hip-hop artist A$AP Ferg and Philadelphia native Freeway.

Black Thought performed original lyrics with Method Man over the tracks “Protect Your Neck” and “Bring the Pain” as the Wu-Tang Clan member performed his verses. Redman and Man performed their verses on the LL Cool J posse track “5, 4, 3, 2, 1,” and Black Thought rhymed over the beat. Freeway joined and did the same, and then Common surprised the crowd and received a loud ovation.

“This is hip hop right here,” Common declared after the performance.

Nas performed many of his classics, including “You Owe Me,” “Made You Look,” “The World Is Yours” and Verbal Intercourse,” in which he was joined by Ghostface Killah. Killah then performed verses from “Ice Cream,” “C.R.E.A.M,” and “Cherchez LaGhost.”

Other hip-hop highlights included Sexyy Red, Wale and Lil Wayne, who closed out the weekend performing with the Roots.

Non-hip-hop highlights included Babyface, who not only performed some of his biggest hits, including “Never Keeping Secrets,” “Whip Appeal” and “Every Time I Close My Eyes,” but also performed some of the countless hits he has written for other artists.

The singer, songwriter and producer who wrote every original song on the Waiting to Exhale soundtrack performed “Not Gon Cry,” the timeless Mary J. Blige song, and the Brandy hit, “Sittin’ Up in My Room.” Babyface also performed the Bobby Brown classics “Don’t Be Cruel” and “Every Little Step”; the Boyz II Men song “I’ll Make Love to You”; and the Tevin Campbell song that everyone seems to know the words to, “Can We Talk.”

DC’s Backyard Band — which featured two keyboardists, two guitarists, two percussionists and four background singers — welcomed Scarface and Amerie. Philadelphia native Jill Scott closed out the first night’s lineup.

Brand activations from companies like Grand Marnier, who served signature cocktails like the Grand MARgarita, Dunkin, who served different varieties of iced coffee and handed out $5 gift cards, and Charmin, who had VIPee bathrooms, a dance floor, and a DJ, helped make the weekend more memorable. These activations — such as in-person events, online social media campaigns, or other initiatives — are marketing strategies that aim to increase brand awareness and engagement by creating a brand experience that connects with people. The goal is to create an emotional connection with potential customers so they are more likely to become loyal customers.

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