Roots Picnic 2022: Durand Bernarr, J. Period, DJ Jazzy Jeff & More celebrate culture in Philadelphia | New
The Roots Picnic 2022 is back after two virtual-only years, and music lovers were thrilled with its return. A decade after The Roots held their popular event at Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia, the picnic has quintupled in size, scope and changed location. Co-founders Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter and Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson and the incredible Roots Crew moved to the Mann Center in 2019, bringing nearly 23,000 people to the Fairmount Park campus.
Despite the in-person efforts of Pandemic Railroads, the 2022 installment features a stacked lineup of emerging and veteran talent. With headliners Mary J. Blige, Jazmine Sullivan, summer walkerand Assistant join the iconic Philadelphia band on stage, BET.com was on hand to be among the folks outside, catch captivating and colorful performances, and talk about who’s doing what as we approach the 50th anniversary of this thing we love called hip hop.
On the first day of the festival, attendees created a wave of legs and hips and bodies, bodies, bodies, as the Fairmount Park ground held over 26,000 people and around 62,000 tickets were sold throughout the weekend -end”, according to Shawn Gee, founder of Live Nation Urban, the Los Angeles-based division of the concert promotion giant. Considered a “one-of-a-kind moment” for music lovers, the chance to see The Roots with these headliners — namely Mary J. Blige for the very first time — was worth the $225 admission price.
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And while non-musical attractions such as the Podcast Stage, a video game arcade booth and a Spades World Series tournament, for this intrepid writer, it was a question of getting closer to those who were in charge of putting the butts in the seats. It took a minute to enter the space, but once inside I walked past the sculpture art in Murjoni Merriweathertasty smells by Southern Jazz Cuisineand long queues for Rita’s Italian ice cream Locations. Arriving at the media tent near the TD pavilion, I was immediately greeted by Iliana Thomasco-founder of The Nucleus Creative Agency, who wasted no time in connecting me with rising superstar R&B singer-songwriter, Durand Bernardwhose Sunday performance will become one of the highlights of Roots Picnic 2022.
The sonic investor from Cleveland to Los Angeles was on a tear before the release of spirit of adventurehis second follow-up Hard&. A top student of music and culture, the conversation turned to hip hop’s golden anniversary, and I wanted to hear more about his thoughts on the subject. “I can’t believe hip hop is so old and not so old at the same time [laughs]”, he said just as Alex Isley took the stage for his set. “It’s great to be a descendant of this culture – and let’s be clear, hip hop is a Culture, not a genre — and I’m grateful to be a part of it. Bernarr, who also led our Pride Month and Black Music stories, racked up wins and his Roots Picnic performance served as both a love letter to Philly and a proving ground for his first tour. headlining.
“I had a conversation with Quincy Jones and asked him how it felt to be so accomplished, and you know what he had the nerve to say? “I feel like I don’t what to start.” [Laughs] I love that we, like in black music and black culture, are constantly in a state of becoming and arriving. I don’t think I’ll ever get to a point where I think I’ve “arrived” because there’s always room to grow. Being handsome, reserved and black in Philadelphia is a blessing and for Durand he recognizes the impact the city of brotherly love has had on his career. “Philadelphia always [holds me down,” he told me. “When I came here in 2016 for my first tour, [I] I didn’t know the Bad Boy Reunion show was on the same night as mine, just up the street, and I just knew I was going to be performing in front of five people [laughs]. But you know what? The show is complete [and] it was so overwhelming, so I’m thrilled to come back to Philadelphia and give them their just due.
As people waited for their favorites to take the stage, I caught up with the incomparable Period DJ J, whose Live Mixtape series with Black Thought has become a staple of Roots Picnic. JP has always put numbers on the boards from his own projects (Respect the DJ: DJ Premier, March 9: revisited) to work as part of the Kennedy Center, and reconnecting on those festival grounds was good for the soul. After talking about family and what’s new in each other’s lives, things immediately turned to how he planned to celebrate the 50th anniversary of hip hop. “Honestly as many ways as possible,” he shared shortly after decimating the stage alongside Black Thought, Benny the Butcherand Rick Ross.
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“I spoke to people about all kinds of events and other forms of tribute,” he added. “I’m going to throw a block party with the Smithsonian in August for their ‘Hip Hop Anthology’, and deejay there to tell the story of hip hop in a way that we’re having the 50th anniversary, that’s how I “I’m going to start the celebration of this culture that we all know and love. Hip-hop has been and always will be known to mankind as one of the greatest connectors that exist. This creation from the Boogie Down Bronx changed the way people speak, dress, challenge authority and even sparked revolutions in their own country.” I go to countries all over the world and hip hop is that unifying factor where people can communicate across nations without speaking the same language because of this love of this music.”
As the return of the 2022 Roots Picnic marked another triumphant moment for Philadelphia and its Illadelph crew, the two-day event proved why hip hop is such a regenerative force of nature. Glad to be able to take something undervalued, overlooked and often overlooked by the status quo, and turn it into something beautiful, exceptional and awe-inspiring – the 50th anniversary of hip hop next year will see it all the world recognize its power as a vehicle that remixed the world. I’ve been to a few festivals over the past few months, but the Roots Picnic was so welcoming, where young and old loved each other, laughed and danced together for the first time in a long time.
It was good to take my nephew and my family to witness such darkness and be immersed in how hip hop has enriched our community. “I’m glad we were able to stay the course and make hip hop turn 50,” DJ Jazzy Jeff told me right after finishing his spellbinding set of turntables with Rakim and Black Thought. “There was a time when they said hip hop wasn’t going to last. And so for this culture to take us around the world, to support myself and my family, I’m going to celebrate it as she celebrated me.
Kevin L. Clark is a screenwriter and entertainment director for digital bet, which covers the intersection of music, film, pop culture and social justice. Follow him on @KevitoClark.