The Roots Want Off MCA Records

By | October 20, 2001 at 12:00 AM

The Grammy Award-winning rap outfit the Roots is reportedly at odds with its MCA Records label. The group and MCA president Jay Boberg aired their differences in a recent interview with entertainment writer Celine Wong. The group’s Black Thought (Tariq Trotter), who has been working on a solo set, shared his thoughts on the current label situation and his forthcoming album, “I know from experience, from being on Geffen and from being on MCA, that whatever I put out basically has to be self-sufficient. My album’s pretty much going to have to be able to sell itself, because it’s going to get a minimal push. At this point, I would rather just sever the whole relationship.”

According to the group’s members, their relationship with MCA has been strained since August 1988, when they delivered what would eventually become the Grammy Award-winning song, “You Got Me.” The original version of the song contained a chorus that was sung and penned by a then relatively unknown Philadelphia singer named Jill Scott. MCA Records, according to Black Thought, “strongly, strongly suggested” that the vocals be re-sung by Erykah Badu. Black Thought explained, “Erykah’s my people, but there’s no way she can even approximate Jill’s version, because Jill was the creator. The record as you know it still doesn’t compare to the original version with Jill singing.”

Group producer and drummer Ahmir Thompson shared his take on the situation, “It was sort of like the underlying threat of ‘We are not going to push this record to the hilt if you don’t have Erykah on it.’ I had to tell Jill Scott, ‘I’m a slave to my record company, and I don’t really have that much control.'” He added, “If we got dropped from MCA, I’d be a happy man. We’re just numb. I’m not in a rush to give them any of my work. They’ve just proven to me that they don’t care.”

The group was also apparently upset that rapper Eve, a fellow Philadelphian, wasn’t credited on “You Got Me” when she performed a rap on the song. In addition, the group was also taken aback when they were given only $100,000 to shoot the video for “Adrenaline” the first single from Things Fall Apart, when they had received $275,000 from Geffen to shoot their previous video, “What They Do.” The band was also not pleased that Boberg made the final call when it came to which singles would be released.

Boberg shared his take on the situation, “We’re responsible to how we run the business. We run the business like a business. In the sense that when you are making decisions, you’re making decisions in terms of a combination of your gut, in terms of what the upside market potential is for the music you’re selling, versus the costs that need to be invested to achieve that. I would refer to that as being practical and accountable and responsible.”

Boberg also explained the limited resources allocated to the “Adrenaline” video, “‘Adrenaline’ was meant to be a street set-up type of single. It was not the song that anybody, band or MCA, felt was going to be the song that was going to get on the radio or MTV play or any of those kind of things. It was to raise the visibility of the band and the credibility, re-engage with their core audience.”

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