25 Years Ago, The Roots Showed They Had Skills Even Before Questlove Had His Fro (Video)
On May 19, 1993, The Roots self-pressed and released Organix. Before the Grammys, The Tonight Show and international super-stardom, the Philadelphia crew frequently went by “The Square Roots” and its drummer spelled his name with a “?,” and sometimes he even rapped. Back then, Malik B., Leonard Hubbard, Josh “Rubberband” Abrams, Kid Crumbs and Scott Storch were members. Twenty-five years after the release of their debut album, Black Thought and Questlove are the only two remaining founding members, but they’ve managed to keep The Roots grounded.
Organix has maintained a relatively low profile, a rarity for debut albums from groups who go on to spawn a career as decorated as The Roots. With 1995’s Do You Want More?!!!??!, the group earned some major distribution courtesy of DGC Records (of David Geffen fame), but remnants of its predecessor are easily found on its track listing. “Essaywhuman?!!!??!” is a carryover from Organix and the two LPs play like a double album in many regards. During this era, The Roots were essentially a jam-band with a Hip-Hop influence (they made the touring circuit with acts like G. Love & Special Sauce and, in later years, The Dave Matthews Band) and Organix has that kind of unrehearsed, spontaneous quality to it.
The album was so extemporaneous, in fact, that the “video” for “Anti-Circle” is actually footage from two different video shoots pieced together. Abdul Stone Jackson, a director who shot material for both “Anti-Circle” and another Organix cut “Pass The Popcorn,” says on his YouTube channel of the former, “This footage was found along with the ‘Pass The Popcorn’ footage. I couldn’t sync this footage up [earlier] because of a camera malfunction during the filming. Thanks to today’s technology (Final Cut Pro HD) I was able to sync this up the best I could.” As such, the final product is raw but nonetheless satisfying.
A young, afro-less ?uestlove, Black Thought and Kid Crumbs are seen in the opening sequence. With backpacks and bleachers around, the scene’s youthful energy carries throughout (there’s even a scene in which everyone gets “pantsed”) the clip, which is just under two minutes long. Also incorporated into the video is a cleverly framed double bass. It wouldn’t be a Roots record without a significant Jazz presence, after all. Center stage, though, is the young Black Thought and his prodigious rhyme schemes. An “anti-circle” translates, roughly, into “square” (as in The Square Roots):
I said it a second ago yo I’m tha anti-circle with the mad style
Crushin any mental that be fragile
You don’t wanna see me get like agile
Rippin up the scene screamin’ like I was a bad child
Black Thought, so hip that I’m square
The rhythm that you hear is from the kids right over there
The Rubberband and Question just one step away
Yesterday was a day away, attention you should pay today
To The Roots stickin’, boot kickin’ with flippa
I lift tha party up and y’all get down like a zipper
The Mr. Hippa-Flippa kid, the one who thinks the music can be hurtin’ a
Rhythm when I get anti-circular
For longtime Roots Heads, segments of the video will look familiar to “Pass The Popcorn,” in which Questlove raps.