This is one of the slickest performances I have ever seen on TV! Readers may remember my conflicted feelings on The Roots' new gig as house band for Jimmy Fallon: "will they be 'neutered' by NBC or will they manage to bring some of their signature flare to late night audiences?"
Which is precisely why this clip is so encouraging, not to mention hot in its own right. Last Tuesday, Public Enemy appeared on the show performing their infamous "Bring the Noise" with The Roots backing them, as well as the horn section of Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra. Apart from some slight sound problems (which you'll hear in the video), the joint lives up to just about everything it could. By the way, I tried to find the video without the Old Navy ad, but couldn't, so just ignore it.
As always, The Roots crew bring all their dynamic energy to the stage--an energy that's a perfect compliment to the twisted beats of Terminator X. Black Thought surprisingly delivers his verse with more ferocity than Chuck D! And hearing the tighter-than-tight brass of Antibalas handle that intense, punchy-Funk horn part verges on the jaw-dropping.
And when was the last time we heard someone say on network TV that "Farrakhan's a prophet who I think you oughta listen to?" Or "Rap is not afraid of you?" When was the last time we saw a group of Black militants like the S1W's striking poses that liken to the Black Panthers? This may be Late Night, but it's also the same network that banned Rage Against the Machine ten years ago for hanging the American flag upside down.
If NBC is planning to sap the Roots' vitality, they aren't doing a very good job. Just about the only thing that puts this at risk is Fallon himself, whose ineptitude as a host may indeed turn a significant moment in Hip-Hop history into little more than a blip on our screens.