The Roots: Growing Pains

posted Tuesday July 06 ,2010 at 12:00AM CDT | 40 comments

The Roots: Growing Pains

?uestlove tells HipHopDX about going to NBC HR training, the 1,700 unreleased songs the band has, revisits the catalog, and how Dilla mentored him through some amazing music.

Despite its youthful glow, Hip Hop is an adult – a grown ass man/woman if you will. Hip Hop has bypassed the stigma that it was doomed to be the next disco, has shifted about three or four tax brackets, and is slowly winning the respect of the mainstream world. With successes that bold, the proverbial “next level” for artists still remains up in the air. We’ve witnessed our '80s Rap heroes struggling financially from shady label politics when the music industry’s structure for Hip Hop was just beginning to take shape. Then we watch our '90s rap heroes, sharing stages with our '80s rap heroes entertaining the masses with their hits while the crowd whispers, “Man, he’s gotta be at least 50 by now.” Finally, we meet our Jay-Z’s and our Diddy’s – those who have evolved into suits – young enough to still hit a stage, but old enough to know not to hit a clubgoer (sometimes). The rest just float about, trying to decide what the next level is in a culture that doesn’t come with a pension. In the midst of Hip Hop’s adulthood while entering their own, The Roots have carved a unique lane.  

The Philadelphia-bred legendary Hip Hop band isn’t old by any stretch of the imagination. However, they’ve matured. Having toured for 18 years, released 11 albums, and achieved countless accolades, The Roots are in a transition right now. They’ve won the heart of Hip Hop and the respect of music as a whole, but just like any other human being who has worked non-stop for two decades, they want a break. In speaking with the bandleader and one of the last original members, ?uestlove, that break isn’t a vacation. It’s a time to remain in one place for longer than a week and not refer to a suitcase as home. The Roots have found that with their new position as the in-house band for Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.  

Catching up with Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson is basically picking a genius’ brain. He ducks the term “genius” though and prefers “student”, explaining that being in a constant state of learning leaves you less prone to emotional meltdowns. He and his comrades are adjusting to their new lives right now, while welcoming longtime friend and fellow Soulquarian James Poyser into the fold. The band is employed by NBC, and despite being artists, they are still responsible for attending sensitivity workshops and other seminars hosted by most companies’ HR departments. They’re also not allowed to travel over 1,000 miles away on a Sunday, as they have to report to work Monday morning. The perks balance the corporate jargon though; while ?uestlove was holed up in the employee break room conducting interviews, Ben & Jerry’s delivered cases of ice cream to The Roots for mentioning them in a segment on Late Night.  

On the musical end, their album How I Got Over had just released, unaware at the time that the album would debut at #6 on the Billboard charts, but already aware of the overwhelmingly positive response the album was receiving. It’s an interesting time for The Roots. They’ve weathered the label changing storm, maintained success and found their next level. What’s the level after this? We’ll just have to wait and see.

HipHopDX: This new album is pretty reminiscent of Phrenology, but when Phrenology dropped, people were much more resistant to it.

?uestlove: With Phrenology, I was more obsessed with proving to critics that we were well-rounded. Now I don’t know what would make me do something as stupid as, “Okay, let’s take every single genre that we’re not supposed to do and do it. It’s funny, because nobody was stopping us. It’s not like we hang around a bunch of yes-men. It was just like, “Okay let’s just show how well-rounded we are. We’re going to do the cheesy R&B song, the crazy Rock song, the Punk song, and the Free Jazz song, and the 11-minute confessional, the throw-Malik-under-the-bus song…do all the stuff and that’ll be our next album to our Grammy Award-winning follow-up. I will say that album was necessary. Like if that album didn’t happen, it would’ve been an absolutely hard sell to convince people that “Yeah, we’re gonna work with Jim James of Monsters of Folk and My Morning Jacket and it’ll seem very natural.” Because it’s like once you’ve gone through Phrenology, there’s no guest that you guys could really be surprised at, at this late stage in the game.


DX: How I Got Over just released, but people are already giving it such warm praise. When Phrenology came out though, people were mad. Especially on Okayplayer.

