Central Park Summer Stage celebrated their 30th year, and to finish off this Summer’s amazing line up was none other than the legendary hip hop group, The Roots. The Philadelphia-raised band invited Talib Kweli, Marsha Ambrosious, and Bilal to join them for the special occasion. The concert was held at Central Park’s Rumsey Playfield.
Talib Kweli started off the show with a DJ set. Kweli ran through the classic rap and hip hop hits. DMX, Slick Rick, Biggie, and other notable rappers were heard in the air. It felt like a family reunion, seeing people from all age groups coming together for music.
Marsha Ambrosious was the next performer to hit the stage. She opened her set with Sadè’s “Stronger Than Pride.” Marsha’s range contains a punch, from low tones to high notes, she showed her vocal prowess that night. She then went on to sing “Butterflies,” the song she wrote for Michael Jackson that was featured on his Invincible album. She sang a crowd favorite, “Cheat On You,” which is on Ambrosious debut album, Late Nights & Early Mornings. She capped off her set with the wildly popular, “Say Yes.”
After Marsha Ambrosius, The Roots came to the stage to an enormous roar of cheers from the crowd. Music & Other Drugs has had the opportunity to see The Roots several times at their very own Roots Picnic Festival in Philadelphia. The Roots is electrifying, with Black Thought on lead vocals, the band set the stage on fire. One, of many, things special about The Roots are no two shows are the same, and they are always full of surprises. The Roots were the final headlining act of Central Park’s Summer Stage and they did not disappoint. The band brought out Talib Kweli, who played a DJ set earlier in the day, Common, Cee-Lo, Bilal, and Salt-n-Peppa.
Each act came out to perform classic hits and it took the crowd back to the good days of 90’s hip hop & r&b. Cee-Lo Green sang Al Green’s Love & Happiness.
Bilal’s performance was special. Towards the end of his performance he scatted, wailed, and in all of Bilal’s amazing vocal combinations, sang #blacklivesmatter over and over.
Just when the crowd thought that would be it, The Roots beat boxer, Jeremy Ellis, produced some of the most epic “remixes” that night. His quick fingers were unstoppable and he had an explosive solo that kept the crowd moving. His quick fingers were impressive, and he even did some tricks by using his head to beat box.
Music & Other Drugs was already impressed with The Roots star-studded set, and then, they brought out female rap group, Salt-n-Pepa who performs their hit, “Push It.”
Tonight felt like one big family reunion. New York City came together tonight to celebrate hip hop and soul music.
All Photographs Taken By Ryan C. Hamilton for Music & Other Drugs