The Roots have a new album coming out on December 6th called, “undun”. It’ll be the Grammy-winning group’s thirteenth album. Not only do we have the first leak from that album (“Make My” featuring Big K.R.I.T.), but we also have a behind the scenes video from the band’s remix of Captain Morgan’s “To Life, Love, & Loot”, a FREE download of that track, and an insightful interview with co-founder (and dynamo drummer) Questlove about his own roots. Check out all the love we’re sharing below.
COED: I have a weird fascination with names and nicknames. You have a bunch – I was hoping you could tell us the backstory on each of them…
QUESTLOVE: [laughs] “Long story short, when I was younger, Tariq and I were trying to figure out our titles. I told him I hate nothing more than to be caught with a dated hip hop moniker. You can always tell what era of hip hop someone is from based on the nickname they have. Very rarely do people create nicknames that stand the test of time, like ‘Q-Tip’ will never be a dated name; neither will ‘Fife’ or ‘Keith Murray’.
But, in my case, I just wanted a simple question mark symbol, anonymity, like I don’t have a title. But the unfortunate thing was early on the media started calling me “Mark” ‘cuz they thought my name was “question mark” so it wasn’t until our third record that I added an old school last name to it, which was “love”. Love is the constant old school hip hop name; Big Buff Love (The Fat Boys), Run Love – Run from Run DMC considers his last name to be “Love”. But maybe after this undun record, I’ll go back to the question mark symbol.”
COED: Of all the instruments you could’ve played, why did you pick drums?
QUESTLOVE: “That’s a good question. According to my parents, I just naturally started to beat on all the furniture at home. Normally that would be a no-no, growing up in the neighborhood I grew up in. You weren’t allowed to destroy couches and coffee tables. However, my child-birth doctor who’s also a child psychologist, he begged my parents ‘If he has any sort of creative outlet as a baby I want you to encourage it. If he plays with his food or starts drawing on the tables or the walls, or screams a lot, likes the sound of his voice or whatever, let him do it. That’s him trying to creatively express himself.’ So, I started banging on the table at age 1 then moved on to pots and pans and finally got my first drum set at the age of 5.
COED: Who are you favorite artists to collaborate with?
I’ve worked with just about everybody and I enjoy them all the same. As of lately I get a kick out of gravitating to the soul artists. We won a Grammy working on Al Green’s album back in 2008 (“Lay It Down“). A year and half ago we did an album with John Legend (Wake Up!). Even though he’s our age, it’s an old spirit of a record. While making our undun record I also made Betty Wright’s album, which is just entitled The Movie.
COED: You’re pretty active on Twitter and you’ve been named as one of the best by a bunch of publications – who are your favorite tweeters?
I’mma stick with a lot of comedians on Twitter. Neal Brennan (@nealbrennan) is comic gold. Whitney Cummings (@WhitneyCummings) and I kinda met over Twitter and now we’re cool. Jim Gaffigan (@JimGaffigan) is also a favorite of mine.
I like unselfish comedians. Some comedians don’t like to give any of their good stuff away on Twitter but those three in particular always have something smart to say – they’re hilarious.
COED: Tell us how you got involved with Captain Morgan and how long it took to write and record the “To Life, Love, & Loot” remix?
We were already familiar with the commercials, so having seen the nature of the commercials I wouldn’t say we’d be a natural fit – but I figured we’d have to come outside of our comfort zone and try something more aggressive.
So, it took us about 3-4 days of just jammin’ to come up with a suitable idea that had the right energy and it actually didn’t sound like The Roots. That was the funny thing watching people’s reaction to Tariq singin’. When’s the last time you heard a hard rock song with a tuba in it? It was just us doing a power trio thing, so we were definitely out of our comfort zone but I think we really hit it on the mark.
It was a great [emotional] release, we did [it] at the same time as the undun. Since the undun record is a really somber and mellow album, [the remix] was our release. We had fun doing it.
COED: Finally, what are you gonna be for Halloween and how are you gonna celebrate?
For the last 5 years, I’ve been Heidi Klum’s DJ. Saturday night she’s throwing a party in Vegas, I’ll DJ that. Then Monday night, in New York City, on Halloween I’ll be DJ’ing that party.
As for what I’m wearing. I have a running joke where I always wear a t-shirt that has some smart alec comment about how I hate costumes.
For more Questlove, check out his Twitter.
“Make My” by The Roots featuring Big K.R.I.T.