To most folks, Questlove is the heart and soul of The Roots — or at least the member most can be readily called upon to identify with any degree of accuracy (although, that doesn’t necessarily hold true all the time). However, according to Quest himself, there have been many times where that was almost not the case. In a new interview with Jemele Hill, the afroed drummer — who also dabbles in writing books and directing movies — said that he’s temporarily walked away from the band while recording every album but two.
The first, obviously, was their 1993 debut Organix, which they released independently, generating enough buzz to sign to grunge label DGC for the release of their second album, Do You Want More?!!!??!, in 1995. However, despite receiving plenty of critical acclaim, the project underperformed by the group’s standards, prompting Black Thought and the late Mailk B to seek out new production styles on their third album, Illadelph Halflife, spawning an unofficial Roots Crew tradition of Questlove threatening to quit the band for a few weeks while recording all of their albums.
Asked by Hill, “What’s the closest The Roots have come to breaking up?” Questlove breaks into peals of laughter before explaining that the recording of their upcoming project, Endgame, is the first in a while that he’s broken his habit on. “I hold the record for the longest [streak of quitting]… After three records, then it’s like the little boy who cried wolf. It’s like, ‘Yeah, he’ll be back next month. Don’t worry about him.’”
“At the beginning of Illadelph Halflife,” he continues. “I was the last to know that Tariq and Malik desired to rhyme over a more traditional hip-hop backdrop. After a while, it was like, ‘Wait a minute, am I the bad guy here? Did I kill my own group?’… I took it mad personal.” He further explains how the rest of the band sprung “Clones” on him after a failed excursion to the Million Man March in Washington D.C., prompting Quest’s first walkout. However, he has always come back to help finish each project, and over time, The Roots have earned greater public appeal and a regular gig as the house band on The Tonight Show, so it’s probably better that he stuck around.
Listen to Quest’s full interview with Jemele Hill here.