Schools of Thought

The Roots, the Nonce and DJ Hurricane take hip hop to the next level

In praising the Roots' slamming DGC release, Do You Want More?!!!??!, the media has made an issue of the band's live instrumentation. But this practice is not new to hip hop; it was prevalent during the early '80s. The Sugarhill Gang had a backup house band, Zulu Nation godfather Afrika Bambaataa worked with bassist Bill Laswell and even Herbie Hancock managed to team up with legendary Grand Mixer D.ST on more than one occasion. With the advent of sampling, though, live musicianship gradually fell by the wayside, until bands like the Beastie Boys, the Goats and the Roots resurrected it.

"We thought we could take it to live instruments because we have some knowledge on how to make this record sonically appeal to the hip-hop listener," B.R.O.THER ? says. "This album is engineered so that it doesn't sound like [such] past efforts; it's very dirty and the playing is very tight. Half the people I talk to are still under the impression that we just played it live and then sampled ourselves."

No mere revivalists, the Roots experiment with a way-out musical menagerie while still maintaining a hardcore b-boy stance. "I'm down to stand out like a sore thumb," B.R.O.THER ? says. "Anything that people can say, 'He can't do that,' about, I'm gonna do. I'd really like to work with classical music and there's nothing that can stop us," he laughs. Hip-hop classical?

What does it matter, as long as it's dope-ass music? Remember, it may be old school, it may be new school, it may be true school or it may be next school, but when all is said and done, it's just hip hop.

DJ Hurricane opens for the Beastie Boys Wed, May 31, at the Oakland Coliseum, call (510) 762-BASS; the Roots and the Nonce play Wed, May 31, at the DNA Lounge in S.F., call 626-1409.

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