How the Roots Picnic became a Philadelphia tradition

How the Roots Picnic became a Philadelphia tradition
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Now in its 11th year, the Roots Picnic is an annual celebration of the Philly music tradition curated by Grammy Award-winning band The Roots. With sets featuring stars like 2Chainz and Brandy, the Roots Picnic has become a destination for music lovers and performers alike.

As a leading voice on black music over a decorated career in radio and television, media personality Dyana Williams has seen the Roots Picnic come a long way over its 10-year history.

“I’ve seen it grow substantially in terms of the sheer numbers, and also the quality of performers that The Roots attract,” says Williams. “It’s almost like every artist I know now wants to do the Roots Picnic. It’s become super cool to be on the bill for the Roots Picnic.”

For Williams, the universal appeal of The Roots plays an integral role in helping shape each star-studded Roots Picnic lineup.

“From my vantage point, the Roots Picnic is the culmination of centuries — not years — of musical excellence and it’s culminating with one of the best hip-hop bands in recorded or performance history: The Roots,” Williams said. “Because of their stature now, they’re on TV every night bringing us quality music with [late-night television host] Jimmy Fallon. All genres come through [‘The Tonight Show’], so Ahmir [‘Questlove’ Thompson] and Tariq [‘Black Thought’ Trotter] have tentacles out in the community. They know who’s rising and coming up and they know who’s at the top, so they tend to attract those people as a Live Nation urban event now.”

In addition to the sharp ear The Roots have in selecting talent, Williams is quick to point out one key element that separates the Roots Picnic from other summer music festivals.

“You have Bonnaroo, you have Coachella, and of course they’re a little different, but this is primarily — even though it’s multiracial, you see people of all colors, economic and social statues—but this is definitively a black thing,” Williams said. “Culturally, we’re the hot sauce, the flavor in all genres of music from my perspective and given the contributions that Philadelphia has made consistently since the beginning of this republic, black music has been front and center. The Roots are the inheritors of a long legacy of musical excellence in Philadelphia, and we are a music mecca.”

With festival attendees traveling from as far away as Europe and Asia, the Roots Picnic has international appeal and Williams is optimistic about the event’s future.

“It’s more than just feel-good music — it is also an economic entity that is contributing locally here in Philadelphia and attracting people from all over the world, so that’s significant as well. I believe it is a festival that will continue to grow in popularity and influence over the years.”

Three Philly Acts To Watch At The Roots Picnic

The Roots Picnic will have plenty of heavy hitters, but local talent will also take the stage. Here are three Philly acts to keep an eye on at the picnic:

-Lil’ Uzi Vert has risen to the ranks of hip-hop’s exciting young stars thanks to electric performances and infectious hits like “XO Tour Llife.”

-Newcomer Tierra Whack has captivated listeners with high-concept songs like the wordless “Mumbo Jumbo” and gained the support of experimental hip-hop producer and artist Flying Lotus.

-Temple alumna Bri Steves combines smooth R&B vocals with raspy raps and the result is songs that you’ll want to play on repeat at your cookouts all summer.

The Roots Picnic will take place June 2 at the Festival Pier at Penn’s Landing. Visit for more information.