9 Best Moments From 2024 Roots Picnic: Jill Scott, Shaboozey, Gunna & More (2024)

From Lil Wayne to Babyface and beyond, here are the best moments from this year's festival.

Despite spotty showers and an often unrelenting sun, Philly didn’t let anything kill its vibe at the 2024 Roots Picnic, which took place June 1-2.

Nas, Jill Scott and Lil Wayne — alongside The Roots, Trombone Shorty and PJ Morton — headlined this year’s festival, which took place at The Mann in Fairmount Park in Philadelphia, Pa. Other notable performers included Method Man and Redman with J. Period, Adam Blackstone with Fantasia and Tasha Cobbs-Leonard, Robert Glasper with Yebba, Sexyy Red, Babyface, October London, Smino, the Go-Go Backyard Band with Scarface and Amerie, Wale, Marsha Ambrosius, Funk Flex, Leon Thomas, Kenya Vaun, Q, BLK Odyssy, Shaboozey, André 3000 and more.

Held across two separate stages — as well as the Centennial Stage, which hosted live podcasts, DJ sets and other curated experiential media activations — Roots Picnic celebrated countless facets of Black culture across music, food, liquor, art, double dutch and more. Among the most frequented brand activations was Grand Marnier — who hosted Billboard at the festival — which had a footprint where attendees and talent alike could find a beach-esque reprieve with various co*cktails made with Grand Marnier cognac and Espolòn tequila.

Partnering with 2024 Roots Picnic is just the latest iteration of Grand Marnier’s relationship with hip-hop. On April 29, the cognac brand teamed up with Billboard 200 chart-topper 2 Chainz for The Rouge Room, a digital content series celebrating the power and utility of collaboration. And on Nov. 14, 2023, Grand Marnier joined forces with UNWRP for a unique holiday wrapping paper inspired by Billboard’s tee*zo Touchdown.

2024 Roots Picnic largely went off without a hitch, save for Cam’Ron standing up attendees who came for his scheduled set, and notable delays on the main stage during the festival’s second day. From André 3000 enrapturing fans with selections from his ambient jazz album New Blue Sun to fans nearly tearing each other to shreds over Method Man’s sweaty T-shirt, there was rarely a dull moment at this year’s Roots Picnic. Even still, the presence of consummate contemporary performers such as Victoria Monét and Tyla — both of whom pulled out of performing due to health issues — was sorely missed.

The festival took big swings with its lineup — the transition from Babyface to Gunna was particularly disorienting for some attendees — but those risks resulted in one of the most heartfelt dedications to the breadth of Black music in 2024 so far. Nearly every sound of the diaspora was present in one way or another during the two-day festival, the perfect way to bring in Black Music Month.

Here are the nine best moments of this year’s Roots Picnic.

  • The-Dream Returns to the Solo Spotlight

    The-Dream may still be basking in the glow of Beyoncé‘s Billboard 200-topping Cowboy Carter — on which he contributed to a third of the album’s 27 tracks — but on day one of the 2024 Roots Picnic, he focused exclusively on his own recording catalog. From hits such as “Falsetto” and “I Luv Your Girl” to deep cuts including “Fast Car” and “Purple Kisses,” The-Dream didn’t even need the monster hits he’s penned for other artists to prove that he’s the king of contemporary R&B.

  • Shaboozey Shines on Main Stage

    The second day of the 2024 Roots Picnic (June 2) began notably behind schedule, but if anyone could quell those concerns and put on a good show, it’s Shaboozey! Fresh off the release of his highly anticipated third studio album, Where I’ve Been, Isn’t Where I’m Going, country music’s hottest new star ripped through a concise selection of tracks across his catalog.

    Boozey kicked things off with his verse on Beyoncé’s “Spaghettii,” setting the stage for a whirlwind journey through the Wild West that also included renditions of “Horses & Hellcats,” “Beverly Hills” and, of course, his Billboard Hot 100 smash “A Bar Song (Tipsy).” The J-Kwon-interpolating country hit drew excited reactions from the audience while also functioning as a reflection of the constant buzz of energy that comes with seizing your moment — as Boozey knows so well.

    In fact, Shaboozey performed “A Bar Song” twice, completely losing himself in the song’s irresistible melody as he flung his body around onstage while parading a handle of Jack Daniels that he incorporated into both the journey home and his onstage theatrics.

  • J. Period Live Mixtape Hosts Hip-Hop Greats & Local Stars

    J. Period’s innovative live mixtape performance series has been one of hip-hop’s greatest gifts in recent years, and the 2024 Roots Picnic was no different. Headlined by Redman and Method Man, J. Period’s set exalted classic hip-hop. Redman delighted audiences with flawless renditions of “Time 4 Sum Aksion” and “Da Goodness,” while Method Man tore through a bevy of tracks, including “Bring the Pain” and “M.E.T.H.O.D. Man.”

