MembersThe Roots' original lineup included Black Thought (MC vocals) and Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson (drums), who were classmates at the Philadelphia High School for Creative Performing Arts. As they began to play at school and on the streets, they added another MC named Malik B., a bassist named Leonard Hubbard, and a keyboardist Scott Storch. Another MC, Dice Raw, frequently made album appearances with the group from 1995 to 1999 before leaving to record a solo album. Scott Storch also left to pursue a solo career following the Do You Want More?!!!??! album. The Roots filled his void with another keyboardist, Kamal who is still a member. A beatboxer named Rahzel also joined the group and contributed from 1995-1999. Alongside Rahzel was vocal turntablist Scratch, who greatly contributed to The Roots' sound, most notably in live concerts. He left the group in 2003. Malik B. left the group in 2000 due to drug problems. A guitarist, Ben Kenney, enjoyed a short stint with the group and contributed to their Phrenology album, but left to join Incubus. A percussionist, Knuckles, was added in 2002 and guitarist, Kirk Douglas (a.k.a. "Captain Kirk") replaced Kenney. A vocalist, Martin Luther toured with The Roots in 2003 and 2004 and contributed to their Tipping Point album. The current members of The Roots are Black Thought (MC vocals), ?uestlove (drums), Hub (bass), Kamal (keyboard), Knuckles (percussion), and Captain Kirk (guitar).
Recording historyThe Roots' debut album, Organix, was actually a live recording from a concert in Germany that the Roots sold at their shows. The album earned enough industry buzz to earn the Roots offers from major record labels, and they signed with DGC records, which at the time was better known for its grunge music releases.
The Roots' first album for DGC, Do You Want More?!!!??! (recorded live without the use of samples), was a moderate hit on alternative radio. Their 1996 release Illadelph Halflife was the group's first album to crack the Top 40 on Billboard's album chart, spurred in part by MTV's airplay of the video for "What They Do," a parody of rap video clichés such as the "beatdown shot," and "Clones" which was their first to single to reach the top five on the rap charts.
In 1999, The Roots released Things Fall Apart (named after Things Fall Apart, a novel by Chinua Achebe), their breakthrough album. The track "You Got Me," duet with R&B singer Erykah Badu, earned them a Grammy award for Best Rap Performance By A Duo Or Group.
In 2000, Dice Raw left the group to record his solo debut album, Reclaiming the Dead (album)