Featured, Guest Blogger, Pop Culture

I Came, I Saw, And I Was Conquered By Erykah Badu And The 2015 Roots Picnic

It was Saturday afternoon, and 90 degrees at the Roots Picnic in Philly. (For the record, “90 degrees in Philly” = “126 degrees wherever the hell else you’re from“) It felt like seeing your favorite cousins and being grown at the family reunion when all of the “fun” aunts and uncles started having a few drinks. I didn’t entirely know what to expect from my first music festival experience, but I knew The Roots were involved. And that’s usually enough.

Roots Picnic is different from what I’ve learned to be true of other multi-stage music festivals in that the three main performance spaces are all within a few hundred feet of each other. This is mainly because of the layout of Festival Pier at Penn’s Landing, where the event is held every year, but this had just as many ups as it did downs. There were a few occasions when acts overlapped (Poor DJ Diamond Kutz) and things sounded crazy, but outside of that, the show ran pretty smoothly and on time.

Artists like Bishop Nehru, Hiatus Kaiyote and Rae Sremmurd played shorter sets earlier in the day, while everyone’s festival ‘fits were still fresh and we weren’t too heat-worn to realize that, surprisingly, we did know all the words to “Throw Some Mo’”. Later, DJ Mustard (née Dijon Isaiah McFarlane), A$AP Rocky with the majority of A$AP Mob (RIP Yams), and The Weeknd — who actually puts on a really good show if you’re into his music — played longer sets for audiences so niche, you could easily pick them out whenever the respective artist wasn’t performing. Kinda like the difference between people who go to the Greyhound station for the buses, and people who go their for the discount bagels in the sandwich shop. 80 degrees felt like too long lines for food and the bathroom, but, “Wait, I know this song!”

The Roots took the stage at 9pm. By that time we’d been standing, and sweating, and sitting, and sweating for anywhere between seven and nine hours; not entirely ready to go, but quickly nearing the threshold. When the flood lights dropped, however, and Black Thought’s voice infiltrated the crowd, his question “What are you passionate about?” may as well have come from a burning bush, the way energy started flowing. They opened with an extended play of “A Peace of Light” from How I Got Over, and the monitor went through a chronological display of their album covers, which of course invited the response from the audience on our favorites. The Roots and Erykah Badu, individually, are fundamental elements. Collectively, their chemistry is the type of electrifying magic that makes your skin tingle and drapes you in a cloak of proud, heavy, unapologetic Blackness.

The first song they performed together was Erykah’s “Love of My Life”, making it even more of an ode to Hip Hop by interspersing the chorus with performances of other essential Hip Hop songs. Afrika Bambaataa blessed the stage, Freeway came out to perform “Roc The Mic”, The Lox gave us “All About the Benjamin’s”, and YG brought us all together with the personal fave “My Nigga, My Nigga.” After more from Badu and The Roots, including them backing The Weeknd’s “Earned It” and Erykah dusting off an amazing “Green Eyes” performance, I wholly understood why people braved the crowds, robbery-adjacent food and beverage prices, and heat to see their faves festivals every summer. Because, for me, 75 degrees that night in Philly felt like the satisfaction of a long shower after the hottest, sweatiest, stickiest, and best day of the summer.

Ryan Sides

Ryan Sides is a writer and content producer based in New York, but Dallas to the core. His sign is the Krispy Kreme "Hot" light and he enjoys long walks to the refrigerator. Chat him up on Twitter about music, food and being in love with being in love.

  • Jiovan

    That concert was dope….but can philly PLEASE do something about those cobblestone roads by the pier lol

  • I’m envious. Erykah Badu is definitely one of those acts I’d do almost anything to see live even though I don’t know her entire discography. I generally try to avoid festivals with like >50% white people though that this Roots Picnic has become.

    • Uniquely Blushed

      As long as I can remember, every time I’ve gone to see the Roots when they come to my city (DC) it has always been >50% white people. I guess white people like great music too. haha

    • RewindingtonMaximus

      She’s great live. That voice is no joke

    • Mimzi

      Amazing. she seriously blew my mind. And i agree with your avoidance of white people, and the Roots Picninc was actually amazing melanin filled. It was a beautiful sight.

    • CamCamtheGreat

      Every concert I go to tends to be (or at least seems to be) majority white. If I only went to concerts where the majority of the patrons looked like me, I’d never leave the house.

  • HeyBooHey

    SO mad I missed this! This Picnic usually falls around my bday but I have yet to make it. From people’s reviews, Ms. Badu put on an amazing performance that I need to stop missing

  • JAC

    Yes! It’s my first music festival ever, and it was so worth it! When she came through on them wheels and those glasses!! The Roots and Ms. Badu were amazing together, and their chemistry was electrifying on stage. It’s amazing to see the way their set progressed in a way that was organic and active with the crew dancing and running on stage to the tempo changes.
    I want to see Erykah do everything she did again very, very soon, and encourage everyone to do the same.

  • This dude DJ Mustard’s name is actually Dijon?? I’m probably mad late but that’s great self awareness

    • Lea Thrace

      my sentiments exactly!

    • That girl MEL!

      Yo! I thought the same thing!

    • DBoySlim

      I had a cousin named Dijon.I should’ve called her mustard

  • Dougie

    The most important question not answered is:

    How were Ms Badu’s yams looking??

    • Mimzi

      Mannn… she hit one quick twerk… me and my friend DIED. The yams are truly legendary.

  • Glockenspiel

    I miss living in Philly *tear*……..Saw Badu in concert a couple of months ago and it was THE. BEST. SHOW. EVER! Her show lasted almost 2 hours. Every song you’ve ever wanted her to hear, she did. Oh and she did OutKast’s “Liberation” and my life was restored.

    • MysteryMeat

      U had me at Liberation. I would have died

  • MzzPeaches

    I just want Erykah to teach one seminar/workshop on that Baduizm she puts on these dudes to make them lose their mind. Queen needs to teach those ancient secrets lol

    • pls

      she does it on twitter from time to time. it’s why I’ve introduced raw cranberries to my diet!

      • MzzPeaches

        *runs to Twitter to find her handle*

  • Brooklyn_Bruin

    Rip okayplayer

  • Shanita

    The festival had everything I hoped for minus one thing; the influx of brothers with the “goon beards”. I saw a few….but they were few and far in between. Kind of like the songs I recognized that “The Weekend” performed.

    • Mimzi

      Agree, I was telling my line sister that the Philly beards were half of my reason for attending, and I was sorely dissapointed in that regard :(

      • Shanita

        Did we miss the memo or something? When did they shave lol?

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