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Roots, Mos Def Rap for Rhinos

De La Soul also join in on New York City benefit

June 29, 2005 12:00 AM ET

High-minded hip-hoppers the Roots and De La Soul teamed to support their horned friends in New York's Central Park on Tuesday night, headlining designer Marc Ecko's sold-out Save the Rhinos benefit concert. The event raised $150,000 to preserve the endangered animal.

"When you see an unhealthy rhino population in the world you're bound to see an unhealthy human population," Ecko told Rolling Stone of the event's inspiration. "The things that are going to affect us ten to twenty years down the line are happening now, and this is one little sliver of that."

After veteran hardcore collective the Boot Camp Clik and masked underground rapper MF Doom got the hot summer night started, De La Soul -- Posdnuos, Trugoy the Dove and Maseo on the turntables -- turned in a star-studded, career-spanning set, featuring everything from 1989's "Potholes in My Lawn" to last year's "Grind Date." During "Stakes Is High," fellow New Yorker Mos Def stormed the stage to join in. "This, this is why I'm here: hip-hop," he said, before making his surprise appearance.

The De La Soul party didn't end there, as Brand Nubian's Sadat X took the mike to perform his group's "Punks Jump Up to Get Beat Down," and Black Sheep got things jumping with his "The Choice Is Yours" and "Flavor of the Month."

With the crowd thoroughly riled up, the Roots opened their set by paying tribute to Ray Charles, launching into his "What I'd Say," before serving up their own favorites like "Proceed," "Step Into the Realm" and "Don't Say Nothin'." However, fans hoping to get a sneak peak of the Philly group's Game Theory album, due next winter, would not be so lucky.

"They'll have to wait to February," said drummer ?uestlove. "Fans who know the Roots know that we switch our steeze up every album."

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

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