The Roots' Questlove on Oprah, Jimmy Fallon, and Twenty Years in the Game

In the words of the movie Mean Girls, "That's why her hair is so big -- it's full of secrets." And when it comes to The Roots' Questlove, we bet that 'fro could tell some stories. After 20 years in the game, a Grammy, and a whole bunch of albums with The Roots (AKA the reigning house band for Late Night With Jimmy Fallon), the man has been there, done that.

So when Crossfade got the chance to sit down with him last week after the band's Hennessy Artistry Tour gig at the Ice Palace, we seized the opportunity opportunity to pick the 'fro (um, brain?) of one of the greatest men in music.

New Times: You have been in the game for a quite a long time. Does it feel that way?

Questlove: I have been in the game for eons. Because we are constantly active, it doesn't feel that way. It's a little disheartening when you realize 1996 wasn't four years ago. Geeze, 2001 wasn't four years ago.

You mention the "good ole hip-hop days" a lot. Have the shifts in the industry changed your outlook on that generation at all?

The only way I can put it in perspective, is the way I see the classic hip-hop era. We talk passionately about '88 to '94, which is that era. We put in some parallel perspective. It would be like if someone only talked about '62 and the British Invasion. We try not to focus on that path too much. We try to hang on with all our might. But you can only take from that era and I think we have the aesthetics. You don't have to hang on to history too much.

You have collaborated with almost everyone. Is there one type of music you like the most?

I love all forms of music. Literally all forms.

You recently got together with John Legend to work on a song for the documentary Waiting For Superman. How did that come to be?

They knew were making an entire album together, and John suggested we do something for the movie.

Did the movie inspire you to get involved or was the song just a perfect fit?

That movie made us wants to do something. We were on the campaign trail with Barack and initially it was a much more small-scale project with a couple of songs. But when the label got excited for it, then The Roots and John are doing an whole album together. And John suggested the song for the movie. It all just fell into place.

You got to perform the song on Oprah. That had to be exciting. I mean, it's Oprah!

Being on Oprah was great. It was crazy to see the stage being taken down. It's a really large compound. The studio was under close watch so nothing gets out about the final season. No phone, iPads, computers, nothing was allowed inside. The whole experience went by really fast.

So Late Night With Jimmy Fallon is killing in the ratings. Congrats.

Thanks. I think the Emmys helped. We're beating Kimmel and a few others on CBS.

You guys are great on that show. Was it a hard decision to take on the gig?

It was a pros and cons list. And the pro was we could be home a lot more because we used to tour 200 days a year. It was fine when you were 20 and just out of school. Or 30 with a newborn, when your kids are understanding that you're going be gone for four weeks. We wanted to be home.

So The Roots wont be leaving the show anytime soon?

Oh, no. Definitely not. We love it there.

-- Stacey Russell

KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Miami New Times staff