John Legend and The Roots
Bringing John Legend and The Roots together is an inspired pairing, so logical that it's a little surprising they haven't teamed up before. John Legend is a six-time Grammy winner whose three albums have all hit Number One on the Billboard R&B charts, and who has collaborated with such artists as Kanye West, Jay-Z, Alicia Keys, and the Black Eyed Peas. The Roots — currently visible nightly as the stupendously versatile house band on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon — have released nine acclaimed studio albums (including the recent How I Got Over) and redefined the relationship between live instruments and hip-hop. Though the Roots were rising stars in Philadelphia when Legend was attending the University of Pennsylvania, the only time they have worked together was for one song on Al Green's 2008 album Lay It Down, which Thompson produced.
"[Wake Up!] was conceived in the heat of the summer of 2008," says John Legend, "in the middle of a passionate election campaign that represented change and hope, and awakened a new generation of activists who had never been inspired before."
Faced with this moment of thrilling possibility, R&B singer Legend and hip-hop band The Roots felt a need to enter the action. "Our initial idea was to make something that was the cool, hip soundtrack to that spirit, that sense of restlessness and optimism," says Legend. A planned single became an EP, which turned into a full album project that's been given the appropriately fiery title Wake Up!