Today in Hip Hop History: January 20, 1971
Happy birthday to Amir Thompson, or as you probably know him, Questlove (also stylized as ?uestlove). The Philadelphia-based artist is a universally respected figure in hip hop and entertainment.
Growing up a brilliant musician, Quest’s early exposure to music became a significant aspect of his upbringing. His late father lead a doo-wop group and his mother featured in a soul-based group. His parents would bring the young boy on their tours, and Quest began drumming at the young age of seven.
As a teenager, Questlove attended the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts. There he met fellow artists Black Thought, Boyz II Men, Amel Larrieux and many more. Alongside Black Thought, Questlove formed a band called “The Square Roots” as the two front-runners. The hip hop group began truly organically; they performing improvisational percussion and rap battles on the street.
Eventually the band dropped the “Square” in their moniker and settled on “The Roots.” The Roots helped revolutionize the neo-soul/instrumentation hip hop movement in the late 80’s and 90’s. Additionally they have consistently released amazing large-band hip hop albums, most notably their 1999 classic Things Fall Apart. As of now, The Grammy Award winning Roots act as the house band for Jimmy Fallon’s The Tonight Show. Truly, they are hip hop’s most famous band.
Moreover, Questlove has successfully produced for D’Angelo, Slum Village, Common, Blackalicious, Dilated People’s, Erykah Badu and several other prominent artists. He has acted in several films and shows, including Bamboozled, Brooklyn Babylon, and Parks and Recreation, among others. He also co-produced the hit Broadway Musical, Hamilton. On top of all that, he is an adjunct professor at the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at New York University. Sign me up for that class please.
Ultimately, Questlove embodies one of the most well-respected figures in hip hop due to his intelligible manner and progressive ideas. He recently released a six-part essay series titled How Hip-Hop Failed Black America. In the series, the artist discussed and analyzed the current state of hip hop and its social, political and economic effects on how Black Americans experience “post-racial” America. I highly suggest you read it.
Happy 46th birthday to the hip hop jack of all trades, Questlove!
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