“Being on Fallon was supposed to be about taking a break or a sabbatical – and it actually made us busier than we’ve ever been”
political voice during the George W Bush years.
“My God, that is one of my biggest regrets. Regret isn’t even the right word. I was very naïve in the faith I had in the left-of-centre sector of music. I thought this was sort of like an army that was down to go into battle for you, but it didn’t happen.
“As far as my corner of the sky goes – leftof-centre black music like D’Angelo, Dead Prez, Bilal, Mos Def, Common, Eykah Badu – I found it weird that the people I thought I’d have going into battle, as far as being that voice, that counterpart to the over-indulgent, hedonistic celebration which was going on in hip-hop at the time . . . all of them went silent. All the political voices fell silent.
“We haven’t had a Lauryn Hill album in 14 years; we haven’t had a D’Angelo album in 12 years. At the time, Erykah Badu was taking six-year breaks.
“Q-Tip took ages between albums. Zack de la Rocha from Rage Against the Machine has yet to release any product. These are the political voices I was counting on to keep audiences informed. Everyone just buckled, buckled out of fear. It was like we just didn’t care.”
Questlove, though, cares. He talks about the forthcoming US presidential election as “the most crucial in America’s history; this will determine if we’re going to progress or regress as a society.” He did some “grassroots campaigning” for Barack Obama in 2008 and expresses his “shock and surprise” at how uninformed people were about the political process.
“I was equally appalled at the ease of many who lent support based on the wrong reasons. I don’t campaign for a politician; I don’t like the premise of ‘Questlove says this particular person is cool so I guess I should do what he does’. That’s dangerous too. I want people to look at the facts and look at what is needed in this country for justice to prevail. Then, you make a decision of who the best person is based on all the facts.”
For years, many wondered when the loquacious and articulate Questlove would get around to writing a book. In keeping with his 15 jobs, he’s currently writing two books. One is his own biography and the other a “passion project”.
“The working title for the Questlove book right now is Mo Metta Blues and that will be probably out by May 2013. The passion project is a coffee table book on Soul Train. I begged and begged and begged to do it. I told the publisher of the Questlove book that I had to get the Soul Train book done first and he went ‘are you crazy?’. But Soul Train is my life.
“It’s weird. I’m a 24-hour tweet machine, I’m a 24-hour blogger and when there’s no pressure on me, I can talk and write and lecture with the best of them. But put a deadline on me and I start getting writer’s block. But it’s a very interesting process to write and write and write and then have someone else edit your stuff.”