Why I Don’t Trust ?uestlove
Friday September 13th 2013,
Filed under: Features,Not Your Average,Shit I Don't Like
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There’s always been something that’s irked me about Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson. Whether it’s his painful name-drop stunting antics on Twitter, endlessly banging on about watching Prince roller skate or recording increasingly self-indulgent albums with The Roots, I’ve long suspected that the internets most beloved “music nerd” isn’t all that he’s cracked up to be. Sure, he can recreate the beat for Big Daddy Kane’s “Raw” well enough on stage, but let us not forget he is likely responsible for introducing Common to Erykah Badu and was involved in the Electric Circus album.

According to a recent, gushing profile courtesy of The Fader, ?uestlove, “knows all the records, all the tracks, who played on what, what the sleeves looks like. He thinks like a critic and loves reflecting on songs and albums as a listener, ranking records and making lists. He’s a student of music and pop culture.” Ever the music press darling, Rolling Stone have taken to even reprinting his Facebook posts and “Best Of” lists on a regular basis. Riddle me this, dear reader, then why did this self-proclaimed musical encyclopedia refer to the Sex Pistols’ debut as ‘Never Mind The Bullocks’ and the former Roxy Music keyboardist as “Brian Emo” in a 2012 puff piece in that very publication, based around the fabled follow-up to D’Angelo’s ‘Voodoo’ album?

As bandleader for Jimmy Fallon, ?uestlove has endured his share of controversy, such as the time The Roots played Fishbone’s “Lyin’ Ass Bitch” as the entrance music for Republican presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann and then bragged about it on Twitter, an incident that almost got him fired after the conservative press got wind of it. After that blew over, he then took shots at America’s “Comedy Sweetheart” herself, Tina Fey, crying about the fact that she “never waves to us” when she’s a guest, which actually did get him forced until Jimmy Fallon begged show producer Lorne Michaels to reinstate him. What kind of a douche picks on the woman who gave us “30 Rock”?

It seems that this “take no shit” attitude doesn’t apply when it comes to his own attempts to woo music critics and fulfill his own fanboy dreams however, as the newly released collaborative album between The Roots and Elvis Costello demonstrates. For those of you who have forgotten, Costello had his music boycotted by U.S. radio stations after an ugly incident in March 1979, where he got “himself into a scrap with Stephen Stills (of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young fame) and singer Bonnie Bramlett in a hotel bar in Ohio”. In the midst of a drunken rant, it was reported that Elvis called James Brown a “jive-ass nigger”, before declaring Ray Charles to be a “blind, ignorant nigger”.

He later explained that he’d made these outrageous remarks in an attempt to “shut down an argument”, and in the following years he attempted to wipe the slate clean with his involvement in the Rock Against Racism campaign back in the U.K., but for many the damage had been done. The mere idea of anyone trying to publicly disrespect the Godfather of Soul is a never-forgive action in my book. Is ?uestlove’s pursuit of the perfect Metacritic score so blind that he’s willing to turn a blind eye to such blatant disrespect towards the man who laid down the very foundations of hip-hop music and attitude? Guess he was too busy being the world’s “number one adorable music nerd” to bother with petty little details like getting the names of seminal albums correct or the checking the checkered pasts of British rockers he’s recording with, huh?

39 Comments so far
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Very well researched, Robbie. (Sorry to sound like your teacher.)

Comment by Fosterakahunter 09.13.13 @

I love the Roots. Questlove would be a lot cooler if he was just quiet afro guy and played the drums in the background.

This link should provide more fuel to your fire:


It’s a full on suck off, where he lists every celebrity encounter he’s had with a brief description of what transpired.

Comment by Caesar 09.13.13 @

Most pathetic article i’ve read in a while. Your standing points are so shabby even a fifteen year old can counter to.

1st par) Yes, Questlove was on Electric Circus but he also was on Like Water For Chocolate, which Common acknowledges in his autobiography as his best album only second to Be.

2nd) You are arguing about two misspellings, right? I mean C’MON! Didn’t you at least think that ‘m’ is next to ‘n’ on a keyboard? No?

3rd) So what? Do i need to remind you that about 30 years ago New York City Breakers danced for Reagan? You knew that, right? Or more recently RA The Rugged Man endorsing republicans?

