The Roots presented a two-hour set at the 9:30 club on Wednesday night that again demonstrated the group's mettle as hip-hop's premier live artists, using well-learned stage sensibilities in a solid rap music performance.
Lyricist Black Thought began with a routine call-and-response to the audience before launching the band into well-received revisions of early material, including "The Next Movement" and "Proceed." Crisply articulated lyrics and cleverly played versions of their underground standards worked well all evening. The playfully bouncy "What You Want" from the movie "The Best Man" found the group in top form, putting a harder edge on the commercial single while highlighting guest vocalist Jaguar, who contributed a thick, churchy rendition of the chorus.
The Roots hit their high mark musically as hip-hop historians. The band served as would-be professors of the genre, mixing together such old-school hits as Afrika Bambaataa's "Planet Rock" and Special Ed's "I Got It Made."
Drummer Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson made a lasting impression with his reinterpretation of James Brown's "Funky Drummer," presenting the hard-hitting soul staple with breakbeats from the hip-hop classics "I Cram to Understand," "The Show" and "Make the Music With Your Mouth Biz."
The band closed the show with an all-out version of Pharoahe Monch's "Simon Says."