The Roots street sign is already up at South and Passyunk, surprising Questlove

“Hell of a way to find out,” the Tonight Show drummer said. “Wow.”

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Mark Henninger / Imagic Digital
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Philadelphia government may never have gotten anything done this quickly before.

A stretch of East Passyunk just below South Street is being dedicated as “Avenue of The Roots” in honor of the famed Philadelphia hip hop group. A resolution to add the honorific was introduced Thursday in City Council by Councilmember Mark Squilla — and by Friday morning, the little red street sign was already installed.

Roots frontman Questlove seemed extremely surprised by the news, in a good way.

“….does this mean WHAT I THINK IT MEANS!!!???!!!???” the drummer, author and food expert posted on Instagram. “[H]ell of a way to find out!!!! WOW!!!!!”

The person behind the idea to create the dedicated street in the first place, Leroy McCarthy, was also amazed to hear the signage was already in place, he told Billy Penn.

“It is surprising to everyone that the street sign is up already,” McCarthy said. “[Questlove] is going to be shocked when he sees it.”

McCarthy, a Cheyney University grad who now lives in NYC, has made a hobby of getting streets renamed for famous rappers. His firm Heterodoxx Inc. is behind the creation of Brooklyn’s “Christopher Wallace Way” (for the Notorious B.I.G.) and Staten Island’s “Wu Tang Clan District.” He’s also working on a potential Tupac street in Oakland and “Beastie Boys Square” in Manhattan.

As for the Philly project, McCarthy said he’s been working with folks connected to The Roots since April 2019. He was aware Squilla was planning to announce the resolution this week, he said, but thought the sign would follow at a later date.

According to Squilla, the sped-up process was a sign of excitement. “This was not meant to be a surprise,” the city lawmaker wrote via email, “but the city was so excited about the Ave of the Roots they couldn’t wait to put the sign up.”

Spokesperson Anne Kelley offered a more mundane explanation: the sign was requested from the Streets Department before introducing the resolution because “it often takes several months to produce.” Also submitted at that time, she said, was the required petition from residents of the block, stating they do not oppose the name change.

The official dedication for the 600 block of Passyunk Avenue is slated to take place in May.

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Mark Henninger / Imagic Digital

That small strip of Queen Village has seen a lot of changes recently. A boutique hotel called The Queen, in the works for several years at the nearby corner of 5th and Bainbridge, finally opened in 2019. On Passyunk and Bainbridge, a parking lot has been cleared to make way for a new apartment complex with a Target on the ground floor.

The Roots, who are now the house band on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” got their start busking on the streets of Philadelphia. One of their favorite corners was South and Passyunk, the Council resolution notes, which is why that corner was selected for the renaming.

Other Philly streets named for local musicians include Patti LaBelle Way and Boyz II Men Boulevard.

“Philadelphia is still a land of music and arts and culture,” Squila said as he introduced the resolution, per PlanPhilly, “and the more we bring attention to it, the better we are.”

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