One of the Roots' early albums was titled Do You Want More?!!!??!, and the band's answer to that question is still yes, with just as many exclamation points (and maybe not so many question marks). But despite a career that has lasted more than a decade, the band is looking to shake things up. Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson, the Roots' drummer, says the group is considering calling its next album The Tipping Point, a reference to the Malcolm Gladwell book about the momentum of ideas, and to the fact that the band members are still seeking to take their career to that next level. "Our original fans are in their 30s," says Thompson. "Their little brothers or cousins are our new audience."
So the Roots are making some changes. The group plans to start recording a new album this month, for release next year. A guitarist, Kirk Douglas (nope, not that Kirk, and yes, he's heard the jokes), has been added to the core lineup--Thompson, vocalist Black Thought, keyboardist Kamal and bassist Hub. Another guitarist, Martin Luther (not that one either), will also play on some cuts.
The band, which has combined rock and rap on past releases, hopes to pioneer a more sophisticated blend of the genres. Says Thompson: "[The Rolling Stones'] Exile on Main St. is my blueprint." The plan is to invite other musicians--John Mayer, Macy Gray and Nas are on the wish list--to drop by for jam sessions out of which, they trust, songs will emerge. The Roots' Philadelphia studio has even been tricked out with a whole bunch of amenities so the band can play host to longer, later jam sessions. "We definitely want a darker, murkier texture," says Thompson. We'll know next year how well it works out. --By Christopher John Farley