4th-5th) Honestly what some racist comments made by Costello have to do with his quality of music? He called JB a nigger? Was he the first one or the last one at that time? Are you serious?

I hope my comment gets published and furthermore i would like a serious answer. Questlove has produced some of the best hip hop music and The Roots are the most consistent rap band. I really can’t understand how someone can hate on them just because of the facts you are stating.

Comment by 90s baby 09.13.13 @

“As bandleader for Jimmy Fallon, ?uestlove has endured his share of controversy, such as the time The Roots played Fishbone’s “Lyin’ Ass Bitch” as the entrance music for Republican presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann”

I was actually very glad he did that..That dingbat deserved it.

Comment by lou 09.13.13 @

I try to enjoy the roots after all things fall apart but like everyone else i just cant do it. Last album i picked up from them, after a roots break for a few albums, was so boring that Peedie Crack stole the show on it n Peedie Crack should never steal a show

Comment by 357nyc 09.13.13 @

The Roots are overrated!

Comment by Ed Gee 09.13.13 @

4th-5th) “Honestly what some racist comments made by Costello have to do with his quality of music? He called JB a nigger? Was he the first one or the last one at that time? Are you serious?”

You just ethered yourself on that one. So because other people have disrespected James Brown it’s fine for ELvis Costello to do it? Please lay down in front of a bus and do the rest of humanity a favor.

Comment by Robbie 09.13.13 @

@Caesar: That link is the douchiest thing I’ve read in life.

Comment by Robbie 09.13.13 @

Is the celebrity encounters list real ?

Comment by Gx 09.14.13 @

i appreciated this site a lot more when you were interviewing old rappers. This type of content really dilutes this sites perceived integrity. Used to be an impressive archive- a historian of hip-hop niche that you dont find too often on the internet. This crap puts you in the byron crawford lane, which really isn’t doing you any favors-aside from maybe getting hits?

Comment by Mothra Jones 09.14.13 @

Funny how every time I write something expressing an unpopular opinion I’m accused of “shock jock” posting. Unkut has been about a mixture of interviews and opinion pieces since it began, for better or worse. To change either aspect would be messing with a classic recipe, like the time they introduced the “new” Coke.

Comment by Robbie 09.14.13 @

“You just ethered yourself on that one. So because other people have disrespected James Brown it’s fine for ELvis Costello to do it? Please lay down in front of a bus and do the rest of humanity a favor.”

First of all i’m not down with racism and i don’t condone what Costello said, if that’s true. But it would be really sad to judge a music legend by such a tiny detail. It’s all about the music at the end of the day.
With this article you are trying really hard to deprecate these two artists by pointing out even the tiniest shady moments of their past. Pure hating. Their body of work respectively is too great to be overshadowed by what you are stating as facts here.

ps. James Brown is a legend and one of the biggest influences for hip hop music, no doubt. Now that he is dead you can’t do anything else but speaking for him on the Internets. But (1) you seem more like trying to smash Costello than defend JB. I am pretty sure you – the hip hop soldier and defender of this culture Robbie Ettelson – haven’t done anything (2) for another legend and big influence for hip hop, Sly Stone, who’s probably somewhere starving to death. Where are you Rob? (1)+(2)= That’s called hypocrisy.

ps.2 i used to like Unkut but these kind of hating pieces are better left to Byron Crawford who can do it better.

Comment by 90s baby 09.14.13 @

“the hip hop soldier and defender of this culture Robbie Ettelson”

You’re this generation’s Lenny Bruce.

Comment by Robbie 09.14.13 @

@Gx: Looks like it’s taken from his Twitter, for what that’s worth.

Comment by Robbie 09.14.13 @

off that 1st paragraph alone, you sound rather hurt. did ?uest not let you touch his hair at a show or something?

?uest and folks blacklisting costello over something that happened over 30 years ago(and costello has presumably tried to atone for) is a bit ridic, no? second chances and redemption don’t occur?

the celebrity encounters list was a compendium put together by someone else after the fact.

?uest and other artists who frequent okayplayer often get questions about random shit (sessions/gigs/upcoming projects/who you’ve worked with).

note: this all occured before fallon.

so ?uest made a post one day – an AMA with regard to random celebrity encounters, ppl threw up names, hijinx ensued.

if this is what amounts to a friday article, its probably best to start the weekend early.

