The Roots drummer Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson is deeply embedded in hip-hop. With that said, Questo shared the stories behind the albums that defined him in the latest issue of New York Magazine. The excerpts were taking out of his upcoming book, Mo’ Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove, which is set to release on June 18. Read some excerpts from the piece to find out why Ice Cube’s first album upped the ante for other artists, why it was diffcult to keep Prince records in his parent’s house, how Stevie Wonder speaks to him, and many more.
Whenever I hear "Seasons," I'm right there all over again, with my sister walking home from Broad Street in Philadelphia. There is snow on the ground, and poster for Steve Martin's The Jerk, which is coming in Christmas.
I D.J.-ed for Janet three times, and she just shit when I put on "He Doesn't Know I'm Alive," which is one of the few songs from that record that didn't become a hit. I wanted to show her that she was important to me, that I remember when she sang "The Magic Is Working" on Different Strokes.
I bought this casette before I went to work. I wasn't allowed to have my Walkman on when I cooked fries, so I kept sneaking to the freezer to hear "Show 'Em Whatcha Got.'" It enlarged me. "I'm going on lunch break," I said, but I knew I was never going back.
Here was an album making art of my dad's soft rock and yacht rock and my sister's mainstream junior-high-school rock albums. It's when I realized I wanted to make records.
It was difficult to keep Prince records as my parents became more religious. One Saturday, the radio was on, and I realized they were about to play the sexy part in "Lady Cab Driver," so I ran to the kitchen and shattered a bowl. When we got back, Prince was on to the guitar solo.
I cut church to hear this in my boy's car. Every song knocked me out: "Pease Porridge," "Let, Let Me In," "Ring Ring Ring (Ha Ha Hey)." Sitting there, I told myself to cherish that magical moment, because there was no guarantee that I would ever know when it felt like that again.
A highly unexpected sucker punch. When I heard the tremolo effect on "4 Better or 4 Worse," I knew that we needed a Fender Rhodes. That's kind of how Scott Storch got into the group.
There have been plenty of classic records. But these were the end of the innocence, and they came at such a great moment for me. [My bassist] Hub and I were freezing in a van with a gospel group that we didn't particularly like. Our minds were back in Philly and New York, wondering if we were going to sign a record deal or not. When we got word that the record deal was coming through, we just quit. We left them high and dry, no drummer, no bass player. When the band picked me up in the van the next day to drive to New York and sign our contract, they had both cassettes. It was the greatest day ever.