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June 12, 2019

Questlove explains why The Roots won't reissue their second, third studio albums

A 2008 fire at a Universal Studios vault destroyed 500,000 artists' recordings, including some of the Philly band's master tapes with unreleased tracks

Music Fires
questlove Jasper Colt/USA TODAY NETWORK

Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson explained this week why The Roots won't reissue remastered editions of two of their earliest albums, 1995's 'Do You Want More?!!!??!' and 1996's 'Illadelph Halflife': A fire destroyed the original master recordings of the records. Questlove is shown above in a 2017 file photo.

Philly rap band The Roots exploded into the hip-hop mainstream in the mid-1990s with three well-received studio albums in a four-year span, starting with 1993's "Organix", followed by "Do You Want More?!!!??!" in 1995 and "Illadelph Halflife" in 1996.

Fans of the band who watched the middle of this decade come and go without 20th anniversary editions of the group's second and third albums may have been a bit confused.

Now, drummer and de facto group leader Questlove has given some context.

The New York Times published a feature story Tuesday about a little-known fire at the Universal Studios Hollywood backlot in 2008, which destroyed roughly 500,000 original masters of songs and videos, which one estimate valued around $150 million.

Questlove took to Twitter with a link to the Times' story with an initial message: "For everyone asking why Do You Want More & Illdelph Halflife wont get reissue treatment":

The master recording, for reference, is the original sound recording of a song. After the original recording, the sound quality of every subsequent recording of that song is at least incrementally degraded.

Questlove went on in further tweets below the link, explaining he had once hoped to release both albums with instrumental and a capella mixes on vinyl, along with mixing "the 8 or 9 songs that never made" the band's second studio album.


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"They sent someone to check out the vault log," Questlove explained, "and then it hit them: B-F & O-S artists took a hit the most. I think everything else was salvaged."

(Listed alphabetically, The Roots would fall in the "O-S" collection of artists.)

The band's seminal "Do You Want More?!!!??!", which was recorded at a number of studios across Philadelphia, was certified gold in 2015, one of the band's two albums to reach certified gold. Their 2013 album "Things Fall Apart" was certified platinum in 2013.


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