Ghostface Killah has been onstage with 10 guys before. They’re called the Wu-Tang Clan. This weekend, though, fans of the New York rapper will get a look at him fronting a much different group, the LA-based Roots Rhythm Allstars, a crack 10-piece ensemble specializing in, according to bandleader/percussionist Davey Chegwidden, “rootsy-type dance music, music that’s been around for a while—Latin, dancehall, Afrobeat—with a modern, dance-floor-friendly spin on it. We’ve got a full horn section, a full percussion section, guitars, one guy plays steel-pan. We don’t use many samples; we try to create everything live.”
The Allstars, professional sidemen who began playing together in a weekly Santa Monica jam session eight years ago, have become the go-to group for rappers looking for live instrumentation, backing Rakim, Redman, De La Soul and Talib Kweli, among others in recent months. “They show up looking at us like, ‘Who are these guys?’” Chegwidden says. “It’s fun to earn their respect. The MCs really respond to us onstage, ’cause they’re used to playing with a DJ where the energy doesn’t shift quite as much as with a live band.”
As for working with the famously eccentric Ghostface, Chegwidden rates the experience wholly positive. “He’s into pushing boundaries. We’ll jam in soundcheck and do all these weird types of music, like a Latin jam, and he’ll be like, ‘That’s cool,’” Chegwidden says. “He’s super-cool and mellow, yet super-pro and focused at the same time.”
Roots Rhythm Allstars > Sunday, 2 p.m., Double Down Stage.