As you get older, you'll realize there are very few things that actually make it to your long-term memory. A killer rock show like one of these is sure to leave a lasting impression on both your mind and your eardrums. Here's three bands just waiting to invade your psyche this summer.

THE ROOTS: HIP-HOP RENAISSANCE
The Roots Hit The Road

"Hollywood samples are jokes like Martin," raps Black Thought on the Roots latest effort Things Fall Apart. The 17-track album is a wake-up call to a rap world made turgid by money-grabbin' playas. It's also the Philadelphia sextet's magnum opus, a pure-to-the-bone hip-hop record that's anything "but" a G-thang.

Ripe with superb musicianship and thought-provoking lyrics, Things Fall Apartcould go down as the most influential rap album since Public Enemy's Fear of a Black Planet – it's that good. Long a favorite with critics and hip-hop purists, the Roots (Black Thought, lead emcee; Guestlove, drummer/bandleader; Malik B., emcee; Kamal, keyboardist; Leonard "Hub" Hubbard, bass; and Rahzel, human beat box) appear to be on the brink of massive commercial success with this, their fourth album and first since 1996's acclaimed Illidelph Halflife.

"We're definitely satisfied," says Roots bassist Leonard "Hub" Hubbard. "We've always had the critical (acclaim), but with this one we're really getting in the lock with a broader audience. A new public is embracing the group."

Quite possibly the hardest hittin' Philly export since Rocky, the Roots are a breath of fresh air in a hip-hop world dominated by stale, Puff Daddy-style pop recyclers. With an engaging blend of live instrumentation and lyrics that mix introspective wisdom with Beastie-style wordplay ("We've got a doctorate in keeping it rockin' it" from "Dynamite"), the Roots are the vanguard for a hip-hop renaissance that includes like-minded artistessuch as OutKast, Black Eyed Peas, Black Star and Common. Question is, are they ready to carry the torch as hip-hop saviors?

"I enjoy it," Hubbard says of the movement. "There used to be a time when contemporary black music was all musicians and instrumentalists. Now the general music public doesn't look at hip-hop as a style of music that has musicians at all – they grew up with people spinning turntables. But then they come see us, and for the first time they're seeing their favorite breakbeats performed live. It's a new experience for them, and I think that's part of what helped (the public) embrace us."

If early reports are any indication of the Roots' impact in the unfolding year, the group can expect big things both critically and financially. The Roots aren't about to start counting those Benjamins, though – the lessons of the past will be remembered for the future. For they know the hip-hop world is a tumultuous one, subject to the whims and fancies of a skeptical and somewhat unfaithful audience. It's a fact not lost on the Roots, who can, at the very least, go to bed knowing they're headed in the right direction.

By Chad Dryden, Ohio U.

 

LUSCIOUS JACKSON: AS HAPPY AS THEY WANNA BE
You'll Be Happy, Too, If You Catch Their Show

The Funk Soul Sisters

What do an obscure '60s pro hoopster, a new-wave goddess and the streets of New York all have in common? Put 'em together and you've got the beginnings of alterna-funk outfit Luscious Jackson.

Taking their name from an ex-Philadelphia 76er, Luscious Jackson first wowed critics with their 1992 EP In Search of Manny and then again with 1994's Natural Ingredients,an infectious blend of funky, guitar-driven pop coupled with the in-your-face beats and attitude of hip-hop. Drawing comparisons to their friends and labelmates the Beastie Boys, the group's success continued with the 1996 release Fever In, Fever Out,a mostly melancholy record with a catchy single "Naked Eye."

Electric Honeyis their latest, and when it comes to beats, they're kickin' ass and taking names - all for the sake of fun. "This [record's] about getting happy," says vocalist Jill Cunniff. And this singer's got a lot to be happy about - Cunniff says the record's love songs were inspired by her recent marriage.

