Still buzzing from Day 1 of the first annual Roots Picnic NYC, I settled into Bryant Park for Day 2 of the festival. With considerably better weather today, the grounds were packed full of fans early in the day to kick off the events. Bibi Bourelly, better known as the mastermind behind Rihanna’s huge hit, “Bitch Better Have My Money,” showcased her singing skills with her smooth brand of R&B. Kicking things off at the mainstage, Daniel “Bambaata” Marley soothed the crowd with his guitar playing and wooed us with his vocals. Of course you could expect nothing less from a Marley.
Yuna kept the smooth R&B vibes flowing; especially when she slipped into the crowd fave, “Crush.” While Usher didn’t make an appearance for the sultry duet, the Malaysian-born singer held it down with ease. Echosmith played to a rapt crowd, with their super-catchy tunes and anthemic hooks. Their pop tunes lightened up the atmosphere in preparation for what was next… EPMD! The legendary hip-hop duo of Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith reunited again for the Roots Picnic and they did not disappoint. Throwing down one of my many favorite sets of the weekend, they rean through their classic hits “Head Banger,” and “You Gots To Chill.”
Lil Uzi Vert kept the energy flowing, bounding back and forth across the stage, and even hopping down to touch his fans in the front row. The bass for his set was thunderous and exactly what everyone wanted from the “Money Longer” rapper. Deerhoof was the surprise of the day, with their lilting, chant-heavy tunes. Their avant-garde style drew quite a large crowd considering not many people could understand the lyrics to the songs.
Back on the 6th Avenue stage however, we could definitely understand the southern DJ duo Grits & Biscuits. The pair cracked jokes amidst their set of hip-hop classics. I never thought I’d see the day when 2 Live Crew’s “I Wanna Rock” is blasted in the middle of Bryant Park. Swizz Beatz’ set was comprised of the producer’s hit records ,such as DMX’s “Party Up,” and “Ruff Ryder’s Anthem.”
Next, in what was one of the most electrifying sets of the fest, Black Thought and J. Period’s Mixtape brought out hip hop heavyweights Kool G Rap, Freeway, Big Daddy Kane, Smif-N-Wessun, Pharoahe Monche and Royce Da 5’9. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, someone else would take the stage and level it. Performing an updated version of the classic “The Symphony,” everyone onstage had the crowd feverishly pressing record on their mobile phones to capture this moment in time, myself included.
DJ Jazzy Jeff also proved his legend status with his R&B/Hip-Hop mixed set. His set was soulful and kept the crowd in great spirits. Just watching how happy he looked while working was enough to spread a smile across my face.
Finally, backed by none other than The Roots, David Byrne took the stage performing songs that sounded far too grand to be played in such a small park but that certainly didn’t stop us from watching his every movement in awe. Nile Rodgers brought the disco music of Chic to the stage and I have to admit I loved every second of it. From the opening notes of “I Want Your Love,” to “I’m Coming Up,” even to his collaboration with Pharrell and Daft Punk, “Get Lucky,” which he admitted came after an unfortunate cancer diagnosis. Now completely cancer free, the song sort of floated out into the audience as a triumph.
Only partially surprisingly, Alicia Keys took to the stage to perform a few of her hits. Her voice was in top notch, and with the help of The Roots, the reworked versions of her songs hit a high note with the audience.
But of course, the main event is what everyone was waiting for. Oddly, comedian Amy Schumer was tasked with introducing them. Throughout the day there had been buzzing of how many members of Wu-Tang Clan would actually materialize. On this night it was RZA, GZA, Method Man, Raekwon, Cappadonna, U-God, Inspecktah Deck… damn near everyone, except Ghostface Killah unfortunately! Nevertheless, that gave them ample time to run through crew cuts like “Triumph,” and “”C.R.E.A.M.” and still hit on some solo gems like Raekwon’s “Ice Cream,” and Method Man’s “Da Rockwilder,” complete with surprise appearance from Redman. Without a doubt Redman is one of my all time favorite rappers so I was busy screaming like a teenager watching the show. Ending on a high note with “Protect Ya Neck,” the sea of people were reluctant to leave, endlessly hoping for an encore of some sort. While there was no encore, everyone definitely left the festival penciling in plans for next year’s event, which Black Thought promised would be back “bigger and better than ever.” Consider me already there.
Article: Lesley Keller