?uestlove: Yeah [laughs], I didn’t know it was going to happen with certain Okayplayers though. I expected some aliases. Here’s the one thing though: people don’t know or get that I run Okayplayer, so it’s like duh, you can make up an alias, but I can out you in a few seconds. I know exactly who’s typing because it’s from the same IP address as this particular place. I’ve never outed anyone – with the exception of a few when we had to call the Internet cops – but the rest I just let slide. I know full and well that we’re gonna ruffle feathers now and then. Actually, I really wasn’t expecting the unanimous praise [of How I Got Over] because when the song titles leaked, instantly mu’fuckas just started going in on the site based on the song titles! “ ‘The Day’?! Man what kind of a song title…this is just gonna be wack!” They were throwing it under the bus already just based on the song titles.  

The site reminds me of the Gremlins – cute in the day, don’t feed them at night, they’re gonna turn into monsters. That’s it. I still take it with a grain of salt after all this time. I’m a little shocked that we’re getting a lot of over the top praise for this record. I personally don’t like to bestow any judgment on any record until I’ve had it for a month at least. Sometimes you have to do that. On first listen, I didn’t dig [Kanye West's] 808's & Heartbreak, but by the third week I was like, “Yo, I think I like this record!” Sometimes it has to grow on you. I think the difference between this record and any other Roots record is that it kinda hits you a little quicker than the whole “It has to grow on you” theory. I feel as though a lot of our records are good, but once you get over your expectations and just listen to it outside of your expectation factor, then all of a sudden you can appreciate it. I get a lot of email and notes from people that were like, “You know, I didn’t understand Game Theory when it came out, but now I get it!” I just feel as though with this record, that sort of factor isn’t there. I think of it has to do with the fact that we really had a lot of time to prepare.

DX: What was your goal with this album?

?uestlove: I’m really hell-bent on showing people that this move [to Late Night] after 18 years of touring was really beneficial to the band. I’m trying to explain to them like, “Look, we’ve been on the road for 18 years and with the exception of Antarctica there is no continent that we haven’t played on yet. There’s but so many ways to tour. After a while you have to recharge your batteries and do something new to make it exciting. This was the only and probably the greatest option of all, with the exception of moving to Atlantic City or Vegas and doing a show every night there. With the exception of that, I felt as though this was the best decision. This enabled us, for starters, to practice and do more music than ever. Like practice and rehearse more – we spend four-to-six hours a day practicing and rehearsing, practicing, practicing, and rehearsing. You multiply four-to-six hours by 200 days a year that we’re in this studio/dressing room – our dressing room is a studio, we converted it. So we spend eight hours a day here, you’re bound to get something good. For every 20 songs you create, one is going to be a banger. Once you compile 50 of those songs, then you can definitely choose 13 bangers. And that’s what we did. We completed 10 songs a day for about nine months in a row until we got about 1,000 songs. Then you picked the best 13 and you refine those 13. I feel as though…this was our best move.

DX: It seems like such a huge difference in the response from the last album, Rising Down, and that was only from one album to the next. It was that slow burn that you mentioned, but being in the studio when you debuted Rising Down, the response was friendly with head nods and all. This time in the studio when you debuted How I Got Over, people nearly lost their minds.



?uestlove: [Laughs] There are certain psychological expectations that I also take advantage of…

DX: Okay…

?uestlove: The thing is that no matter what you say in life, whatever experience you have in life – be it a date, seeing a play, going to a restaurant, amusement park day, even facing jail time – everyone’s experience is based on relativity and what you expect, you know what I mean? Jay-Z even says…there’s a line in “Dear Summer” where he says “Have the whole world saying ‘How you still so good’.” I was kinda counting on…you know when Gawker put the blurb up, I was really happy. The first month of us coming to Fallon, I told my manager, I was like “Dan, never did I ever want to get some snark from a well-respected blog or website than I do right now at this very point.” He was like, “Well why would you want snark ?” I was like, “Because this is what you don’t understand…people are going to expect us to really fall off.” It’s like you’re doing a sketch comedy show, how can you do a sketch comedy show? What they don’t know is we’re gonna work overtime and build up a sucker punch that they’re not expecting and it’s gonna make it that much more lovely. That was the plan the whole while, so it’s like the weekly jam sessions [in NYC’s Highline Ballroom] were part of that plan. Yeah, it’s gonna kill us. What human beings would get up at six in the morning, come work in this freezing ass building for 10 hours everyday, get off at eight o’clock, take a little break, and then rush to soundcheck to do a three-hour show where you absolutely don’t know what’s gonna happen next and it has to be incredible every week. That was the pressure. I hated doing the jam sessions more than anything because it was more pressure to make magic happen, and mind you I’m on my 18th hour of being up. But I knew that the jam sessions were crucial in the perception of how we were getting perceived. Not to mention a few side things; we did a few nights at Carnegie Hall with an orchestra for these projects, not to mention being back in the studio working on these songs. More importantly, the rehearsal factor was also a key ingredient.  

