The Roots’ Questlove stays busier than ever from checking out exclusive Black Panther screenings to his nightly “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” spot and popular Pandora “Questlove Supreme” podcast. This week, the hip-hop drummer chopped it up with G.O.O.D. Music’s Common and talked about everything from Michael Jordan’s greatness to meeting J Dilla for the first time. Kick back and check out five of our fave moments! [Photo Credit Michael Baca/Pandora]
1. Chicago Is More Historic Than You Think
Yeah, I mean, well, Chicago is a very segregated city. Let me start there. And it was actually founded by a black man, a Haitian brother, by the name of Jean-Baptiste DuSable. Black culture has been there strong– all the depth of black culture meaning church, liquor stores, gang banging, black excellence, music, all that was– so for me, growing up, it was like I was around a affluent black– I was in a lower black middle-class neighborhood, but I was around affluent black people and also around dudes that was gang banging. That was part of the culture, but it also was like a black love movement, too. We had the Black P. Stones and the Black Panthers also existed, and they worked together at certain points. And then, we, at one point in the mid-80s, had our first black mayor. He was our Barack Obama. His name was Harold Washington, Mayor Harold Washington. So it gave our city a lot of pride to see a leader. In fact, at some point, I believe Barack Obama worked in some shape, form, or fashion on one of Harold Washington’s campaigns. But it just really gave me a foundation and a lot of black people growing up in Chicago, a foundation and a identity. We knew who we were. It was not all violence. There definitely was some violence there. And crazy enough, in the mid-90s the rates of murders were higher at that time than they are now but it’s just like a big highlight going on right now. And it is really tough right now because of the fact that you have a lot of innocent and young, people just walking, bystanders being killed and it didn’t seem like that was the situation then. But no matter what, we don’t want any of the violence but it’s also such a beautiful city. You’ve been there.
2. Michael Jordan Cemented Chi-Town’s Respect After His Rookie Season
Yeah. It was that rookie year that I really– because it was something electrifying about him, and we had never seen anybody hanging in the air. Enough respect to Dr J [laughter], but we hadn’t seen anybody hanging in the air the way Mike did, the flair. He brought a energy, and a flair, and an aura that we hadn’t seen in the NBA. And then they knew how to market it, too. I could remember watching his local commercials for Chevrolet and different things that he did, and I was like– he just became immediately one of our greatest heroes and people we looked up to. And in Chicago, but then it started translating across the NBA. So we knew after that first season, we knew. When he came out and started wearing his own Air Jordan gear, we were like, “Damn, this is incredible.” And Chicago, we just embraced it like, “This is our guy.” And you got to think. We had Oprah starting to come at that time too, so.
3. Common Fell In Love W/ East Coast Hip-Hop
Well, I mean it was honestly just us loving just anything that came out of New York, West coast, Philly. We were up on our– we were just seeking out hip hop because by the time, obviously, Afrika Bambaataa, and Grand Master Flash, and The Furious Five those early– by the time Run-DMC, it had us. Run-DMC, L.L., then Eric B. & Rakim came. So we were soaking up everything. Even when I listened to some of my first early– some of the earlier music I made, first albums, it was like I could hear the mixture of the influence of KRS to Ice Cube, NWA to Rakim. I could hear those influences because we were soaking it all in. So, yeah, that’s what hip hop– because Chicago had a real strong house music scene. So the people that were– the Chicago heroes as far as hip hop goes was more like DJs on the radio. It wasn’t really a lot of rap artists that put Chicago on the map. In fact, our first artist was Twister. They came out from Chicago.
4. The Beef W/ Westside Connection Had To Peacefully End
Yeah, well, it definitely– I mean, like I said, Mack 10 and all those guys are real guys from the West coast and I’ve got to respect that. And I know that they will take it there and, like I said, there was people on my side that also would defend me and I would defend myself, so it was, the tension– we weren’t mature enough to be like, “Yo, man. Let’s squash this ourselves.” It was like that– you know that young ego, like, “Man, you said this and that.” And so, it was– yo, Farrakhan had to squash it. People were dying, and that’s the point. We were like, “Man, we got into hip-hop to live. This is something we love to do.” And I’m not out here trying to destroy another human being, and so it’s like, “Man, we’ve got to squash this.” He had a meeting, it was us, Fat Joe, I think some of the Goodie Mob. It was a lot of just people from hip-hop and he was like, “Man, do y’all know this is like that Willie Lynch letter where you pit people against each other, East Coast and West Coast. Do you all own the land?” And he started breaking it down. “Do you own the land?” Like that whole theory of man, light skin versus dark skin. He started breaking it down. “Oh, you on this side, and this side.” It’s just like, man, don’t let the master– not that they were all masters, but don’t let them pit us against each other, is what the gist of it. All of us recognized that as like–
5. Q-Tip Is Largely Responsible For Connecting Common & J Dilla
Yeah. Okay, so first I met Dilla when I was out with De La Soul and they had some beats and Mase is like, “You got to check out Dilla.” No, actually I met him with Q-Tip when he did this vibe conference that Quincy Jones had and we left the conference and went to Q-Tip’s house. And at his house, Dilla was down fingering through these records and he was sitting there. He was really quiet. So I didn’t know Dilla’s like Detroit Hood Side to a certain degree because he was just a quiet dude and then Q-Tip started playing me all these beats that Dilla did, and I was like, “This dude is incredible.” So then I got a beat tape from him, and that’s when I was thinking about– I was on the road with De La, and I said, “Jay Dee, can we lay some stuff?” And he flew himself to Chicago and laid some beats for me. I worked on them, and this is in the process of me being– I think it was right after– that was before One Day It’ll All Make Sense. I never used the beats, but I think it was ’98. I went to Dilla’s house with you all, with the Roots while you all was going to do Illafifth Dynamite
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