Listen: I’ve been an avid fan of The Roots since the release of the band’s fourth album Things Fall Apart. I’ve since made purchases on their whole 14-album catalog, attended three of their live shows and have even made an honest attempt at regularly watching Jimmy Fallon’s late-night show since they are the house band. I thought I knew everything about The Roots—until Questlove revealed that they were discovered after performing at a strip club.
According to Page Six, the drummer and recent Oscar winner recalled during an episode of Luminary podcast Til This Day with Radio Rahim that prior to the 1993 debut band’s first album, Organix, the band found most of its success through the “Ivy league route, playing college frat parties,” or by playing “a talent night for rap groups at this strip club called the Princess Lounge at North Philly.”
Now, of course, the former wouldn’t surprise anyone—but the latter? That’s just wild.
From Page Six:
But when Questlove’s eclectic act showed up at the strip club: “We walk into the Princess Lounge and I’m hella esoteric. I’m wearing Birkenstocks,” he said on Rahim’s Luminary podcast. “And they’re just looking at us like, ‘You’re wearing Birkenstocks in north Philadelphia?’ ”
Luckily the band’s playing quickly shattered the crowd’s initial reaction to their hippie-hop look a la P.M. Dawn or Arrested Development. “We set up and we play our first song and the whole club’s like, ‘Yo,’ ” said Questlove.
They kicked off by recreating a Tribe Called Quest tune and “the novelty” of it was a knockout.
In the crowd, “one of the guys happened to be a local college radio DJ legend, named AJ Shine,” who told the band, “Yo, I want to record you all. Let’s do a 12-inch single,” Questlove says.
Ultimately, “That 12-inch single winds up being an EP, which then winds up being [a] 16-song record, which then winds up being kind of our demo. And within a year’s time we finally get a record deal.”
All of this is a reminder that the ’90s were a different time for Hip Hop. Could you imagine an alternative Hip Hop band playing at a strip club in 2022? I just feel like the general consensus would be, “Booooy, if the DJ don’t put on some City Girls up in here!”
But hey, however The Roots was discovered, I’m just glad they’re here.