After making the leap to Def Jam, Philadelphia hip-hop band The Roots continue to struggle at the label.
In a recent Billboard article, Roots drummer Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson details the disconnect between the group and Island Def Jam chairman L.A. Reid.
"He has no idea that 'Birthday Girl' isn't even on the album," Thompson told Billboard. "They don't know we shot the 'Rising Down' video. They just know they approved an (electronic press kit) budget."
Originally slated to be their radio-friendly single, "Birthday Girl," which features Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy, was praised by the staff at Def Jam, but after the song was poorly received by fans, The Roots opted to leave it off the U.S. version of their upcoming album Rising Down.
In over ten years of recording, the group has yet to go platinum. Their highest selling album, 1999's Things Fall Apart moved 906,000 units, while their first outing on Def Jam, 2006's Game Theory fell far short of that number, selling just 204,000 copies, according to the Nielsen SoundScan.
"At a time, it was safe to be the Roots," Thompson told Billboard. "Now as each album goes by, the risk of annihilation becomes closer and closer. That's why this album is almost our defining moment."
The album opens and closes with snippets from a 1994 conversation the group held regarding their unhappiness at MCA. Thompson told Billboard the drops were included to show their current struggles at Def Jam aren't the first time The Roots have "been mired in some sort of label battle."
L.A. Reid has not commented on The Roots situation, but Def Jam marketing director Erica Holley told Billboard that promotional initiatives for Rising Down are in full swing.
Despite The Roots' long history of label struggles and faltering sales, Thompson says he's satisfied with his career.
"If someone asked me, 'Do you want to release two albums and sell over 2 million copies, or do you want a 20-year career but none of your records will sell over 500,000 units?,' that's a tough question. But, looking back, I wouldn't change a thing."
MTS Centre, Winnipeg - May 26, 2008
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