Philly hip-hop emcee and producer Lushlife has led a secret life.
“As a kid, I led two secret lives: one as a hip-hop head, listening to A Tribe Called Quest, Nas and Black Moon; and another where I was knee-deep in '80s and '90s alternative rock like The Smiths and The Pixies,” said Lushlife, aka Raj Haldar, of South Philly.
Those pursuits formed the foundation for his innovative music. By merging divergent sounds, his songs veer from a Bacharach-ish melodic glossiness to a boom-boxy street rawness — seamlessly. He’s probably the only one who can get away with authentically name-checking New York City hip-hop icons M.O.P. and seminal punk rock originator Richard Hell in the same song, as he does in “Hale-Bopp was the Bedouins” from 2012's "Plateau Vision."
“These interests seemed so divergent to me at the time,” Lushlife says. “But now, that pedigree in the classic cannon of hip-hop and indie rock is what I think makes my records work. I hope my records sound fluently like a combination of those influences and more.”
Lushlife, whose work has been lauded by everyone from Pitchfork to The New York Times, is set to perform at the annual Roots Picnic, Saturday at the Festival Pier at Penn's Landing.
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Also on board at the Picnic this year is blues guitarist Gary Clark Jr., novelty rappers Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Beyonce's kid sis Solange, Canadian hip-hop chanteuse Grimes, and Naughty by Nature, who will be backed by the Roots.
The Roots have been standing especially tall for Philly music in recent years, thanks largely to their work on NBC's “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.” They’re already in Philly for the unveiling of their mural, designed and implemented by Amber Art and Design, at the World Communications Charter School at 512 S. Broad St.
The unveiling is a nice warmup to Picnic day.
“I'm super honored to have been asked to play [The Roots Picnic],” says Lushlife, who adds that he may be unveiling some new tracks himself during his set. “Black Thought is one of my favorite rappers of all time.”
There was some discord earlier this month among the Naughty by Nature crew, but that seems to be resolved now, at least according to a tweet from the group’s Vin Rock earlier this week: “June 1st will be historic! For the 1st time in 22yrs Naughty will rock a full set with a live band. Not just any live band its the World Famous Roots Crew.”
If you go
The Roots Picnic
with The Roots, Gary Clark, Jr., Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Grimes, Naughty by Nature (backed by the Roots), Araabmuzik, DJ Premier, Solange, Lushlife, Trinidad James, Gaslamp Killer, Hit-Boy, How To Dress Well, Joey Bada$$, Robert Glasper, Sonnymoon and Jennah Bell
Festival Pier at Penn's Landing
Columbus Blvd. and Spring Garden Street