The Roots crew continues bringing dope content to the masses via their Two One Five Entertainment production company. On Monday, May 25, The Root and The Bridge, executive produced by Tina Farris and Suede, launched #TheRootsAfricaDay.
The event was a 24-hour livestream celebration of Africa and the diaspora, featuring a DJ set with DJ Soupa Model (Nigeria), Poison Ivy the DJ (Kenya), Batida (Angola), Questlove (of course) and others. Supermodel, activist and philanthropist Naomi Campbell kicked off the event. ESSENCE hosted a Facebook watch party with a peek into the experience.
One of the highlights of #TheRootsAfricaDay was “The Bridge: A Discussion in the Diaspora” co-hosted by Tina Farris and Black Thought. They interviewed Tobe Nwigwe (Nigerian American), Mereba (Ethiopian American), Bobi Wine (Uganda) and Nasty C (South Africa), four heavy-hitting lyrists who use their music and platforms to move the culture forward.
Farris, the legendary tour manager for The Roots, Lauryn Hill, The Internet, Solange, D’Angelo and others, and Thought asked the artists to share their origin, artistry, musical influence and identity stories.
Singer-songwriter Mereba, whose father is Ethiopian and mother is African American (from Milwaukee), lived in Ethiopia for a year. She said the experience was “life-changing” and some people expected her have an air of American arrogance. But she couldn’t imagine bringing a superiority complex with her. “I had been waiting for this moment my whole life. I’m completely respectful of where I come from,” Mereba said, “[Ethiopians] admire when someone wants to come home and learn about where we come from and wants to stay connected.”
Uganda pop star Bobi Wine graduated from being the guy who sang about “booty, cars and wine” to using his voice for speak for the downtrodden. Wine, who is now respected by the elders in his community, is also a member of Parliament and he’s survived an assassination attempt.
Wine told the hosts that he sees himself as more than a politician. “I don’t like to call myself a politician because I’m not, I’m a freedom fighter and musical activist,” said Wine, who is influenced by Fela Kuti, Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X. “I use my music to speak and represent the people, especially the common people.”
But like many of the icons he looks up to, he’s facing opposition from his country’s status quo. Wine’s music is “abolished” in Uganda. President Yoweri Museveni doesn’t like his music and he is not allowed to perform.
There are some light-hearted moments too, like when Thought recalls passing Nwigwe, the rapper known for “making purpose popular,” the mic at recent Roots Picnic. Thought said he hopped on the mic with flip flops and merkked it. “I was just trying to the show the OGs that I could fight too,” Nwigwe said laughing.
Watch the entire interview here.