The Roots Honored in New Philadelphia Mural
By Kathy Matheson
The Roots are officially living large in their hometown.
Members of the house band for NBC’s “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” in New York returned to their roots in Philadelphia for the dedication of a multistory mural in their honor.
The massive artwork occupies the back wall of a charter school on the street where the Grammy Award-winning band once busked for change after its founding in 1992.
“This is an amazing turnaround that on South Street we’re getting immortalized some 21 years later,” Roots drummer Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson said.
The mural, titled “Legendary,” is a colorful collage of images including portraits, cassette tapes and musical instruments that traces the history of the hip-hop group. It’s one of more than 3,600 pieces of art created by the city’s Mural Arts Program.
The project’s unveiling came a day before The Roots Picnic, an annual music festival in the city hosted and curated by the band. In a few weeks, Thompson’s memoir “Mo’ Meta Blues” will be released.
Mural Arts Program executive director Jane Golden praised the project’s paint and design team, which persevered through numerous complications.
“What you see behind me right now is beautiful,” Golden said. “We think and we hope that we captured the wonderful spirit of The Roots.”
When plans for the mural were first announced in November 2011, Roots co-founder Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter noted how he once got busted for graffiti as a teenager and a judge ordered him to clean up such vandalism by painting murals. Trotter called the punishment “scrub time.”
He said it was great to see his life come full circle.
“It hits close to home for me that this is in south Philadelphia. This is my part of town,” Trotter said. “It’s an honor and a blessing.”
Thompson, too, said he was proud.
“This is one of the greatest moments of our career,” he said. “I’ve forever driven the streets of Philadelphia wondering, when are we getting our mural?”