What can be said about The Roots that hasn’t already been said? Everyone knows they are the go to band for rappers wanting to experiment with live instrumentation. Need we remind you of their performances with Jay-Z for his Unplugged show in 2001 and his Fade to Black concert film? The Philadelphia bred hip-hop musicians are posted behind Hov.
Though many know the drummer, Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson, for his wild afro, some might not know dude has a serious record collection. Some might even venture to say he’s drifting into hoarding territory. The Urban Daily spoke with Questo yesterday where we discussed his support for Occupy Wall Street, the new Roots album, and why Black Thought should sing more often.
TUD: I’m excited to do this interview because if there was any musician’s music collection I would want to raid, it would be yours. I feel like you have every record known to man. Your apartment must be full of records.
QL: My library is just so overwhelming that a lot of people would love to raid my music collection. I have some property in Philadelphia and one of the main criteria for moving out of that house was I was always running out of space. Plus, when Q-Tip had a fire back in ’97, that scared me. I thought about getting another house for my records. One of the setbacks of having an apartment in Manhattan is I’m far away from my record collection. A little bit at a time I’m sneaking records to my apartment and I find myself getting back into dangerous territory.
That’s not really dangerous territory. It’s just a lot.
You don’t know me, bro. Guests that are frequent are like, “Okay, this used to be where the dining room table was.” Now, it’s become a turntable station.
See, that sounds like a good time to me. I love places like that.
Yeah, I love it too. That’s not sexy when your girl comes over though.
That’s true. I hear The Roots are working on an exclusive track for the upcoming Captain Morgan ‘Life Love and Loot’ campaign. How did you guys link up?
They approached us about doing music for the campaign and the thing was having been familiar with the visual campaign, the challenge was to make the song match the visual. When you think of pirates and the sea, the normal Roots backdrop of music isn’t necessarily what comes to mind. They told us we could take the liberty to make a song we wanted. The Roots wanted to make sure we stepped out of our comfort zone to fit the spirit of the campaign. The real challenge was having to make this song with only three instruments-a guitar, tuba, and a drum.
Did you guys come up with the track jam session style, like a lot of your records are known for?
Absolutely. We prepared for three days. We tried seven or eight different sketches of the song. Once we came up with the sketches, we played them for our Captain Morgan liaison and he decided he liked one over the others. Then, we went into the studio and fleshed it out. It took about eight takes to get it right.
Was is it a conscious decision to have Black Thought sing instead of rap on this song?
It wasn’t in the beginning, but because of the nature of the song, just to yell out the lyrics didn’t feel natural. Since he is a singer as well…it’s kind of hard for me to coax him to sing. I don’t know why he’s shy about it, but Black Thought sings as good as he raps. That’s always been a head scratcher for me as to why he won’t get his male Lauryn Hill on. I told him it would sound much more natural with him singing it as opposed to him rhyming it. He did both and the singing does have better energy than him not singing and that’s what we went with.
Will the Captain Morgan track be available for download?
Yes. It will be available for download on the Captain Morgan USA Facebook page. People can also see the making of it there. They can see some clips and photos of us recording it and jamming out.
When you heard about the whole ‘Life Love and Loot’ campaign, what did you take away from it? What did it mean to you?
We decided that the campaign is pretty much our thing. I guess that would make us pirates too. [laughs] We had to put ourselves in that position and define it for ourselves. If anything, we’ve been pirates too. We’re always on the road, always working to survive, and loving what we do. We’re also running a business. That’s what so many people tend to forget because we’re having so much fun doing what we do. We run a very tight business as well. But usually when we are given a set of perimeters, we just put ourselves in that position and see how it applies to us.
The Roots have a new album, undun, coming out soon. Does the sound d of this Captain Morgan track reflect the sound you’re working with on the album?
Nah. We finished our record at 4:30 this morning. It’s being mastered right now. We actually did this track at the same time we recorded our album and one of the advantages of doing this track was it provided us a relief because the sound of the album is very somber and serious. There really wasn’t a high adrenaline moment on the album. Doing this on the side kind of scratched that itch for us.
Besides being on Jimmy Fallon, the new album, and the song for the ‘Life Love and Loot’ campaign, what are you guys doing to stay busy?
That’s a big list you just gave right there. [laughs] I heard it myself and was like, “Whoa! When am I going to sleep?!” We’re really trying to focus on the album. Fallon is everyday so there’s no escaping that, but our priority is with the new album, undun.
The Roots have worked with a very wide range of artists. Who haven’t you worked with that you want to work with?
I’ll be honest with you. As far as the studio is concerned, John Legend and D’Angelo are the two artists under the age of 50 I enjoy working with. I enjoy working with Erykah Badu whenever she wants to collaborate. As of late, I’ve been having a ball doing these soul records. As soon as Al Green gives us the word, we’ll probably work on his next record. We just did Betty Wright’s record. Her album comes out in December also. It sounds incredible.
The Roots have always been more of a politically conscious band. What are your thoughts on the whole Occupy Wall Street movement?
Yeah, I’ve been down there a few times to support them. It’s taken 99% of the people long enough to finally wake up and see the power that they hold in their hands. A lot of people think revolution and change will be the next man’s fight. They want to hang back and see what happens and it doesn’t work that way. You’ve got to get your hands and knees inside the mud. You have to be apart of the change you want to see. We’ll see what happens because this is just the beginning.