By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia’s famed Mural Arts Program today dedicated a new mural to the world’s most famous (and homegrown) hip-hop band.
Members of The Roots were all smiles today as they were officially etched into Philadelphia history at Broad and South Streets.
The mural, titled “Legendary,” towers six stories high and stretches 60 feet wide. The colorful collage includes various Roots album covers and musical performances, and includes all the members from the band’s ever-evolving roster.
“This is unlike any other mural I’ve ever seen in Philly,” said Ahmir (“Questlove”) Thompson. He and his band members almost seemed larger than life as their towering mural loomed as a backdrop. “I’m going to have to come back when I have time and study it. I never really bask in my achievements, but I’m basking in this! It means a lot.”
Mural artist Ernel Martinez, of Amber Art & Design, says the creation of the massive painting took his team a year and a half to complete. He says they worked in collaboration with Mural Arts and The Roots management.
“We were trying to capture the energy of The Roots — the energy, the creativity,” Martinez told KYW Newsradio. “It’s inspired by graffiti and contemporary art.”
The mural includes images of vinyl albums, cassettes, boom boxes and other items that influenced the band’s music and shaped its sound. It also includes some of the group’s trademark fashions such as BlackThought’s cap and Questlove’s afro and pick.
“I’m really honored,” said Tariq (“Black Thought”) Trotter. He too saw the mural for the first time just a few moments before the dedication.
And Trotter thinks the location is perfect.
“Questlove and I met and formed out band within walking distance from here,” he said. “We used to play on the street just walking distance from here. It really hits close to home to have a mural dedicated here.”
Mayor Michael Nutter called The Roots “the world’s house band.”
“There’s no other band like The Roots,” Nutter said today. “It all started with two guys from South Philly at Creative and Performance Arts High School. You never know what our young people can do unless you invest in them.”
Jane Golden, head of the Mural Arts Program, says her organization continues to focus on art education.
“We serve 2,000 young people every year,” she said. “The kids studied a special curriculum called Roots 101 and learned how to think big and bold and how to make their mark.”
And make their mark they did. Trotter says he hopes that everyone who views the mural, which sits on one of the outside walls of the World Communications Charter School, sees the possibility that it represents.
“I think it sends a message to all who see it about the power of the arts and arts education,” says Trotter. “Without arts and music programs — things that are being cut from the school budget right now — The Roots wouldn’t be.”