John Legend and The Roots Team Up for Wake Up!
Fri, 25 Jun 2010 09:57:00
R&B star John Legend and politically minded hip-hoppers The Roots are teaming up for Wake Up!, which is due out on September 21. The release is said to feature soulful music from the '60s and '70s, all with an underlying theme of awareness, engagement and consciousness. Who needs coffee when you have Legend and the Roots effectively telling you to wake up with their music, hence the title.
After being inspired by the recent historical Presidential election campaign of 2008, both Legend and The Roots felt a need to enter the action. What started as plans for a single quickly developed into a passionate album representing change, hope and activism— not only referencing one particular moment in time, but on a larger scale, holding true no matter what the political climate may be. The resulting album features eleven profoundly evocative songs infused with sounds of gospel, rock and reggae inflections with hip-hop influences. The album is highlighted by familiar tracks like "Wholly Holy" by Marvin Gaye and "Little Ghetto Boy" by Donny Hathaway mixed with the more obscure selections of Baby Huey and the Babysitters' "Hard Times," and "Hang on in There" by Mike James Kirkland. So if you dig the new school mixed with the old, then Wake Up! will most certainly be in heavy rotation on your listening device of choice this fall.
"These songs sound so relevant now," Legend said in a statement. "On most of them, you wouldn't change a lyric. ‘Wake Up Everybody' (the album's first single, featuring contributions from Melanie Fiona and Common) has four verses—the first one is a general statement, the second is about education, third is about health care, and the fourth is about making a better environment. No editing needed."
"When these songs were written, people were more spiritually in tune," said Roots drummer/musical director Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson in the same statement. "It was fresh from the civil rights era and there was a feeling of hope that maybe, yes, someday we will all be free. In 2010, not so much."
In addition to their renditions and mash ups, the album features one original composition, Legend's song "Shine," which is featured in Academy Award-winning director Davis Guggenheim's upcoming documentary film Waiting for Superman. The song, a "Stevie-Wonder-meets-gospel" stunner, clearly demonstrates the strengths of this specific group of musicians.
Visit JohnLegend.com for an exclusive look at John Legend & The Roots' live, studio performance of "Hard Times."
Are you interested in this release? Did you check out the live footage?