Questlove Talks J Dilla, Offbeat Drumming, & His Work on D'Angelo's 'Black Messiah'
Questlove went deep with J-Zone.
The premiere episode of J-Zone’s new Red Bull Radio show Give the Drummer Some made its debut on Tuesday (February 5th). For the first episode, J-Zone sat down with Questlove of The Roots, for a super deep conversation about technique.
Quest covered a lot in an hour span of time. He talked about his early days, first linking with Black Thought, the origins of offbeat drumming, the first time his mind was blown away by J Dilla, and more. The most interesting part — and the part that took up the most time — was Quest talking about his work with D’Angelo.
After mentioning that he had the opportunity to work on Brown Sugar, Quest went in deep on the making of Voodoo and the Black Messiah album, which dropped 14 years later.
During this interview he talked about the making of “Charade,” a song he made out of jealousy after hearing “Sugar Daddy” for the first time:
So he’s playing me “Sugar Daddy,” and in my head man, I’m like, “Yo, I’m not gonna be on the funk centerpiece of this record.” I feel some sort of way, like I’m gonna be in the trunk of the car. So in my mind I said, “OK, don’t have a heart attack, think like Quincy Jones.” And Quincy Jones says, you love “Billie Jean,” but “Billie Jean” sounds way better with “Beat It” coming before it, and “Human Nature” coming afterwards. What song do I want to create, that comes before “Sugar Daddy?”
And it was 2 AM, and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is on, and I could see Carlton, and I said to myself, “What song can I do to make motherfuckers want to do the Carlton dance?” I want to figure out how to get black people to do that preppy Carlton dance, and that be the song before we get to “Sugar Daddy.”
Quest, in great detail, talked about the opening moments of “Charade:”
I’m gonna tune this stuff real low, so I’m turning the snare off, and now I’m turning my snare into a tom. In my head I’m trying to get scientific. And it’s weird, like our rhythm, our chemistry together, usually by three minutes, I’ll have a groove. But it was like I was trying to force this on him, and I felt like our friendship was on the line here, because we’re looking at each other, and I’m like playing this beat, and I’m trying to sell him this beat in a way I’ve never done before.
After some slight adjustments, D’Angelo started vibing to the beat…and there you have it: “Charade.” Quest would go on to say that “Voodoo is the more iconic album” but “Black Messiah is where I had a lot of fun not being me.”
The interview is great. There’s a lot of insider game here. Check it out below.
— Questlove (In E flat) (@questlove) February 6, 2019
— Red Bull Music Academy (@RBMA) February 8, 2019