Now Reading
Questlove Responds To Complex’s ‘The Roots 50 Best Songs’

Questlove Responds To Complex’s ‘The Roots 50 Best Songs’

Questlove defends hip-hop in Versus debate

Over the weekend Questlove responded to a post in Complex that covered a subject particularly close to home for the joint chief (and for us). The online version of Complex mag is well known for their ‘best’ lists and exhaustive pop culture histories but this time they focused the lens of their microscope on the The Roots‘ Top 50 jawns of all time. Never one to let a good music-nerd argument pass, even on less salient topics, our founder and The Roots’ bandleader and resident archivist Questlove felt it was his duty to chime in and give a most thorough breakdown of his catalogue–expressing gratitude for the recognition but also reviewing the reviewers a bit, maybe in the spirit of “interview yourself.” Questo not only gives the list a proper deconstruction, but also manages to reverse-engineer ‘plex’s Roots album ranking based on their list, pointing out their focus on lyricism and delivery as opposed to the arrangements themselves, which he was integrally involved with. Of course, everybody’s got their own favorites when rating albums from a group this prolific–as do we (very different from Complex’s, needless to say). But Questo’s opinion on the matter holds a bit more weight, in this case above all. So without further adieu, read the boss man’s response to Complex’s list below and hit us with your own top 50 jawns (if you’ve got them) in the comments section. 

nothing here you read will shock you and you heard it all before.
I’m pleased when people actually LISTEN to the music
instead of absorbing bits and pieces and doing the ol “imma give em a minute to move me and if the shit aint banging like “Push Up Your Lighta” then I’m skipping this shit.

i know few things for certain:

our album titles are undeniable (always hated hip hop album titles more than i hate hip hop monikers —-hence my desire to call myself “?” in the first place.

I’m proud of our album artwork (miffed NONE of our covers made any Best Cover lists on this site or peoples general list)

and i know for sure that when all is said and done (like 2060something when I’m dead and gone) then we can truly breakdown and dissect the material.

cause lets face it.

this site was born post BOOM Bap and its inhabitants are also post boom bap. add on pushing 40 for a majority then you really are seeing and experiencing life in the eyes of TFA’s lead character Okonkwo (especially in this gentrified landscape of hip hop we live in now)

so that said i really do see OKPs as degrees of that warrior

hell bent on tradition (boom bap)
distrustful of missionaries (hip hop in the last 15 years?)
and your place in it—-do you conform? do you not budge? do you commit suicide and just say “fuck it” I’m out?

lots of questions:

there will be no pleasing those who can’t get past our work from 1999.

i mean i get it: you don’t think i was giving Stevie the same pitch i been giving him since I’ve known him about POSSSSSIBLY doing a return to forum album in which the texture is the texture that makes ME comfortable?

i mean am i sorta right?

or sorta an asshole?

prince has specific reasons why he will never go back to 78-88

which on the grand scale of things is a little one mans heaven (his fanbase being enlightened) being another mans hell (all he says is “it was a dark period”)—so who am i to ask another man to revisit his own hell for my pleasure?

i mean I’m not equating the roots situation to other people, because its not that complex.—-ha ha pun!—most ask ‘dammit, the sandwiches y’all make and leaked and do on Fallon still shows that “y’all got it!!!!!!” why can’t y’all do the sandwiches as an album?

—i mean that is a longer story than what I’m willing to get into right now (its 1am)

—look lemme get to a point

I’m proud of my work.

despite the perception i put PAINSTAKING scrutiny in EVERYTHING that bares this groups name.

that’s what i want acknowledged.

i mean i been struggling with being a first class springsteen fan (i wanna know and love those songs everytime he invites us to see him perform—-its not sticking to me as natural as say someone putting me on to the Beatles for the first time or maybe even Marley…..but i do respect the work even though its hard to get into.

thats the endgame I’m going for.

the jazzy era
the boom bap era
the neo soul era
the experimental era
the political era
the dark era
the spiritual era

i want people to see the bigger picture.

which i guess won’t even start to take shape until ALOT of time has passed.

I’ve been living with Roots stuff for the past 3 months since Rich has died trying to figure out how to be the bus driver of my own bus.

