The Roots, a group that has managed to thrive at the heart of hip-hop while freely satirizing its stupidities, is riding the kind of high, narrow ridge that protest groups of the ’60s traversed after gaining major media access. Sure, the band plays to a huge TV audience every night on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” notoriety that earned it a Saturday-night spot at this year’s Monterey Jazz Festival, not to mention three consecutive concerts next week at the Showbox.
But when the band ushered in right-wing presidential candidate Michele Bachmann by playing a Fishbone song with a profanely uncomplimentary title, The Roots were told they would henceforth have to clear their playlist with management.
‘Twas ever thus.
That slap on the wrist hasn’t made Roots drummer Questlove any less loquacious. In a recent Instagram post, he “urged and challenged” artists of all stripes to speak out about the deaths in Ferguson and Staten Island, calling for “new Dylans and new Public Enemys.”
Perhaps by next week, The Roots themselves will have answered their leader’s plea. But even if they haven’t, they can draw from a deep catalog of social critiques they’ve made already — and you can bet they’ll have a damn good time doing it, too.
8 p.m. Sunday-Monday, (Dec. 28-29, 2014) at the Showbox, 1426 First Ave., Seattle; $65-$75 (888-929-7849 or showboxonline.com). Sunday-afternoon show sold out.