Happy Chaka Khan-ukkah: A Loopy Post-Dentist Interview With Questlove

As we all prepare for the end of the garbage year that was 2016, the one thing keeping many of us going is the promise of a work-free holiday. But not Questlove. That's because Quest, real name Ahmir Khalib Thompson, has about 25 jobs. His CV reads a little something like this: drummer and joint frontman of the Roots, the in-house band for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon; author; DJ; music professor at New York University; and journalist. The guy might never sleep, let alone relax with a cup of eggnog.

Luckily for Miamians, one of his many jobs will bring him to the Magic City December 31. Quest and his legendary band will take the Arsht Center stage for a two-hour musical journey of the songs we have known and loved since the early '90s.

New Times spoke with the busy man for an interview that was, well, nontraditional. Quest had come out of dental surgery moments earlier. Even though he was still, as he put it, “high as hell," and might have accidentally hung up in a post-anesthetic stupor, he dropped some truths about Donald Trump and Fallon and what to expect at the Arsht.

New Times: Quest, you don’t sound well.
Questlove: You must forgive me. I just got out of dental surgery. I got my wisdom teeth pulled. You might get some loopy answers.

Wisdom teeth? Are you sure you want to do this interview?
Sure, why not?

You and the boys are headed to the Magic City for New Year's Eve. Excited?
Miami and New Year's Eve just makes sense. The city is always one of our favorite stops. I mean, who doesn’t love Miami?

Today the high will be 80 degrees. How is New York City treating you?
I haven’t frozen to death just yet, mainly because I make an effort to spend most, if not all, of my time indoors. I am hibernating at Jimmy. I know I'll be in the sun soon enough.

What can fans expect from your show at the Adrienne Arsht Center? New music? The classics?
After 25 years, we always just try to give it our all. We will have two hours to see what out of our 120 to 125 songs we will give the fans. A little bit of this, a little bit of that. Our new stuff isn’t exactly ready for public consumption, so it will be all a collection of the songs that fans love the most. We hope.

You've said you are going in a new direction for the next album.
The main difference is that every album has been linear. No album has sounded like the one that came before it. This is the first time I am purposefully trying to steer the direction to the classic era of the 1999 Roots.

Almost three decades together is a long time. Do you ever get sick of one another?
It's my longest nonblood camaraderie. The secret to anyone staying together is two separate residences. Requiring two tour buses has legitimately kept us together over the years. I know couples that live in separate residences, and they are some of the happiest folks I know.

Getting away from music, you are not a man to hold back. Let's talk Trump.
I am not talking about him. I can't give him any more energy. Not sober or right now as I am high as hell from the dentist. Because if I was to do so, it wouldn't be good.

Any hope for the next four years?
A majority of the country is quite [perplexed] right now. I certainly am. I am a Democrat, and we are certainly divided amongst ourselves. We should use these four years to come together and hear each other's concerns. That's important.

You will have Jimmy Fallon to make you laugh. Has there been a guest of the show you were really excited about?
It's weird, because we are on our seventh year, and we kind of know everybody. If I am excited about somebody, it's because of the legacy of it all. When Phil Collins came on the show, we were pretty much beside ourselves. I grew up on his music, and he did us the honor of playing “In the Air Tonight” with him. It was legendary. Pretty much everybody and their mother has been on the show, but it’s like magic when someone you love comes on.

Childish Gambino was recently on, and you have been talking a lot about him in the media. It seems you’re a big fan.
He's extremely ahead of his time. I have been a fan of his since the start of Community. Once he told me he was on 30 Rock simply to write for Tracy Morgan, I became an instant fan. Chris Rock and I were talking the other day, and he said, “Donald Glover [Childish Gambino's real name] is out of my league now.” I laughed, but he was like, “No, I am serious. He is the new Will Smith.” Community and now Atlanta. Plus his new album is incredible. You can't relate that album to anything else out there right now. He's the new triple threat.

While we are on music, you recently tweeted your disappointment of the Grammy noms.
I didn't turn in my nominations. I just didn't do it. It wasn't a protest or anything of that nature; I just forgot. It was one of those things that you work, work, work, work, and then the nominations come out, and you realize you didn't vote. I was hoping for Solange to get a lot of nominations, and she didn't. Looking at the nominations, it looks like a lot of people did not. Maybe people were just sick of voting after this year.

This year has been pretty terrible. Anything you’re looking forward to?
To having a happy Chaka Khan-ukkah.

Thanks, bye. [Hangs up.]

The Roots
8 p.m. Saturday, December 31, at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 305-949-6722; Tickets cost $50 to $575.