Questlove on Starting a Movement Around Your Music

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I basically want to be Questlove. This should be apparent by now. He’s one of the busiest, hardest working musicians out there, and doesn’t stop. Whether it’s playing for The Tonight Show, touring with The Roots, writing books, DJing, or teaching his NYU music class, Questlove is basically living my dream career.

Quest recently sat down with Alec Baldwin for a conversation about his history. Did you know The Roots left the US for London for 3 years? The reason why is fascinating, and his genius plan worked.

In 1994, after already having released a few albums, The Roots moved their home base to London in order to work on their music, their show, and start a movement. As Questlove explains,

“No one has ever had success in music without being contextuatlized in an artistic community. So, you think you like Stevie Wonder, but no you associate Stevie Wonder with Smokey, Temptations, Diana Ross and the Supremes… the Motown family.

Take Justin Timberlake. You’re automatically gonna think, “Oh, N*SYNC, oh, Backstreetboys, oh, Britney… Disney.

Prince: Sheila E, Morris Day and The Time… everyone that had success.

The only people that had success without a family or contextualization are one hit wonders. Everyone is associated with a movement.”


The Roots convinced their record label to pay for three 15 passenger vans, studio equipment, and two chefs. They planned on hosting multiple weekly jam sessions with free food to attract other artists and musicians. They started building their movement.

Have you ever heard of Erykah Baadu, D’Angelo, Mos Def, Talib Kweli? These are people that were at these Roots jam sessions.

Honestly, I could go on and on about this episode for the entire email, but suffice it to say, you need to listen to this interview. Questlove is one of the top musicians out there living the startup life, and this interview is packed with excellent stuff you need to hear.

Listen To The Full Interview