    In typical hip-hop fashion, J. Period’s live mixtape featured ample room for collaboration. Black Thought spit several hot verses — including one over A$AP Ferg‘s “Plain Jane” — while Common and Freeway were among the several other rappers who made exciting surprise appearances. Between Common playing some new Pete Rock-assisted joints to Freeway revealing that June 1 was the first annual Philadelphia Freeway Day, the live mixtape was a priceless opportunity to honor a few of hip-hop’s elder statesmen and celebrate their respective legacies.

    Perhaps the most impressive part of J. Period’s set was the sheer physicality and stamina these rappers showcased during their performances of two-decade-old classics. Every bar was rapped completely live without them expecting the audience to do the work for them, and, in the case of Method Man and Redman, while executing some tight, light choreography.

    Doing their part to pay it forward and shine a light on the rising generation of Philly emcees, Black Thought, Redman and Method Man ceded the floor to several young rappers, including Bri Steves, whose nimble flow won over a few instant fans in the audience. The Roots emcee also invited Harlem’s very own A$AP Ferg, who debuted an introspective new song after taking a bit of time to express his gratitude and appreciation for Black Thought as both a musician and an elder in the game.

  • Lil Wayne & The Roots Bring the Big Easy to Philly

    It’s Lil Wayne rapping his classics with Questlove on the drums and Black Thought hopping in for assists. Does it really get much better than that? Well, maybe the moment could have been improved with less of Wayne slurring his words as he moved from song to song. He also ominously thanked the audience after each track, giving a (very) false impression that he’d be leaving after each song finished.

    Regardless, the YMCMB maestro played a healthy chunk of his biggest hits — including “Lollipop,” “Uproar” and “I’m Goin In” — while still finding time to share the stage with his fellow NOLA natives. Trombone Shorty led a marching band through the crowd to commence the set, immediately jolting the packed audience with a dose of second line energy. R&B crooners PJ Morton and Lloyd both took the stage as well, each embodying a different shade of R&B music aesthetics. PJ’s saccharine cover of “How Deep Is Your Love” embodied the genre’s sweetness, while Lloyd’s impassioned rendition of “You” captured its sultrier side.

  • Smino Holds It Down for St. Louis

    Smino has always been on the cusp of his mainstream breakout moment, but life on the edge of the bubble is doing him very well. Existing just left-of-mainstream allows him the freedom to put on authentic, transformative shows without having to buy into his own mythology or unpredictable, constantly evolving trends.

    Rocking an oversized hot pink matching set, fuzzy green and black slides, and a variation on the space buns hairstyle, Smino’s knack for sleek self-curation helped deliver a look that was coherent with the energy of his stage show. He’s boisterous, he’s charismatic and he’s flirtatious; each of those characterizations also connects to the way Smino approaches music. His idiosyncratic rap-sung cadence effortlessly morphed between both delivery styles, never sacrificing diction or pitch no matter how quickly a verse needed to be spit. From “Wild Irish Roses” to “Rice & Gravy” and “No Ls,” Smino had the whole crowd rocking by the end of his set — even those who were clearly only there to scout out the best view for Sexyy Red later in the night.

  • Philly Crowns Jill Scott Homecoming Queen

    The freakier parts of some Jill Scott live performances are the segments that tend to go viral, but they’re far from the only impressive moments in a Jilly from Philly set. Yes, the Grammy-winning neo-soul icon oozed sex appeal as she conjured up a majestic world through her endlessly malleable voice and ethereal plant-laden stage design.

    Jill’s honeyed vocals were the indisputable centerpiece of her set. It were as if her voice carried its own center of gravity with the way it rang out across Fairmount Park and enraptured such a sprawling crowd. For a little under an hour on June 1, Jill Scott was a Greek siren come to life. Even when she adopted a more rap-sung quality to her delivery for classics such as “A Long Walk” — whose live arrangement shined in a set with several meticulously crafted re-works — or “You Got Me,” the allure of Jill’s voice could not be denied. It should also be noted, that she used her voice to throw some support behind Kendrick Lamar, mixing Metro Boomin’s “Like That” beat into her rendition of “Gettin’ In the Way.”

    Of course, Jilly wouldn’t be repping North Philly if she didn’t spit a few bars of her own — and she did exactly that, bringing along fellow North Philly native Tierra Whack. The two stars debuted a new song called “Norf Philly” that found them both spitting two hard-hitting verses each. She may be known for vocal masterclasses such as “He Loves Me” — during which she began to clock people leaving her set early to avoid traffic — but don’t forget that Jilly from Philly got you with a hot 16 whenever you need it.

