“I got fat Def Jams like Russell Simmons”
The Roots were a fairly new group in 1994. They had self-released their debut album “Organix” a year earlier and were selling it by hand to fans as they toured locally and internationally. This is a familiar story for many aspiring artists, but the difference is that The Roots had already built up a strong fanbase locally in Philadelphia and thanks to “Organix” that buzz was quickly gaining momentum. Their combination of live instruments and traditional hip-hop aesthetics gave them a fresh sound that attracted ears, and at least two of those ears belonged to somebody at Geffen Records. A record deal and a promotional EP titled “From the Ground Up” followed.
For a dedicated Roots fan this EP quickly became a sought after item thanks to the success of “Do You Want More?!!!??!” I was one such fan in 1995, one who was eagerly buying every single they dropped on vinyl, listening to the CD on repeat on my Discman, and inquiring of my fellow DJ Ron if he knew any way to cop their obscure releases. “Organix” was fairly easy to acquire but “From the Ground Up” was far more elusive. It seemed that Geffen had only issued the EP to the European market, perhaps to promote the fact the group was touring there at the time, although the evidence to support that idea is anecdotal at best. Coincidentally or not though the EP has a song called “Worldwide (London Groove)” featuring UK artists, so maybe there’s some truth to it.
These days if you want a physical copy of the EP it’s not just hard to find but straight up cost-prohibitive. While you can get it via digital distribution for under seven dollars (not counting tax) a compact disc could easily cost you ten times as much. As a self-described hardcore Roots fan I’m going to straight up tell you it’s not worth it. Wait, what? Hear me out. It’s not just that the album is cheaper digitally, because I’m not recommending going that route either. Four of the six songs on this EP are already available on “Do You Want More?!!!??!” including the first single “Distortion to Static,” so unless you REALLY need “It’s Comin'” and “Worldwide” it’s unnecessary duplication of songs that are far more easily available elsewhere.
That’s in no way a reflection of the quality of what’s found on “From the Ground Up.” In fact the fact that four of the six songs here made their way onto their first full length LP for Geffen Records (including the title track) is proof that their jams were already Smuckers. There’s nothing weak about this entry in The Roots’ discography, but you could acquire the two songs you don’t already have digitally if you’re a big fan or stream them on the service of your choice. I’ve even embedded both songs above and unless somebody at Google pulls the plug on YouTube or the record label takes the songs down, they’re available for free in perpetuity. “From the Ground Up” is great, but don’t pay $70 for it, that’s all I’m saying.