The Roots Picnic is returning for its 11th year on June 2nd in the band's Philadelphia hometown, and once again the headlining jam is shaping up to be a big moment. Dave Chappelle will be joining The Roots this year as the top-billed headliner alongside special guests, with Philly-born MC Lil Uzi Vert along with Dirty Projectors, The Diplomats, 2 Chainz, 6LACK, dvsn and Brandy filling out the top spots on the lineup. The meticulously-curated event, set to be held on Philadelphia's Festival Pier, will also include a podcast stage, a lifestyle stage complete with live Madden and NBA 2K video game tournaments, and a series panels.
Black Thought and J. Period's live mixtape will also return to the main stage, this year with Fabolous and Jadakiss as the featured guests, and DJ Drama will be presenting a surprise-filled Gangsta Grillz-centered set as well. Rapsody, Goldlink, Kid Capri and more round out the musical lineup. Check out the full lineup, and a release video featuring Desus & Mero, below.
“It’s always a challenge every year to curate the lineup for the Picnic,” The Roots' Questlove and Black Thought told Billboard in a joint statement. “We are especially excited this year to bring the jam session hosted by our good friend Dave Chappelle to Philly this year. We have done jam sessions with Dave many times over the past decade, most recently at Radio City Music Hall, but never in the festival environment. We love that we are able to bring this great experience to our hometown Philly.”
Last year, for the Picnic's 10th anniversary, Pharrell was the top-billed guest for The Roots' headlining jam session; Usher, D'Angelo and the Wu-Tang Clan have all filled the role in past Picnics, too. This year, according to longtime Roots manager and Live Nation Urban president Shawn Gee, the booking approach was slightly different.
“We started by thinking about the overall experience that we wanted the ticket buyer to have, the diversity experiences we wanted to provide, we thought about the way people are consuming music, information, and culture and we attempted to mirror those consumption patterns,” Gee told Billboard, referencing the podcast and live-gaming stages. “We see so many homogenous lineups across all the festivals in the U.S. that we try to be creative and a little different where we can. We don’t have the budgets that some the juggernaut festivals have, but in some ways our lack budget forces us to be creative and it’s that creativity that produces fresh ideas and unique collaborations.”
Once again, the band was personally involved in the selection the artists and installations, and Gee said that suggestions and ideas come from all over: BadBadNotGood, for instance, is the group's lawyer's favorite band; while singer/songwriter Jojo Abot was brought to their attention by Women's March on Washington producer (and the crew's friend) Ginny Suss. Gee also played a role in putting together The Diplomats' latest reunion show, alongside Spotify's Rap Car, in New York City last November.
But sometimes, decisions are made based on recommendations from out left field — or closer to home. “We also listen to the kids… Literally,” Gee said. “The idea for the gaming stage last year came from my 13-year-old video-game playing son.”