The Roots Picnic Delivered For The Culture: Black Thought, Mary J. Blige, and Jazmine Sullivan Lit The Stage

This past Saturday, I hit the road eagerly headed to The Roots Picnic 2022, going down at Philly’s The Mann at Fairmount Park. It was the 14th annual Roots Picnic, and I, a first-timer, was not about to miss it!

I wasn’t the only one. Fresh off a two-year pause, the gigantic crowd that met me upon arrival clearly felt the picnic’s absence. A massive crowd that only doubled in size by the time day one’s headliner thee Mary J. Blige hit the stage. When mega dons Tariq “Black Thought,” Trotter, and Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson thought up this musical venture, they couldn’t have pictured this. 

The GRAMMY® Award-winning, multi-platinum duo, collectively known as The Roots, brought together a mind-blowing 60,000 people, Sixty Thousand, in a pandemic no less. While on stage during Black Thought’s Live Mixtape set, Benny The Butcher exclaimed, “The Roots brought out all these beautiful Black people, It feels like Juneteenth out here!” That it did, the crowd felt overwhelming. Still, the positive vibes were right, and even with some technical difficulties, the dope sounds were undeniable. 

Check out some Parle highlights below.

Something For Everyone – One Time For Music Diversity

Roots Picnic 2022: Wizkid, Robert Glasper, Summer Walker, Kirk Franklin
(Photos of Wizkid, Summer Walker and Kirk Franklin by Taylor Hill/Getty Images for Live Nation Urban. Photo of Robert Glasper by Ronnette “Ronnie” Cox for Parle Magazine)

The 2022 Roots Picnic boasted an impressive line up which included: Mary J. Blige, Black, Thought’s Live Mixtape Ft. Rick Ross & Benny the Butcher, G Herbo, Robert Glasper & Bilal, Music Soulchild, CKay, Wizkid, D-Nice, Babyface Ray, Tye Tribbett, Kirk Franklin, and even Mickey Guyton although she had to pull out due to Covid, this marked the first time a country artist was asked to perform.

Rap, Old School, New School, R&B, Afro Beats, Soul, Gospel, and Country? Phew. All they needed for this Guyanese girl was Reggae and Soca (shameless plea)! I’m not sure to what extent The Roots themselves play in artist selection, but it felt well distributed and, better yet, relevant. 

Beyond the music, the picnic featured live podcasts such as Questlove Supreme, Jemele Hill’s Unbothered, and Earn Your Leisure. Applause for a situation where I can bop, be ratchet, worship, and grab some life and finance tips all at once. 

Black Thought Proves He’s A Master In Any Era

Tariq "Black Thought,” Trotter
(Photos of Black Thought by Ronnette “Ronnie” Cox for Parle Magazine)

As the crowd steadily grew on Saturday afternoon, Black thought took the stage. At the same time, the instrumentals of Wu-Tang’s “Simon Says” played. Donning Hoochie Daddy shorts and without missing a beat, thought freestyled, “You all up in the Roots Picnic, inebriated, nobody do no stupid shit, appreciate it!” Later as he took us through his Live Mixtape experience, he’d go on to rhythm over beats from Rick Ross, UGK, and Benny The Butcher.

Seriously no one should be surprised at the talent of the master lyricist that is Black Thought. Still, you gotta admire an OG who can effortlessly weave freestyles through past and present. Even Rick Ross, who electrified the stage with his hit “Hustlin’” at one point, stood watching Black Thought in awe as he rhythmed over the infectious beat.

Black Thought has an upcoming album with Danger Mouse called Cheat Codes; it drops on August 12. The first single is called “No Gold Teeth” and is available now.

Roots Picnic: Benny The Butcher & Rick Ross
(Photo of Benny The Butcher and Rick Ross by Ronnette “Ronnie” Cox for Parle Magazine)

R&B Brought The Sauce

It was the R & B for me! A music festival created by a hip hop group with two R & B singers as the headliners may seem odd to some but never doubt the magic of closing out the night with smooth R & B. 

Roots Picnic 2022: Mary J. Blige & Jazmine Sullivan
(Photos of Jazmine Sullivan and Mary J. Blige by Ronnette “Ronnie” Cox for Parle Magazine)

Jazmine Sullivan, a Philly native, absolutely killed on the Toyota Soundstage. Fresh from a Grammy win, the “Heux Tales” singer immediately grabbed our attention with her hit “Bust Your Windows.” Jazmine kept it spicy, too, with tips for the ladies, even giving a “pussy walk” demonstration and closing out with her most recent hit, “Pick Up Your Feelings.” The entire performance made me realize I need to go back and run her past albums!

The moment THEE Mary J. Blige touched the stage, she brought a vibe; almost an hour late, fans periodically chanted her name. When she finally hit the stage, she brought the attitude and the Mary dance moves we all love. She even demanded that someone get her water by singing the command. It was entertaining as hell, but the music, it hit differently in the best ways possible.

Having the greatest hip-hop band back you up breaths new life into classics. Hearing live instruments accompanying” Love No Limit,” “I Can Love You,” and “I’m Going Down,” complete with a rendition of the original track, felt like a masterclass. I definitely wouldn’t mind a Mary J. and Roots tour or album. By the time Black Thought rhythmed: “I’ll be back in a few, but I’m still askin’ you, what’s the 411, hun?” The Live Remixes felt like a gift.

As the show was seemingly over, Mary J. said, “aight, I’ll give yall one more,” and with that, one of my fav. MJB songs came booming from the stage, “Just Fine.” It happens to be my birthday month, and “Just Fine” is the song I play every birthday the very minute I wake just to remind myself that ish is going great, so I was on a high when Quest hit that last drum beat. With that, day one came to a close, and Mary hightailed it off the stage. 

Mary’s current album Good Morning Gorgeous” is available now.

Roots Picnic 2022: Mary J. Blige & Black Thought
(Photos of Black Thought and Mary J. Blige by Ronnette “Ronnie” Cox for Parle Magazine)

Take a look at the video clip below to hear Mary’s rap verse on “Whats The 411 remix.”

 

Other noteworthy crooners included Durand Bernarr, up and comer Suzann Christine and Sunday’s headliner Summer Walker (who was swapped with Wizkid).

Shoutout to the vendors

Photo of ChiWaffles chicken & waffles meal with fries

In between sets on hunger runs, I ran into some cool entrepreneurs who got the opportunity to set up at the picnic; I’d like to highlight one in particular as a standout. Veteran picnic vendor Chi Waffles provided some tasty chicken and waffles. It was the best thing I ate all weekend; my friend couldn’t stop talking about it. The corn waffle is made with actual corn too; it’s a win.  

For The Culture

Shortly before Mary J. Blige’s set, a mass shooting occurred a mile or two away from Fairmount Park, where picnic-goers gathered. Short on cell service due to the volume of people, preoccupied snapping pics and vibing with friends, folks got to escape the harsh realities of our world. Beyond the music, The Roots Picnic delivered a safe concert environment and an entertaining dope-ass experience few will soon forget. The Roots are in a lane all their own, and the return of their picnic has them playing successfully in the house they built. The culture loves to see it!


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