I’m guessing most of you have never heard of The Roots. They’re one of the best bands ever to make music, formed originally in 1987 by two high school students at the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts. Today they’re the Grammy-winning house band—ranked #7 of the best 25 hip-hop groups of all time by about.com—for Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show, their follow-up to six years as his house band on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon and one of the main reasons that Fallon kept The Tonight Show in New York. If you have no interest in the intersection of popular music and popular culture, i.e., a late night talk show with Jimmy Fallon, ignore the following clip. If, however, you’d like to see what all the fuss is about, the completely G-rated clip is 2 minutes and 45 seconds.
Why on earth am I writing about The Roots on a Mormon blog? I see the gospel everywhere, and yes, even in The Roots. One of my all-time favorite songs is their The Seed 2.0, and when they say “seed,” they mean exactly the same thing we do when we talk about Abraham’s seed. That’s the first hint that there’s something bigger here than a cultural divide of language, fashion, and worldview.
In brief, the song is about a man who wants a child, a legacy, a continuation of his seed, that “the world gonna know [his] name.” His partner is on birth control so he goes behind her back to make a baby with another woman and sings surprisingly touchingly about his “baby girl” that’s about “to drop.”
I’m not going to link to the song because even though I give it a PG-13 rating, it’s so far outside the wheelhouse of most of the people I know who read this blog. The point isn’t to shock or upset anyone. Anyone reading this is smart enough to find the video on YouTube if they want. I will say that it has only one unmistakable curse word, and not even the worst one at that, and some phraseology that the powers that be find coarse enough to bleep. I personally don’t see why. It’s coarse, yes, but it isn’t profane, and from the culture within which it’s expressed, it’s actually kind of poetic.
I’ve listened to my share of rap and hip-hop back in the day, and the attitudes and lyrics about women leave a lot to be desired. This song is almost respectful by those standards but is still hardly in the vein of a virtuous woman whose price is far above rubies (Proverbs 31:10) or Joseph running from Potiphar’s wife to maintain his loyalty to his employer (Genesis 39:7-8). But if that’s all you’re looking for, you’ll miss the fascinating reverberation of the biblical commandment to multiply and replenish the earth. We can all agree on that one, can’t we?
Truth is truth is truth, no matter where you find it. One of my greatest pleasures in life is searching and finding truths that resonate from wildly different corners of the world. The Lord’s commandments track our divine design: we’re commanded to be fruitful and multiply and built into us is the overwhelming drive to do so. Some of us, let’s say Mormons, believe we are following the Lord’s prescribed way of doing it, and some of us, let’s say The Roots, go about it in about the most opposite way from us possible. What I love about this song—besides the beat, the vibe, and the incredible musical talent—is it’s honoring of the universal drive to procreate, in this case expressed in very Black (African-American if you prefer) urban language and ethos.
It might be going out on a limb to say so, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Lord worked in such mysterious ways that he finds specific messengers to deliver custom-crafted messages about universal commandments to all of his beloved children. The commandments are what they are. We are all divinely designed to fulfill those commandments. The Lord is creative if nothing else. And I think we would all agree he has a sense of humor. Maybe he is skillful enough to leverage phenomenal, eclectic musical talent as well.
P.S. What the heck. Here’s a clean version of the song.