While matrimony may have helped her with songwriting fodder, she and bandmates Gabby Glaser (guitar) and Kate Schellenbach (drums) had to deal with another big adjustment – the loss of keyboardist Vivian Trimble, who left the group because she no longer wanted to tour. "We definitely miss her but we were definitely able to fill in the blanks," Cunniff says.

The ladies also get a little help on the new record from two fellow divas and a basketball player. That's right, New York Liberty center Kim Hampton flexes her vocal muscles on "Friends," the album's closer. "Kate and Gabby are real big basketball fans," explains Cunniff. "And Kim has a side career singing. So, she was real excited."

Country legend Emmylou Harris appears on the record's first single "Ladyfingers." But it's the queen of '70s pop, Blondie's Debbie Harry, who chimes in for the album's most exciting moment. "We're big Blondie fans," says Cunniff. "It became really obvious that she should sing on this song called 'Fantastic Fabulous.'"

Sure they're fantastic, they're fabulous, but where can you see them live? The band's talking about making the rounds on the Lilith Fair, but they'll also be doing other shows throughout the summer and they'll be focusing on college shows in the fall.

Cunniff hopes is planning on bringing more than just the new music on the road. She says she wants to set up songwriting workshops for high school students to coincide with the band's tour dates. "Maybe like 20 or 25 kids would come to soundcheck and we'd spend maybe an hour with them," she says. "If people want to play songs, we'll hear them out. If they have questions about the music business or questions about demo tapes – stuff like that."

Forget those fake driver's licenses you're normally carrying around, you might want to break out that old high school ID when these rockers come to town.

By Jamie Pietras, Assistant Editor

 

ROBBIE WILLIAMS: THE POP STAR HAS LANDED
Brit Heartthrob Hopes to Make You Weak In The Knees

He's the biggest thing to hit the U.K. since the Beatles. And not unlike the Fab Four, former Take That heartthrob Robbie Williams knows a thing or two about being mobbed by love-struck female fans. After topping the U.K. charts – his Life Through A Lens was the best-selling album of '98 – and taking home three Grammy-equivalent Brit awards and the MTV Europe award for "Best Male Performer," Williams is ready to face the final frontier: America.

"Once you break America that's it, the game's over, everybody knows who you are all the way around the world," says Williams, whose U.S. debut, The Ego Has Landed, is scheduled for a May release. "If I don't break it, then I've got a great place to come on holiday. And if I do break the States then I've got enough money to go to the moon. So I win either way."

But don't let his flippant demeanor fool you. This cheeky chap isn't lacking in the self-confidence department; his album title is testimony to that. But watch him perform, watch him seduce the audience and throw himself completely into his songs, you can't help but realize the plea "Let Me Entertain You" is more than just a song title for Williams. You can't help but like him.

And, showman that he is, he does entertain. "If there's a song you want to go and have a dance to, then I've got it," he says. "If you want to be sad, I've got a song you can be sad to. I've got songs you can feel indifferent to." And songs you can sing along to, songs you can feel pissed off to and songs you can drink to. From the cynical, jangly pop of "Millennium," William's first U.S. single, to the simple, heart-felt ballad "Angels" to the in-your-face swagger of "Karma Killer," there's a little something for everyone.

So, Robbie, any final words for the States before you cross the water?

"See you soon."

Say hello to Robbie Williams, America. He's been expecting you.

By Jessica Lyons, Assistant Editor

 

SUMMER TURNTABLE

Get ready music fans, because baseball and BBQ aren't the only things cookin' this summer. Check out hot summer releases from these artists.

Luscious Jackson, Air, KRS-One, Rage Against the Machine, Flaming Lips, Nine Inch Nails, Bush, No Doubt, Geri Halliwell, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Wallflowers, Puff Daddy, Megadeth, Cibo Matto, Chemical Brothers, Stone Temple Pilots, Too Short, Pantera, Breeders, Steely Dan, Eryka Badu, G. Love and Special Sauce, Rza, Cappadonna, Limp Bizkit, All 4 One, Luna, Perry Farrell, Jamiroquai and Future Pilot.

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