Despite the gloomy weather and chilled temperatures, diverse music lovers from New York City and beyond came together in Bryant Park for the first annual Roots Picnic in Manhattan. While the crowd stood in some muddy turf, fans were able to push through the East Coast’s first frigid weekend since the summer’s end to enjoy the sounds of some top tier artistry.
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From hip-hop veterans like the Jungle Brothers lighting up the crowd to modern guitar icons like D’Angelo and John Mayer together on stage, the Roots and their team didn’t miss a beat putting together the first day’s programming. With a monumental day one pressed into the history books, concertgoers left eager to see what Sunday holds in store.
The Jungle Brothers triggered all of the rap nostalgia
It’s been a while since the Jungle Brothers have been able to rock a major platform and the Roots Picnic was the perfect crowd for the rap veterans to go through their hits. Firing up the audience with some old-school joints such as “Straight Out The Jungle” and “I’ll House You,” the Native Tongues’ founding members quickly became a high for dedicated hip-hop heads who roared throughout their set.
Kevin Gates got religious
After Kevin Gates topped the charts over the past year, there wasn’t any doubt the Baton Rouge rapper would pull in all the enthusiasm for his afternoon performance. After starting his set a little later than scheduled, Gates assured the crowd he would perform until he got the boot. Opening with a bang, Gates went right into fan favorites “Time For That,” the controversial “Satellite” and his recent hit “2 Phones.” Proving he left his filter at home, the rapper stated, “I do give a fuck what I say, but I just don’t give a fuck about what people think about what I say.” After threatening to end early due to a low crowd reception, Gates quickly shook things up when he closed with his smash hit “I Don’t Get Tired.”
DJ Questlove tore up the turntables
Before joining his headlining Roots brothers for their day one finale set, Questlove took to the turntables to provide the anxious crowd with a beloved DJ set. Packing in all kinds of hits, ranging from familiar oldies to classic throwbacks and even a favorite pick of “Gust Of Wind” off of Pharrell‘s G I R L album, the Roots drummer made sure everyone was out of their seat and carelessly two-stepping through Bryant Park’s muddy grass.
Stretch & Bobbito proved the power of their hip-hop platform
Stretch & Bobbito brought on all the feels for the New York hip-hop heads with their brief but upbeat set. “Rudy Giuliani is no longer in office. Rock out!” the radio dup exclaimed as they opened up their speakers. Bringing the vibes back to their days of artist discovery, the crowd was able to rap along to some gritty hip-hop classics from Mobb Deep, Nas, Busta Rhymes and more big names. Mixing in some instrumentation into their set, the dynamic DJ team provided some blissful energy for rap lovers far and wide.
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The Roots addressed the serious issues
As 7:30 p.m. hit, the crowd was anxious to receive the headlining act. With the band entering the stage as a unit, Black Thought took the microphone to open up the finale with some strong bars and even more powerful messages. “We dedicate this to anyone who has ever raised a fist,” the MC stated before the band started into a few hits. While the subject of injustice was on the crowd’s mind, Black Thought let Common hit the stage to perform a four-song set. Going through some of his classic records such as “Go!” and “The Light,” the Chicago rapper ripped through an amazingly compelling freestyle about police brutality, black lives and his new album, Black America Again. “Trayvon’ll never get to be an older man,” he boldly rapped. Before transitioning into the last two headliners, Dave Chappelle made a brief appearance, joking with the crowd “I’m only out here for two reasons: Kevin Hart couldn’t make it and D’Angelo is late.” Black Thought labeled him a legend before the two bowed out.
John Mayer made a comeback
The veteran songwriter made his performance comeback for the Picnic stage, starting back up where he left things off. While he was a man of few words for the crowd, Mayer let his music do the talking, beginning his set with “Paper Doll,” which is infamously known as his post-Taylor Swift breakup song. While he transitioned into one of his substantial hits, “Waitin’ on the World to Change,” the rock star flaunted his outstanding guitar skills. The crowd’s energy was ecstatic after seeing the beloved musician back in his element and restlessly screamed for an encore by the end of the quick set. He stayed on to perform his own version of Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine,” closing out his solo set with a bang.
D’Angelo sacrifices some hits for a more artistic set
Fans were beaming with joy as the main headliner finally took the stage, coming out in his signature style of a black bandana, black scarf and a cigarette in hand. Soon enough, the crowd learned how lucky they were to catch the veteran artist live, as he performs on a more rare occasion these days. Although some were disappointed to leave the venue without a performance of “Lady” or “Untitled,” D’Angelo made up for it with his instrument-infused set of hits including “The Root” and “Greatdayndamornin’/Booty.” Concertgoers got an extra special treat as John Mayer remained on stage to accompany D’Angelo with his guitar skills for both “Brown Sugar,” as well as “Playa Playa,” closing out a fun-filled day of great music.