Once we got used to playing with each other – I’ll say it was really hard the first week playing in front of each other and not in front of an audience and sorta playing just to jam. For musicians to really jam with each other, they have to like each other. With us, we’re so close and we’ve been so close under touring situations that it was a little weird. Like, “you’re supposed to make a rhyme up and I’m supposed to drum?” It was awkward, like being naked. It took like two weeks for us to get over the awkwardness of it all, and the songs just started pouring. The more you practice, the better you get at songwriting and all of that stuff. I was kinda hoping that people were just underestimating us just enough to be like “Whew!” With the people I played it for, there was that “Whew!” factor like, “Okay, you guys didn’t fall off. Nice!” It’s like who puts their best foot…I know a lot of Hip Hop groups that released their 11th record. I don’t talk in terms of like “this is the best 11th record ever.” I know there are plenty of 11th records for a lot of Hip Hop groups, but you kinda with each release, you’re just praying for one song that you like. Maybe that one verse that justifies you paying $11.99. I’m that way with a lot of groups that I still support that I know they’re past their prime creatively. On the strength, I’m like, “Okay, I know their best album came out 20 years ago, but I’m gonna buy it anyway.” A lot of times I just buy it to know what not to do.  

DX: Now the pressure’s on, though.

?uestlove: Now the pressure’s on. I didn’t expect that much praise. I have an idea for the next record. Actually, it’s a weirder idea for the next record. We’re toying with the idea of…well there’s five or six types of directions we could go in for the next record. I always wanted to do – there’s an idea of us doing like mini EPs.

DX: Like how Janelle Monae was doing with her Metropolis Suites?

?uestlove: Yeah, exactly. We kinda have a mapped out concept. We’re gonna run it by Def Jam [Records] in August and if allowed then we wanted to do this concept where we put out a 5-7 EP once every four months, but they’re night and day from each other. I won’t necessarily spill the beans to say what types of records they are, but they’ll be as night and day from each other as Phrenology was from Do You Want More and The Tipping Point was from Illadelph Halflife. There’s different ideas, there’s new challenges that lie ahead and we’re just anxious. We have a lot of new music that we’ve created. Since the days that I was leaking the sandwiches on my SwiftFM account, we’re probably up to 1,700 songs. Once we’re done talking, we’ll probably make five more right now.

DX: So you’re going to continue on top of the 1,700 already made?

?uestlove: Dude…here’s the one mistake. The last time we were in the zone this much as far as like songs and songs and more songs was between ’97 and about 2002 of which by that point I was spreading it towards everyone in the crew. Like Common was there to get what he wanted, [Talib] Kweli and Mos [Def] were there, D’Angelo, Erykah [Badu]. It was like the whole Soulquarian circle was there and all the songs were created in the same mood and they were coming out like a water faucet and you just handed them to different people. The difference is now that we don’t have that circle anymore, it’s just kinda us, but those ideas are flowing still. Now that James [Poyser] is sort of like the Billy Preston of our Beatles; I mean he’s very much in the Roots now. It’s fuckin’ amazing. We’re just writing songs like gangbusters now. There was a point where I was just tired. After Phrenology, [Common's] Electric Circus came out and then I didn’t go in the studio for six years, except to do Roots records and drum on the occasional Joss Stone song or do Erykah a favor and drum on her stuff.

I was really just taking a two-year break. Then [J] Dilla passed. I was afraid to do anything. That sorta froze me some. It was just hard to make music and not get his two cents, you know? He was one of the few people that I could send an MP3 to and he’d be like, “Woooo! Yo, number 4…that shit there…number 4…woooo!” He’s the one that really saved the second half of “Star” on The Tipping Point.  

DX: Really?

?uestlove: Yeah, because I was doing this idea and he had called me for some drums at like two in the morning, asking me to email him me doing a break. I was like, “Well what record reference do you have in mind?” and he mentioned this one record. So I ran to my record library and I put the phone down and I guess my engineer was still working on something. When I came back he was like, “Woooo! Yo what’s that?” I was like, “Eh, you know, just fuckin’ around with some shit.” He was like, “Woooo! That shit right there, man. Woooo!” I was just like, “Eh, nah.” Sometimes I make music and beats that purposely never see the light of day. Sometimes you’ve just gotta make some shit just to practice. Maybe if I get a brand new microphone or I want to learn this new program that we have for Pro-Tools, I’ll create a song on some full fledged final scale shit knowing good and well that the only time that this is gonna see the light of day is if there’s a Tupac [Shakur] moment in my life. Like, I’m dead and gone and “Oh we’ve found the lost recordings of ?uestlove and this is what he made back in 2003.” Fully knowing good and well that it’s what it’s going to be used for. Dilla was like, “Nah man, you’ve gotta use that shit, man. That shit is crazy.” So I kinda redid “Star” with that ending at his insistence.

