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Roots, Goodie Mob Get Back to Basics

The Roots and the Goodie Mob are hip-hop acts trying their best to fend off Master P’s gangsta-noir hegemony with spiritual uplift and old-school values. Considering both acts bubbled up from cities with deep roots in R&B; (Philadelphia and Atlanta, respectively), it was hardly surprising to find them ditching the usual deejay dependency in favor of live bands for their respective sets at the House of Blues on Thursday.

Making up the more stylish and polished of the two acts, the four members of the Roots were accompanied by a keyboard-anchored rhythm section whose warm, emphatic grooves conjured up the ghosts of “Bitches Brew"-era Miles Davis. The Roots locked into the band’s billowy beat and then proceeded to lead it along with their rubbery wordplay, jacking it into double time one moment, then downshifting the next. Expert at milking the crowd with the kind of old-school quotations that have become the stuff of hip-hop folklore, the Roots ended their set with a litany of crowd-pleasing anthems from P-Funk, the O’Jays and LL Cool J. It should have come off as gratuitous, but instead felt organic and somehow appropriate.

The Goodie Mob’s band was even larger, but the overall sound was somewhat thinner than it was during the Roots’ set. It hardly mattered, though; the Goodie Mob derives its power from the collective force of the four members fulminating in unison. The Mob’s sobering cautionary tales laid out the aftershocks of gangsta posturing in stark detail, and were driven home by ominously sludgy, half-speed beats that had arms flailing and heads ringing.


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