Questlove’s Other Drumsticks

The Roots' drummer discusses his latest venture, and it's not a new album

The Roots' drummer Questlove recently supplied both beats and wings at Bon Appétit's new kitchen/party space to celebrate the launch of his locally sourced buttermilk fried chicken catering startup, Quest Loves Food. On hand to party were the likes of chef Tom Colicchio, The Daily Show's Wyatt Cenac, Solange Knowles, Ryan Phillippe, and former porn star Sasha Grey. Oh, and Adweek, naturally. A taste:

Adweek: You're a consummate freelancer. DJing, work on Broadway, now soul food?

We stopped being a full-time 365-a-year traveling road show and what we once perceived as a retirement gig [as house band on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon] has really quadrupled into more work and more opportunities. This was like The Accidental Tourist. I did a few DJ gigs out on the West Coast, and these really great, awesome food trucks would be outside selling weird specialty things. This one guy was selling his "world famous" roasted corn. So at 3 in the morning, I'm watching these people kill all this Mexican corn. And I was like, "Man, I want a food truck." I imagined having a "Soul on a Roll" Mister Softee truck that served good soul food.

So, naturally, fried chicken.

It's sort of like "be careful what you ask for." In a perfect world, I would like to have a line of 15 really funky food trucks that go to all the festivals, the Bonnaroos, the Coachellas. This is becoming bigger than that.

Food trucks are very in right now.

Food trucks are the new black. And I'm trying to prove that fried chicken is the new cupcakes.

Has being the house band on Late Night helped The Roots, or has it held you back?

We're doing the most realized music of our career. How I Got Over is our second highest rated album on Metacritic. Undun [due out Dec. 6] will surely eclipse that. What Fallon has allowed us to do is really concentrate on the craft of production and music. When we're touring, it's soundchecks, a night here, night there; it's really not a steady rhythm. A lot of jam bands and bands that are known as road warriors really haven't released a lot of commercially viable material because their strength is in their live show. But coming to Fallon–us being disciplined and there every day from 10 till 3 rehearsing, rehearsing, rehearsing–has made us better musicians, better craftsmen.

Do you feel like you ever have to be defensive about the Fallon gig?

At first, yeah. I feel like we wanted to lower everyone's expectations, and once How I Got Over came out [in 2010], people were like, "Oh, my God, they didn't fall off." If anything, I was worried about Undun.

Like a second sophomore effort?

I definitely feel like How I Got Over was our first record, and now Undun is our second album.

You did do Wake Up! with John Legend last year, though, which included a cover of Bill Withers' rare gem "I Can't Write Left Handed." You guys just killed it.

Thanks! The night we premiered it in L.A., both Bill and Sergio Mendes came with each other. We're on stage, and all of a sudden I look at the front row. I'm like, "Oh shhhhhhh! He's sitting right there!" That's my dream: to work with him.

He hasn't worked in years though.

It's so selfish to hold that gift in. Him and D'Angelo. He's so needed, and his daughter tells me that he didn't take into account that it was a major snowstorm at his very last concert that caused people not to come. It was Chicago, 17 feet of snow. Black people aren't coming out in the snow. So, that's my dream. That's why I'm working with Booker T. and Al Green. And Rick Rubin is threatening to kick my ass on that.

Recommended articles