So without having that sort of cheerleader in my corner it was really hard. Him leaving was the equivalent to taking the training wheels off and now I have to learn how to ride a bike on my own. You know, use my own instincts and not be like, “Hey what do you think about this? Does this snare sound okay? What would you do?” A lot of that was going on before 2006. Especially during the Common sessions, [Dilla] really taught me a lot about mic technique and how to get a better kickdrum sound and tricks I can do while mixing, how to filter, how to fluctuate a song, how to retard a song, slow it down. Just different technical tricks that I would’ve never known on my own. He guided me through a lot of that stuff, and on his passing I had to take all that he taught me and apply it to my own.

DX: Even after Dilla passed, you still managed to put out an album every two years like you have ever since Phrenology. Is that a schedule you enforce upon yourselves or is the timing coincidental?

?uestlove: If anything in our world it’s really hard with touring and stuff; we wanted to put out a record every year. You can’t tour and create music at the same time. A lot of the reasons because of the gaps in between albums has to do with the fact that we could either take on the six month tour or we could work on the new record. Touring always wins out against anything else because that’s our bread and butter. I personally feel like…I’m just glad that now we’re in a position where we don’t have to tour as much. It’s not like, “Yo, I’m tired of touring,” but now it’s like I feel people will appreciate us more now that we’re not so accessible if you don’t live in the tri-state area. So now seeing a Roots show is a special event in your life.

DX: Do you find it hard to please all of your fanbases? You have the Dave Matthews crowd, then the Do You Want More? crowd, the “You Got Me” crowd, the Okayplayers, the Fallon crowd, there are so many.

?uestlove: [Laughs] It’s funny you mentioned that because I’m hearing a lot more “Slow Jam the News” [skit on Late Night] yells from the audience than I care to hear. It’s to the point where I want no gaps in between songs when we perform. Songs segue into each other because I don’t even want to give the audience a second to even yell “Lick it for $10!” I’m starting to see that the Fallon demographic is now slowly becoming the sixth demographic of the Roots. People that want the Jazzy Roots vs. the Neo-Soul Roots vs. the Phrenology/experimentation Roots vs. “Do they still do Hip Hop 101” Roots vs. the “I only like when they do the solo” Roots vs. “I wonder if Ahmir is going to yell a color to freestyle” Roots and now the “Make a song up about me” Roots. That type of thing. We really haven’t jumped in the pool of touring all that much since the show’s started. Not to say that we haven’t done shows, the legalities of what we’re allowed to do show-wise, we’re technically not supposed to be over 1,000 miles away from home on a Sunday.

DX: Wow!

?uestlove: NBC is not fuckin’ around! [Laughs] They don’t want us over 1,000 driving miles away from home on a Sunday, just for worst-case scenario. When it’s snowing and raining they get nervous. “You guys aren’t in Georgia this weekend are you? There’s gonna be a snowstorm on Monday morning, alright guys?” I’m noticing that Fallon’s biggest target is college students. We’re seeing an extremely large influx of new college students into the group that weren’t necessarily into it.

I don’t feel as though we have our stride yet. I still feel as though we are in salesman pitch mode. The salesman pitch mode is “Okay, I’ve got 90 minutes. We can either coast on cruise control and do a display for this particular audience or we can do a mini smorgasbord and give you a little bit of each of something. You know, just give you like little hors d’ouvre of what we’re capable of and sell the group. We’ve been in that mode as of lately, simply because there are entirely too many demographics to please. Now what’s even nightmarish is now I have to figure out how to really incorporate the new material inside of the show. It’s like “Dear God 2.0” is our most popular song on iTunes, so it’s like how are we going to fit that into this show with a guitar player that does a solo behind his back with a guitar, a tuba that jumps into the audience and does a conga line, to doing “The Seed 2.0” which is 130bpm, so where exactly do you fit “Dear God” in this whole mess. So it’s going to be a learning curve within the next few weeks.

DX: Is it weird having this new structured schedule with Late Night?

