Questlove Breaks Down Usher x The Roots' Historic 'Tonight Show' Collab
7 years ago when we were offered this chance to try something new on late night television i knew some cynics would head scratch. but we’ve made a career on being underestimated. from north philly cats laughing at a band of bohemes in osh gosh and birkenstocks to critics and fans trying to figure out what was on our minds when we made a particular album. but in the back of my mind i knew that not only would this new home of ours would soon be re-defined into a new level of cool never seen before by any other late night band. I’ve had and seen my share of amazing performances these past 7 years. but man the Usher performance of “Crash” in my opinion takes this up levels.
Usher called me and asked what ways have artists pushed envelopes when performing on the show. i thought about Earl Sweatshirt, Bobby Shmurda, Madonna & Macklemore & Ryan Lewis performing offsite. i thought about Stevie & Bruce & Prince & Sting giving scorching performances. —-my mind was rattling a mile a min when it hit me. why dont we treat these performances like music videos? so after going through a string of options i was thinking of envelope pushing directors and thought about the great Spike Jones. and thought “what would he do if he were the creative director of this Usher mission”—-
actually this is way before spike jones. let’s go to the 70s: practically ANY jackson 5 appearance on a variety or late night show always had some pre Michael Jordan gravity defying floating in air moment. it made them the black superfriends. they’d vertical leap like 5 feet off the ground and in slow motion further adding to the legend that the jacksons were magic. and as a 6 year old i ate it up. i wanted to create THAT moment on steroids. but in order to do so it meant that The Roots and Usher would have to perform “Crash” 3 times as fast so when slowed down it looks 3 times as slow and surreal.
first we performed “Crash” at regular speed to get a good audio performance. then we processed the audio and time compress it so that is sounds like it’s chipmunk fast. then we shot it at breakneck speed (only an artist of Usher’s caliber could nail this perfectly) —-2 takes! then viola! a performance of a song in real time but made to look like slow motion. historic late night first. can’t wait to push more envelopes.