Questlove Talks Jimmy Fallon, Erykah Badu and Roots Picnic
Roots drummer Questlove sat down with Billboard Thursday and discussed a variety subjects, from the history of his legendary band to the benefits of his gig with Jimmy Fallon, and the reason that Run D.M.C. won’t be playing the annual Roots Picnic this summer, as planned.
In the interview Quest explained that it was out of the ashes of ‘Chappelle’s Show’ that the Roots became the house band for ‘Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.’ Comedian Dave Chappelle’s former partner Neil Brennan brought up the possibility in a meeting with NBC, while the Roots were scrambling to figure out their next move.
“Before this television show, all we could imagine was maybe we could do a Vegas residency or Atlantic City,” Quest said. “The way this gig came up was really one of the craziest Mexican standoff, truth or dare occurrences that I’ve ever known of. It was so passive aggressive, it was ‘Yeah you know I got a talk show, uh, you guys should be the house band,’ ‘Ha, you’re funny,’ ‘You’re funny!’ ‘You serious?’ ‘You serious?’ It took a while before both parties put their guns down and were like ‘OK, we’re serious.”
The drummer/producer/band leader went on to describe working on the show as “half rock star, half white collar.” “On one side of the road — you’re still technically a rock star, but on the other foot, you gotta take meetings, you gotta sign contracts, Thursday’s meatloaf day in the cafeteria. You gotta take the required HR courses, you gotta learn your co-workers names. There’s bowling night and someone’s daughter’s selling Girl Scout cookies … So, it’s white collar and it’s rock star at the same time,” Quest explained.He also said that one of the greatest benefits of being on Fallon’s show has been discovering indie rock group the Dirty Projectors. “If it weren’t for this job, I probably wouldn’t have known about the Dirty Projectors. Out of all the musical acts that have come on the show, there have been some that have absolutely floored me, but I would put them definitely at the top of the pyramid. I’m very happy that I got to see them at the time that I seen them,” Quest said reverently. “I thought we rehearsed a lot — they put in hours to make what seems effortless. There are times when I watch them and I’m just like ‘shhh we’re not doing s—.'”
Weighing in on Erykah Badu‘s controversial ‘Window Seat‘ video, Quest revealed that Badu called him for reassurance, just before the shoot. “She was like ‘Ahmir, I’m so nervous right now, I can’t believe it’ and I was like ‘What are you talking about?’ She said ‘We’re shooting the ‘Window Seat’ video. This is the biggest risk I ever took in my life.’ So, automatically I’m like OK, biggest risk I ever took in my life, ‘What are you, gonna sit on the airplane nude or something?’ She wouldn’t confirm it or deny it.”
Finally, Quest explained why Run D.M.C. will not be reuniting to perform at the Roots annual picnic in Philly this year, as scheduled, but perhaps something even more exciting is going on. “Originally Run D.M.C. were slated to reunite this year. They were gonna do a slew of Rock the Bells gigs and also our Roots picnic, but due to a last minute, 11th hour fallout I guess DMC has ixnayed the idea of them gettting back together. Instead, I’m actually more excited [about] what I call Wu-Karaoke. We’re gonna get our Wu-Karaoke on and Ghostface, Raekwon and Method Man are gonna join the Roots set. When we did the two nights at Radio City Music Hall they were supposed to do this with us and they weren’t able to come, so I feel like this is about five years overdue.”
The Roots are currently hard at work on their new album, which will feature John Legend and My Morning Jacket singer Jim James. The Roots Picnic takes place in Philadelphia on June 5, and also features the Clipse, Jay Electronica, Vampire Weekend, The Very Best, Mayer Hawthorne and more.
Check out the full interview here.