?uestlove: One hundred percent. It’s really weird because we are half-foot on the rockstar side of things and then half-foot on the white-collar side of things. We have to be on time, we have meetings. Even a year later it’s still the same thing. It’s still Quesadilla Day up in the cafeteria on Tuesdays and still HR classes we have to take, which is really weird because there was an HR episode of The Office and they actually used the HR Office episode clips to teach our HR classes. It’s still very much a white-collar atmosphere and you are required to take eight hours of HR sensitivity training courses every year. What’s crazy is things that you think are normal, you still have to be on your P’s and Q’s. It’s to the point where I feel sorry for the writers. They’ll be explained to like, “Okay, so what if you’re in a scenario where you’re writing a sketch and you have to say something offensive.” The thing is there are certain rules. If it’s during dress rehearsal, it’s not an HR moment. But you might wanna be careful in your office and you’re reading the script aloud and an NBC intern is in front of you. That can be traumatic. If you’re doing a sketch and you might have to change out of your clothes…men aren’t allowed to, like you know it’s no thing I gotta change my shirt like take my shirt off and now I have no shirt on in the hallway and I’ve got to put on another shirt three seconds later. Blammo! It seems like no sweat, but you’ve gotta abide by the rules, you’ve gotta go into a closed room. You can’t take your shirt off out in public. There’s quick change booths strategically hidden on these floors for that scenario. Things that you just don’t necessarily think mean any harm, they’re in the playbook. Even off the job; it’s almost like a circle of prayer. If two or more employees are gathered, then yes you’re still on the job even if you’re at a nightclub Friday night at three in the morning. You can still get into HR trouble if something happens away from the job.  

DX: Seriously?

?uestlove: Dude, especially after this post-Tiki Barber madness. They are not messing around. It’s nothing that I can’t adjust to…it’s not like we’re walking around with Jack Daniels telling the interns to separate the brown M&Ms from the yellow ones and that type of shit. We’re not abusive. Actually, I’m sort of looking for any hints of that because on my iPad, I’m reading the oral history of Saturday Night Live called Live From New York, and it’s basically of this entire floor from 1975 to I think 2009. It was crazy, in the beginning it was like a lot of booze, a lot of coke, a lot of heroine, a lot of partying, a lot of bullshit, and then you know once John Belushi died that just deaded everything. Everyone became clean, that type of thing. I feel like we’re making our own history here. It’s just really weird to read the history in the book.

[The interview is interrupted when Ben & Jerry’s ice cream arrives for the band. ?uestlove, excited and shocked says, “This is for us?” and humbly says “I love Peanut Brittle. Thank you very much” and helps himself to some Peanut Brittle Ice Cream. “See, today is a great example,” he says. “Three days ago we did a Ben & Jerry’s sketch. Like we do this thing where we pretend we’re Ladysmith Black Mambazo and we did one with Hot Pockets. Three days ago we did one with Ben & Jerry’s and much to the chagrin of my trainer, they just sent us every flavor of Ben & Jerry’s in their catalog. We have about 10 cases of Ben & Jerry’s in freezers. See that’s one of the benefits of the white-collar world. They sent us their new flavor Peanut Brittle.”]

DX: You’re easily the most accessible member of the band, especially with your presence online. Has that accessibility to the fans ever backfired?

?uestlove: It’s funny you should mention that. There was this senseless murder that went down in Philadelphia in my neighborhood about a month ago. We all took it very personal because we all knew the waitress [Sabina Rose O'Donnell] at our favorite restaurant [PYT] that was murdered. Needless to say, everyone was concerned. I was concerned, because I have friends that are women and single in that area that can easily be targeted. Not only did we know her, but she could also be anyone in that area that’s vulnerable like that. So three weeks went by and when they caught the killer, I’m sorry but I wasn’t expecting him to look like Soulja Boy. I was not expecting an 18-year-old to be the perpetrator of this crime. It really threw me for a loop and it affected me to the point where I was just like…I had to write about it.  

