On February 26, Roots drummer/Late Night with Jimmy Fallon point forward/NYU adjunct professor/self-anointed music snob Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson sent a cryptic tweet of "major" things to come on March 4.
something"s gonna happen major in about 6 days. Warning you now. you'll have like 3 mins to swipe CC. id follow @brooklynbowl if i were u.
Questlove is writing a memoir. Of course Questlove is writing a memoir. It's almost like all of Questlove's life — from grinding out worldwide tours with the Roots to finding minor TV stardom via Jimmy Fallon, from coaxing brilliance out of the world's most reclusive geniuses to backing Hov on the world's glitziest stages — has been leading up to this, right here. But he's not only led a theatrically, elaborately involved life he's also got the chops to tell it. Through Twitter and his celebrity stories and a thousand magazine guest columns and opinion pieces, he's proven himself as a sharp, no-B.S. writer that would have made one hell of a music journalist if he'd never picked up a pair of drumsticks. So yes to this memoir. A thousand times yes.
We've had a lot of ideas for what we are going to put on the Grantland Channel, some terrible (“Let’s tape and edit our pickup basketball games”) and some excellent (“Let’s take the best bits in the history of the B.S. Report and animate them”). The latter was so good, we spent a decent amount of time last summer combing the B.S. Report archives and identifying which stories were best suited to go cartoon. One of the very first that jumped out at us was Chappelle's Show co-creator Neal Brennan’s tale of an evening he, Dave Chappelle, and Questlove of The Roots spent at an after-party of sorts in Prince’s hotel room. It gets weird. A special shout-out is in order for our friends at Powerhouse Animation (’sup, Rachel?) for bringing this to life.
Editor's note: This week, in the twilight of the pre-Tom-Cruise-in-Rock-of-Ages era, we look back on some of rock and roll's finer bat-shit moments. If you don't see the videos, please try another browser. We put them in, we promise.
Guns N' Roses, "November Rain" Slash Solo
Amos Barshad: OK, so I'm hazy on the exact details, but as far as I can remember, the story here is that Axl wasn't feeling any of the locations that were being offered for Slash to solo in front of, so that chapel had to be airlifted into the New Mexico desert from a tiny, obscure hamlet in southern Chile, and it cost $250,000 to do but Axl said he'd quit music forever if they didn't do it, so someone called in some high-end favors and a small paramilitary organization that was secretly on the U.S. government payroll was mobilized to pull off the complex operation, and it was great and epic and perfect.
Happy Holidays, Grantland. Here is your stocking stuffer for the person who has everything. They won’t have this, 'cause it didn’t exist until now: The Soulquarian Box Set. Put it in your phone. Put it in the cloud. Put it in your hearts and minds. Put it on Facebook. