This isn’t the first time that the Roots have been "been mired in some sort of label battle," according to Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson. First it was MCA and Geffen, and now it’s Def Jam that is giving the seminal hip hop outfit grief. This time around, it seems that it is indifference that the Roots are facing from their label. "At a time, it was safe to be the Roots," said ?uestlove, "now as each album goes by, the risk of annihilation becomes closer and closer. That’s why this album is almost our defining moment."
And it’s not as if the Roots haven’t tried to please Def Jam executives. They offered up their attempt at a radio single, "Birthday Girl," with Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump. The staff loved the track it was ultimately scrapped from the U.S. version of new album, "Rising Down."
Island Def Jam chairman Antonio "L.A." Reid had no comment ("He has no idea that ‘Birthday Girl’ isn’t even on the album") and label marketing director, Erica Holley views things this way: "the luxury we have with the Roots is that they already have an established fan base. Marketing opportunities like Jon Stewart come to us." So look forward to an appearance with Chrisette Michele and rapper Wale on "Late Show With David Letterman" April 28 and a spot on Nickelodeon’s "Gabba Gabba" on May 26.
Despite missing out on a big crossover hit, ?uestove has no regrets:
"If someone asked me, ‘Do you want to release two albums and sell over 2 million copies, or do you want a 20-year career but none of your records will sell over 500,000 units?,’ that’s a tough question. But, looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing."
The Roots begin a 22-date North American tour with Erykah Badu on May 4. While on tour, ?uestlove will hold listening sessions of "Rising Down" in each city to promote, "Rising Down." [Reuters]