This Is What You Missed At This Year’s Roots Picnic

It’s always sunny in Philadelphia when hometown heroes, The Legendary Roots Crew, return for their annual picnic at the Festival Pier on Penn’s Landing.

The 10th anniversary celebration of this much-anticipated Philly tradition did not disappoint hardcore fans, many of whom traveled from cities like New York and Washington D.C. to partake in the festivities. The earlier rain showers moved along and the clear skies invited everyone to join together in peace, love, and amazing music.

The line-up was a diverse collection of both revered hip-hop legends and up-and-coming rap superstars, and this year, it seemed like the organizers really understood the importance of flow and cadence in making a music festival successful. With three stages of entertainment, a brand new gamer station, panel conversations, and several food trucks repping the best in Philly food culture, it was hard to feel like there was nothing to do.

The assortment of artists made for a truly eclectic musical experience, and while my friends and I occasionally looked at each other quizzically, wondering who and what exactly was happening, it was clear that the younger folks were amped and excited to see their favs—as the youth often say, it was “lit!”

Local artist PNB Rock, named one of Rolling Stone’s 10 new artists we need to watch in 2016, came out early enough to set the tone and kick the festival into high gear. His high-energy set kept his incredibly loyal fans in the crowd moving and rapping every word with him. The DJ sets really turned the crowd up with popular turntablists DJ Spinna and Pete Rock taking us back and keeping us old heads bopping. Lil Wayne may have canceled, disappointing long-time fans like me, but Pharrell rounding out the show with The Roots filled the void and masterfully closed out the show. When Black Thought joined J. Period, Scott Storch, Mobb Deep and Fat Joe for a collaborative set, the festival pivoted into an iconic realm — we leaned back, got all the way up, and found ourselves shook by the staggering talent on the stage.

Aniyah Miller, a 27-year-old first-timer who came to see A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie and Jeezy, said she really enjoyed the festival and looked forward to coming back next year. Veteran festival-goer Damon Turner, 39, has been attending the picnic almost every year since it began.  

“I was born [in Philly] and this is how we represent here. A lot of people sleep on us, but our city is the best for concerts like this. I’ve been to most of these and this gotta be the best yet,” he said. 

Of the 20 acts that took the stage, only four were women, which was admittedly disappointing. Unfortunately, this is an ongoing festival trend; we haven’t really seen women adequately represented at these events since the Lilith Fair festivals of the 1990s.

Philadelphia’s DJ Diamond Kuts did hold her own among the male DJs on the Oasis stage, while Chicago’s Noname and New Zealand’s Kimbra kept the crowds moving on the North and South stages.

Solange Knowles was the only female headliner for the festival, and of course she brought the house down performing hits from her revolutionary tome, A Seat at the Table, on a gorgeously futuristic set. My hope is that the organizers try to book more women and more queer artists at future picnics to better represent the majority of the patrons of such concerts.

If you’re looking for authentic hip-hop cultural representation, trend-setting fashion looks and ideas, delicious food from a truly foodie city, and a full-day of celebrating the influence of The Roots and the impact they’ve had on the culture, this is the place to be.