  • Adam Blackstone, Fantasia & Tasha Cobbs-Leonard Turn Roots Picnic Into Church

    Imagine going to Roots Picnic on the first Sunday of Black Music Month and not expecting to get some church in some capacity. Rookie mistake!

    Emmy winner and Grammy and Tony nominee Adam Blackstone turned out the main stage both on his own and with some help from his friends. Flaunting his skills on the upright bass, bass guitar and vocals, Blackstone embodied the most powerful and priceless bits of experiencing live music. His sonic approach melded gospel, jazz, soul and hip-hop, which eventually culminated in a rousing retention of “A Lovely Day” that closed out the solo portion of his set.

    Blackstone used his sanctified version of the Bill Withers classic to bring two-time Grammy-winning gospel superstar Tasha Cobbs-Leonard to the stage. The vocal powerhouse blessed the crowd with three of her biggest praise and worship songs: “Burdens Down,” “Break Every Chain” and “Put a Praise On It.” The Spirit was certainly moving through her set, and Cobbs-Leonard happily played usher.

    The Color Purple star Fantasia made her appearance shortly after Cobbs-Leonard exited the stage. The award-winning singer-actress sailed through her classics “Free Yourself” and “When I See U,” as well as deep cuts such as “Win Again” and Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary.” Between jokingly starting a hip-gyrating competition with random audience members to cultivating insanely natural chemistry with Blackstone as a fellow onstage performer, Fantasia once again stirred up the hype for her forthcoming new studio albums.

  • Sexyy Red for President

    Her MAGA-inspired stage design and patriotic wardrobe will (rightfully) garner much critique and controversy, but there’s no denying that Sexyy Red owned 2024 Roots Picnic. If any artist was booked for the wrong stage, it was Sexyy.

    Her hit-laden set included renditions of “Looking for the Hoes,” “Bow Bow Bow (F My Baby Dad),” “Pound Town,” “SkeeYee,” “Get It Sexyy,” “Hellcats SRTs” and “Shake Yo Dreads,” while her staging introduced four incredibly flexible dancers knows as The Sexettz, most prominently seen during “U My Everything.” With more concerted choreography and a greater emphasis on uniformity and tidy formations, Sexyy elevated her stage show to match her stardom without sacrificing her authenticity or comfort.

    Sexyy’s crowd — easily the loudest and the largest of the festival’s opening day — searched for every nook and cranny in the venue to get a glimpse of her, underscoring just how deeply this young lady resonates with such a large group of people. It’s that connection that will make Sexyy’s set go down in Roots Picnic history; she entered a space that didn’t initially give her the warmest welcome with her head held high and left with some of the festival’s best word of mouth once the dust settled.

  • Babyface Is (Still) King

    At 66 years old, the breadth and success of Babyface’s catalog are almost impossible to wrap your head around, as are his physical and vocal stamina — both of which left audiences in awe after his pitch-perfect Roots Picnic set.

    The 12-time Grammy winner kicked things off with some of his hit singles, including “Whip Appeal,” “Never Keeping Secrets” and “Soon As I Get Home.” Smooth and suave as ever, Babyface had nearly every audience member in the palm of his hand from the minute he struck his first pose in a black bedazzled sports jacket. Although Face nimbly made his way from one end of the stage to another and effortlessly showcased how natural of an entertainer he is, the other components of his staging also helped his set stand out as one of the strongest of the entire festival. His backup singers helped create some crunchy harmonies and handle a few of the more strenuous vocal parts, while his mobile instrumentalists often joined those backup singers in executing simple boy band-esque choreography.

    By the time Face reached the portion of the show where he performed a supersized medley of songs he’d written and produced for other acts, that choreography evolved into Bobby Brown’s most iconic moves. Of course, one of the most prolific and successful songwriters in music history couldn’t belt his entire catalog, but Babyface did manage to squeeze in hits from Tevin Campbell (“Can We Talk”), Toni Braxton (“Another Sad Love Song,” “You’re Makin’ Me High,” “Love Shoulda Brought You Home”), Johnny Gill (“My, My, My”), Bobby Brown (“Don’t Be Cruel”), Usher and Monica (“Slow Jam”), The Deele (“Two Occasions”), Boyz II Men (“I’ll Make Love to You” and “End of the Road”) and Whitney Houston (“Exhale”).

    With a discography that quite literally bridges generations and a swagger that is simply timeless, Babyface put on the best show at the 2024 Roots Picnic.

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9 Best Moments From 2024 Roots Picnic: Jill Scott, Shaboozey, Gunna & More (2024)


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