According to recent reports, The Roots are “off to a rough start” at Def Jam, the label they signed with after leaving Geffen. Apparently, the band’s decision to record “Birthday Girl” – a godawful collaboration with Fall Out Boy’s “Patrick Stump” that was dropped from their upcoming album after a poor reception from fans – was motivated by a desire to please Def Jam executives itching for a radio single.
Indeed, despite a critically-acclaimed career that has spanned more than a decade, The Roots have never quite broken through to pop superstardom. In fact, none of their albums have gone platinum, although 1999’s Things Fall Apart came close with 906,000 units sold to date. According to Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson, the group’s drummer, their inability to achieve lasting mainstream success is becoming more of an issue as time wears on: “at a time, it was safe to be The Roots … now as each album goes by, the risk of annihilation becomes closer and closer. That’s why this album [Rising Down] is almost our defining moment.”
Although more than likely an attempt to stir up interest in the new album (“buy Rising Down or we’ll breakup!”), ?uestlove’s comments nevertheless reveal that even the most well respected, artistically principled groups suffer from anxiety about their success.
For more, check out Exclaim! Magazine’s with ?uestlove here.