I’m living with a Roots album like every two weeks ONLY listening to that particular album for 14 days and over analyzing everything about it.

i have to say that —sorta stepping OUT of the circle and looking at it. im kinda geeked that some of the material is really playing nice and timeless as the years go on. which is REALLY the sign of great albums.—well the kind i gravitate to (did i mention I’m an expert record collector? so I’m kinda a know it all about great albums?)—-more than anything i don’t wanna cringe 20 years down the line when i hear some shit back. say what you want about to newer stuff, but from game theory on you really can’t *date* the material.

like illadelph’s “no alibi” still bangs and holds up nice as does “no great pretender”

a song like “mellow my man” in my opinion wears its heart on is sleeve and might be a tad bit too ernest (especially for “dat skat”)—i mean CLEARLY those mofos were made in 1993—not saying “good or bad” but i think in terms of REEEEEEACH.

most people create in terms of “NOW”—like what is banging right NOW (I’m certain Beyonce will cringe at “Diva”‘s shameless “Milli” caboosing in decades to come

so—yeah think in terms of a pair of Levis a white t, a black blazer and a pair of chucks or maybe air force ones.

or a tux.

two looks that will NEVER ever die or seem dated.

See Also
Teenager Lakeith Smith Sentenced To 65 Years For Death Of Friend Killed By Cop

that’s what I’m going for in music.

so its odd to see a song like the non single “clock with no hands” get a really good gander. and analyzed properly (i love it for whole nother reasons, mostly my favorite Dilla beat nod tribute at the end)—-but it all leads to does it hold up years later? my opinion? absolutely.

shortlist thoughts

i do not think “what they do” is our best song.
i do think it was our funniest video.
one day i will reveal the true story behind it when I’m in like my 80s lol.
“Star” is my second favorite Roots opener
and i feel my best beat flip ever….but it took 2 years for me to forgive Rich for fucking with my ending w/o telling me (i destroyed a hotel room when i heard the final copy, the REAL version is my version on Homegrown slightly faster and perfectly edited, without telling me he slowed it down and because he is NOT a musician didn’t segue the transition onbeat. THIS is why The Tipping Point is stillborn to me. i was given a few songs to “shine” (i do the “Artsy” contributions so Iovine wanted “less tricks” and “more songs” which meant “beats” and “rhymes” and “hook” please.) anywho. yeah i consider “Star” one of our best so I’m pleased.
of course “you got me” was gonna make it. lemme find out scott sold us Sade’s “No Ordinary Love”
not mad at “The Seed” at all. the shit works. it aint boom bap. but i know for a fact it made Jagger lose some sleep. *drops mic*
i do not agree with his opinion of “adrenaline” beans OWNS that song. that verse caused such a ruckus: initially Dice was last and Beans was third (hence “beans pass the mic”)—Dice was so mad at me for “pulling a rich” and last minuting a unauthorized move—but i felt like cats would feel like he got sonned if he went AFTER, so i masted 2 versions of the album, and rich and riq agreed with me. dice felt like i took his “Busta.Scenario” moment away from him lol
-we destroyed the first fallon hard drive with the music of “the day” so what you are hearing is a bad 128 cd speed 8 bar loop of us on the first day of rehearsal on the fallon set (the soundguy was getting our levels) song is a feel good. shocked it got props.
the optimism and feeling of dec 24th 1993 trumps the actual results, so when i think “mellow my man” i think of the day we recorded it (our first song as major label signees—when i recorded it i had 15k in my back pocket and another 5k on the floor tom—as we JUST got our advance the night before i was living DuMb back then. —-it was also the first song we mixed so meeting Bob Power for the first time and hearing that tin-y demo burst into the final mix was magic. all the free food (credit card city) and car services and meeting natural resources (s/o to jean “what what” gray) and laughing at tariq mock brooklyn “yo what happen kid?” adaptation, not to mention my grand gesture of meeting then fronting on a michael archer who ran by the studio to pick a final mix cassette of a song called “shit damn motherfucker” from bob (“you two should work together” he said….”psssh nah” what i thought)—i mean the song is cute and all but the memories do it for me.
-i can’t thank “joe tarsia” enough for helping me figure out the trick to make my snare sound like Dilla’s program *he put a blanket ontop and said hit lightest you ever did.
-btw the high hat on “dynamite” is the Al Wilson snare you hear on Tribe’s “Busta’s Lament” tuned up high and on decay to make it sound like maracas.