Comment by boygenius 09.14.13 @

Quest seems a lil stuck the hell up. I guess he seen a tweet on something I said and the next thing you know, he blocked me lol! He’s completely arrogant.

Comment by Media Anarchist 09.14.13 @

Well said Robbie, its nice to see someone not afraid of upsetting the overrated Roots Crew (Black Thought the exception) and their trendy followers.
CRC all day every day.

Comment by Casual Tone 09.14.13 @

Questlove is basically the Rap Game Stephen from Django Unchained for Uncle Tom-ing to a proven racist like Elvis Costello.

Comment by brian beck from wisconsin 09.14.13 @

I found this interesting (taken from http://www.hypnagogics.com/questo/#!/james-brown)

James Brown

“after a bad night with prince i vowed never again to meet my idols.
so even though i was invited several times to meet him in rotterdam
i declined for i knew i would be instantly disappointed.”

So he’s not willing to take the time to meet one of his idols, but he’s willing to spit in his face for a paycheck?

This guy is as Hollywood as it gets.

Comment by Caesar 09.14.13 @

I appreciate the mixture you’ve created with this site, which is why I check it- the random stories about hip-hop figures in the recent US trip you did was solid and entertaining, for example. I’m also not annoyed in the least you’re targeting questlove/roots- i just think the arguments posed in this article in particular are pretty weak. You don’t trust questlove, because you’re defending Tina Fey, and because he worked with Elvis Costello? Because of a drunken story with hearsay context, that happened in 1979?

I have a lot of respect for the work you’ve done- all I’m throwing in is some anonymous constructive criticism, to be disregarded or considered at your discretion. Keeping the bar high elevates your content beyond shock value, and all I’m saying is you could’ve had some better points as to why this man has earned your distrust.

Comment by Mothra Jones 09.14.13 @

I wanna be like Bol. Write books and shit. Hang with Killer Mike at strip clubs. I just wanna be like Bol :( sad clown face ….

Comment by Rob B 09.14.13 @

no big surprise that a faux music nerd like questlove gets shine from rolling stone since he’s in the rap industry but a person that “actually plays music”, which white people really appreciate because apparently that belies intelligence they can’t see in rappers. you want to talk about people in the rap industry who know music, talk to a pete rock, a premier, a jazzy jeff.

Comment by doughjoe 09.14.13 @

@caeser yeah that shits so bad I questioned if it could be real.

. The Tina Fey one is more fucked up.

Comment by Gx 09.15.13 @

Seems like a good dude.

I like them.

But I dont remember any good roots songs…

Comment by RobThom 09.15.13 @

I agree with Mothra jones. Stick to the interviews, b. let the acclaim column be your outlet for the hate rants.

Comment by Jay 09.15.13 @

Not to take up for his defense but if the “Brian Emo” story was taken from Twitter, it was most likely a typo. If you read many of his “typings,” you’ll be quick to realize that his postings are littered with typos, especially long stories. Also, if he tweeted from his phone, it may have auto-corrected “Eno” with “Emo,” especially if it was previously typed. Unfortunately, most people don’t correct auto-corrections before they send out even a personal text.

Comment by uniquity 09.15.13 @

Here’s my ‘celeberity encounter’ with Quest.. In the late 90′s I walked into Fat Beats on 7th in NY and he was there buying records. In fact, when I walked in he was facing the turntables, which were right next to the door. he was talking to the guy behind the counter about the ‘Prince Rakeem – Oh we love you rakeem’, which was playing on the table and I guess Tommy Boy had just reissued. I didn’t even really wait for a pause in his conversation when I said ‘Yo Quest I’m a fan, and told him how Do you Want More was one of my favorite albums.’ He gave me a pound, thanked me, and seemed really cool, not annoyed, or stuck up. I was a geeky looking 17 year old white boy. I think if you met him in person and talked to him you might have a different opinion, music people are like minded and can always vibe well IMO

Comment by Guy 09.15.13 @

Aw man; I WISH he would’ve been fired (officially) by Lorne over that Tina Fey shit; because I’ve been looking for a reason to hate Tina……I’ve been on her jock for far too many long years now, and I don’t know how to get off!? Haha

In fact if he had…I imagine this entire post/c-section, Uncle Tom/Stephen reference would never even exist.

