Backbeat: 5th Annual Okayplayer Holiday Party Pairs The Roots with Shaggy, Big Daddy Kane, Other Guests
Backbeat: 5th Annual Okayplayer Holiday Party Pairs The Roots with Shaggy, Big Daddy Kane, Other Guests

The Roots played host to the fifth annual Okayplayer Holiday Party last Thursday night at Brooklyn Bowl, featuring a string of surprise guests who stopped by to perform and hang out with the Philly-based hip-hop crew. Questlove founded the Okayplayer web site and media company in 1999.

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The evening began with a performance by the Music Unites Young Audiences New York Youth Choir, introduced by Music Unites founder Michelle Edgar, and a beat-boxing master class from Rahzel, before the rest of the Roots trickled on stage accompanied by Shaggy, playing his former Billboard Hot 100 number one hit "It Wasn't Me." The reggae infusion set the tone for the rest of the evening, as the band worked effortlessly through classic reggae feels, old school soul tracks such as Curtis Mayfield's "Move On Up" (performed with Okayafrica artist Angelique Kidjo) and tracks off new album "Undun," which debuted at No. 17 last week on the Billboard 200.

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Shaggy performs with the Roots at the Okayplayer Holiday Party
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Big Daddy Kane performs with the Roots at the Okayplayer Holiday Party

Other guests who stopped by included Gary Clark Jr., who performed the title track off his "Bright Lights" EP that earned the guitarist significant attention earlier this year; Big Daddy Kane, who stopped by to trade verses with Black Thought on his song "Ain't No Half-Steppin;" and New Orleans bounce artist Big Freedia, whose eclectic performance ended the evening.

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Gary Clark Jr. peforms with the Roots at the Okayplayer Holiday Party
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Big Freedia poses with manager Renee Moncada-McElroy backstage at the Okayplayer Holiday Party

Seen in the VIP section were members of the Okayplayer, Okayafrica and LargeUp staff that helped put together the event, including DJ Gravy, founder/president of LargeUp; Ginny Suss, founder/president of Okayafrica and VP of Okayplayer; Dan Petruzzi, president of Okayplayer; Vanessa Wruble, founder/president of Okayafrica; and Femi "Shamz" Obasaju, media manager at Okayplayer. A few Okayafrica artists, including Bajah and the Dry Eye Crew from Sierra Leone, also made it to the show and out on stage with the band, while the venue provided free shots for everyone in the audience and Heineken sponsored free drinks for an hour pre-show.

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L-R: DJ Gravy, Founder and President of LargeUp; Ginny Suss, Founder and President of Okayafrica and Vice President of Okayplayer; Femi "Shamz" Obasaju, Media Manager at Okayplayer; Vanessa Wruble, Founder and President of Okayafrica; and Dan Petruzzi, President of Okayplayer pose in the VIP area at the Okayplayer Holiday Party
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Guitarist "Captain" Kirk Douglas and keyboardist James Poyser of the Roots pose in the VIP section of the Okayplayer Holiday Party
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Bajah from Bajah and the Dry Eye Crew poses with Okayafrica founder and president Vanessa Wruble backstage at the Okayplayer Holiday Party

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