-lol why do mofos love “Episodes” so much? i literally made it so that “Push Up Your Lighta” can sound better coming after it.—-like the art of making records is building albums. and so when some songs are made i think of its surrounding. and when we made that Sprite commercial and decided to make it a real song, i went home and for two weeks tried to figure out what song should come before it that would be a downer so that the sprite jawn can kick ass…….but man all these blogs and their roots lists ALWAYS have this song mentioned…..in my eyes? its the “baby be mine” of illadelph.

—same for “Rising Down” it was an afterthought track that i initially wanted that argument you hear at the into of the album to go over and then lead to “Rising Up” which i was campaigning to be “the opener” as opposed to the closer.

shocked “one time” made it. i love dice’s “bagpipes” line. his best opener since “leavin niggas missing in action like the dad’s in the projects”

i never knew we had artwork to “doin it” i heard ye was mad we jacked this like we did.

always thought “75” shoulda got way more props than it did when we made it.

shocked “about Rock You” i woulda traded it for “Water” personally.

love that “the otherside” made it….mad he didn’t give Porn his props.
y’all need to praise Porn’s verses more. dudes delivery and imagery AND WHAT HE SAYS? is SUPER ill. works in a supermarket by day…..bodies verses at night.

wow at the hated by okay player but loved by the black women of Steve Harvey University “break you off” making such a high entry. i did that beat flip at the end to make y’all forget the 3 mins before on the albums.

“criminal” is the biggest shock. i Love the hypnotic guitar loop. and kevin hanson’s demo singing stayed on there (i was supposed to sing on it but for some reason never got to it and then we caught demo itis

this list clearly demonstrates that the listener is going to lyrics and what is said (rarely mentions music arrangements

and I’m glad about that cause normally i overshadow tariqs presence in the group. so i love that he is getting props here.

maybe this will cause people to take notice at our position in the recording game.

i think we are onto something.

according to this list this is how our albums rank

1. homegrown vol 1 (8 songs, the actual songs not the remixes and alts)
2. how i got over (7 songs, so lyrics about something and feel count for something this was the mid life crisis album so self examination runs big with a lil freestyle battle sprinkled)
3. things fall apart (6 songs, the promise of a new movement, the first backlash of the first commercial wave from 94 kicked in)
4. game theory (6 songs, the “mourning” album, the disillusioned with 2 steps forward and one step back, songs of betrayal and looking back at life so far)
5. phrenology- the disassembling of a movement. rebuilding destroying and rebuilding
6. illadelpo halflife- the chip on the shoulder album. fuck all y’all. shit aint sweet for noone.
7. rising down- anger in the nation. fed up and aint taking it no more.
8. undun- a life unraveling. had we released this a year later we coulda just called this Illinois Halflife
9. do you want more- jazzy vibes
10. organix- hey what does this button d——DONT TOUCH THAT AHMIR!!!!!!!!!!!
11. wake up- can we rise up and hope again
12. the roots come alive- look mom this is what i do for a living…..
13. homegrown vol 2 (diehard extras, worth it alone for the last min after “din da da”)
14…..and then you shoot your cousin (rich’s farewell, his donuts if you will, held his operation off cause he hated the first 3 mixes of “The Dark”—too young to rank higher, Riq’s imagery (if you actually look for words to do more than just “rhyme” couplets is some of the deepest best shit he has ever spit in my opinion. Porn again is my mvp–its a downer but still a work of art—but at the end of the day, this was Rich’s autobiography and his middle finger onto his sunset…and if you know him well….this pleased you)
15. The Movie (really great album, but stillborn…something has to be at the bottom)
16. Wise Up Ghost (had crazy fun making this record geeking out and whatnot)


Subscribe to Okayplayer and enjoy the following benefits:

  • Exclusive content not featured on the site.
  • Exclusive deals for our merch store.
  • First notice on upcoming events and online programming.