So I had to TwitLonger – this was about a week and a half ago – everyone sorta took it and added it to their blogs. Really the point of my blog wasn’t necessarily…the people that are still hurting over this loss feel as though I was being an apologist for the murderer and not having any compassion for the murdered which is not true. My point is I want to know what are the circumstances in his short 18-year life that brought him to this nihilism. You’re not born a monster; that’s my whole point. Everyone was like “He’s a fucking monster!” I don’t think a spawn came out of a woman’s body and he was like the demon child. No. What circumstances occurred that he has just no moral judgment whatsoever and commits this murder? At 18. Because if you’re there at 18, you’re sorta there at 16 and at 15 where you just don’t give a fuck no more. Like what brings you there, and more importantly how can we stop the future ones? The thing is, for every one of him there’s 200 others that also have that “I don’t give a fuck” mode. Then in 2014, it’s gonna be a 15-year-old that did it, and in 2020 it’s a 10-year-old that did it. If we continue on to 2030, your four-year-old is gonna do it without giving a fuck, you know what I mean? So it’s like how do you stop it? I’m kinda chagrinned that the manager of the restaurant where she worked kinda took it to heart and really twisted my words so that it’s sorta painted as me just having sympathy for this man. It really paints me in an insensitive light. I’m just like, aw man I don’t need that. He does an editorial in the newspaper, so right about now I’m not Philadelphia’s favorite son. I mean people get my point, but now I feel as though we’re doing a disservice and turning this into something ugly. So yeah, occasionally being accessible…that has backfired in a negative way.

DX: It’s something that definitely should be questioned. It’s like kids who are racist. They aren’t born with those beliefs. You have to ask what sparked that.

?uestlove: Yeah no one is intuitive from birth of any choice they make in life. They are taught and shown things. I don’t know, I took it to heart. Frank, my percussion player. He was 14 years old when I first met him, and James Poyser was like, “Yo there’s this 14-year-old kid in my church. He idolizes you, take him under your wing.” Back then, I was like, “Man, I got my own life to worry about. Get out of here, kid, you’re bothering me.” Frank always hung around the studio and I just ignored the shit out of him. Then one day he was 18 and I asked him, “So what are your plans after high school?” He’s like, “I don’t know.” I’m like, “College? Anything?” He’s like, “No…” So I’m like, “Pack a bag. You’re now my percussion player on the Voo Doo Tour. He graduated school and we started in Los Angeles on the Voo Doo Tour. The same with Khari, one of our producers and a formerly a member of Nouveau Riche and now in Elevator Fight…when I first met Khari, I hated Khari. I say this in a loving way. I’d come home from tour and there’d be this little seven-year-old runt, and I’d be like “Who left their kid in my living room?” Like he’d be asleep in his drawers in my living room with like my video games all spread out. I’m coming home from a three-month tour and this stranger is in my living room sleeping on my floor. Literally, it was like, “Who are you?” He’s like, “Khari…” I’m like, “Did someone drop you here?” and he like shrugged. Like did I miss a basket and a note, “Please take care of my child? What are you doing here? Go home.” Then later my doorbell rings and he’s there like, “Can I play video games?” It’s sorta like the relationship between Ed Asner’s character in Up and that little boy. Then eight, nine, 10, 11, 12, 13, he irked the shit out of me, like I hate kids in that grumpy old man type of way. I don’t have kids as of yet. I want children, so I don’t want to give off that type of impression, but I wasn’t ready for kids then. I was touring, living my life, I didn’t want this kid going through my record collection and not putting shit back, DVDs on the floor, CDs scratched up, I’m like, "Whose kid is this?" My production partner was like, “Yo man, you know he’s talented right?” I’m like, “What are you talking about?” He’s like, “Yeah he wants to be a musician. He plays cello.” I’m like, “Huh? He’s never displayed that to me.” He’s like, “Yeah, because he’s afraid of you, man. Listen to him play cello.” I was like, “No I don’t want to hear him play cello!” because I didn’t want to get emotionally involved with someone I didn’t know. One day I happened to come home off tour and I hear him playing Bach. I’m like, “Huh?” Slowly he stayed at the house, and he learned how to operate stuff and flash forward, he’s now 25 years old, he scores movies, him and Zoe Kravitz have a band together, he plays every instrument…

My point is…he easily could have been in that position where he got sucked by the streets. He just happened to be in a circumstance that created a detour that set up a good path for his life. I think that’s the most important thing. I think the important thing is how do we avoid building a nation of monsters instead of let’s lynch mob this next killer. Yes, he did his crime and he must pay his debt to society. Murder, rape, and robbery are absolutely uncalled for and senseless, but can we save the other potential that are in this lost generation. Can we save them? I don’t think there’s anything wrong with asking that. Then they make a blog and put a new headline on it “Sympathy for the Devil: ?uestlove Has Pity On the Murderer” and that type of stuff. It’s unfortunate that I forget that sometimes in the heat of passion.

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