Comment by bboycult 09.15.13 @

Electric Circus was dope

Comment by freqsviscera 09.15.13 @

My “celebrity encounter” with Quest was in the mid-90s. I was doing my first interview ever. It was backstage at the House of Blues. I interviewed Pharcyde first, then The Roots were next. Only Questlove and Rahzel showed up for the interview. A lot of my questions were geared towards Black Thought, but I improvised and changed a few on the fly. We were passing the one mic I had back and forth (it was for a cable access show, no budget for two mics…ha). So, at one point, Quest just doesn’t hand the mic back and starts interviewing Rahzel himself. WTF? He literally took over the interview, signing off when he finished, and they both left. As an unseasoned interviewer, I had no idea what to do and the camera guy just kept rolling. To this day, I have no idea what the f–k that was about. LOL.

Comment by spirit equality 09.16.13 @

?uest one of them cats I head nod at while I give Thought the pound on some “we be back” and ditch nerdylicious.

That let me make a call instead of waiting for one so I can ignore you type of guy we all know.

Comment by $yk 09.16.13 @

Who knew there were Elvis Costello Stans…

The fact that Quest’s twitter description reads,
“your favorite twitterer’s favorite music snob” really reflects his smugness.

In my opinion The Root’s have made some of the most non-memorable rap and are often people who don’t like hip hops exception which means they are doing something wrong (or right).

I think Robbie is more entitled than most to publish his thoughts on this but then I would say that because I owe him several rounds of drinks.

Comment by SNOWBEACH 09.17.13 @


Comment by DIALTONE 09.17.13 @

Robbie I agree with you. And FUCK RACIST ASS ELVIS COSTELLO!!!!!!! This 90s baby is defending that racist Mick!!!
White People don’t understand how hurtful the N word is.

Comment by Dante 09.17.13 @

Ever seen that episode of the simpsons where the guys vehicle is powered by his own smugness? QuestLove reminds me of him

Comment by tareq 09.18.13 @

@Dante… bit of a contradiction someone calling someone racist and a ‘Mick’ in the same insult. Then again you were probably just juggling for irony or you don’t know what ‘Mick’ means..

Comment by pi 09.21.13 @

I can corroborate that ?uestlove is a douche. They played The Room in Hull in ’97 and “mingled” afterwards, Black Thought was alright but I tried to start a conversation with ?uest about his obvious jazz influences as a drummer (yeah, okay, I was like 19 and didn’t know better! You’d think a self-proclaimed “music nerd” would be glad to talk about that type of thing with a “fan”, though) but seeing as I was not a) a celebrity or b) a fit bird he made it obvious he had little time for my question. Which is fine, but, you know, he wasn’t talking to anyone else, I wasn’t being rude or pushy or trying to ride his jock. He was just being an ignorant cunt.
Black Thought on the other hand took the time to have a little conversation with me about the Philly graf scene.
Elvis Costello’s made some good music but the James Brown/Ray Charles slur has always left a very bad taste in my mouth. But he’s worked with a lotta black musicians so it’s not just ?uest who is “Uncle Tom”-ing.

Comment by vollsticks 10.12.13 @

@9o’s baby…racism is a small detail? Get the f**k outta here!

Comment by B 10.18.13 @

Most of ya’ll are fucking pathetic on this one, Robbie included.

Elvis is covering his ass to an extent but he was DRUNK off his motherfucking ass & trying to PROVOKE a bunch of other DRUNK cracker ass crackers…

… so he said something ‘outrageous’; big fucking deal.

“Funny” there’s been so many stories of black folks in the UK and America who have had any bad personal encounters with Elvis C.

I don’t care much for either Elvis C. ** OR ** The Roots (Black Thoughts raps aide) but this has ** ALWAYS ** been a bullshit issue…


Because it lets structurally racist institutions/cultures PRETEND they are doing something progressive/important by castigating someone utterly harmless– if once foolish– like Elvis C.

BTW, how about Chuck D.’s bonehead crack about ‘racist’ Elvis P? Granted he later retracted it because he too spoke in ignorance…

Oh wait, here’s Elvis the racist!!

Never mind the MILLIONS of $$$ he made for black songwriters whose songs he recorded etc etc.

Here’s one for all the big music scholars here, you too Robbie–


Comment by Slum 10.19.13 @

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