Interview: Questlove Talks About The Roots Re-Signing To Def Jam, Their New Album, & What Jay-Z Once Begged Him To Do

The Roots' drummer tells us about making “mid-life crisis” records and how he still hasn't met the new president of his label.

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Complex Original

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Earlier this week, Complex hit up the Captain Morgan Step Into the Black party in New York City. You know what was even tastier than the new Captain Morgan Black Spiced Rum? Questlove of The Roots bringing his talents to the 1s and 2s. Lucky for us, we also got to chop it up with the legendary drummer, DJ, and all-around music man to find out what's going on with The Roots.

With his pick lodged firmly in his trademark afro, Questo sat with us in his dressing room—while  The Walkman were playing a set downstairs—to get the scoop on The Roots re-signing with Def Jam. He told us how constant touring has shaped The Roots sound, how he still hasn’t met the new president of his label, and what Complex list he was pissed he wasn’t on...

Interview by Insanul Ahmed (@Incilin)

On The Roots Re-Signing To Def Jam

“Well we just renegotiated our contract with Def Jam. I don’t think any label ever thinks like their artists will outlast the contract. You sign for like five records and [the label is] like "They’re gonna be gone. We’ll sign you for four more records—alright, seven more records."

Signing With Def Jam In 2006

“Jay-Z was scared to sign us, but for the wrong reasons. The album that came before our first Def Jam album was The Tipping Point. [At that time] we didn’t have a relationship with Jimmy Iovine at Geffen. So we had to approximate what we thought he would like. So, we kind of stumbled. Jay was like, ‘I don’t want to look like the bad guy here. I don’t want to look like the guy that destroyed America’s rap group.’

The New Roots Album

“This album coming up, I definitely know that the whole the pressure factor and the whole mid-life crisis of How I Got Over and Undun [factor in]. I wouldn’t say How I Got Over was depressing, but it was a mid-life crisis record.

How Touring Affects Their Albums

“People always ask why we always switch our albums up so much. I think part of it is because we tour and do that album night after night. We tour more [than the average group]. An average group does three months—we were doing three years an album. So after the second year, we get tired and bored and we wanna do something else. That’s why our albums are night and day.

On Complex Lists

“Well, you know I’m kind of chagrined I didn’t make that The 50 Greatest Hip-Hop Album Covers list. We’ve won a lot of awards for our album covers. And I was like, 'Man—out of 15 album covers not one made it?' I can definitely tell if you look at all my album covers, I put a lot of work doing album covers. I want a recount! [Laughs.] But I love all your lists man, it’s a good form of debate—especially on my Twitter feed.”

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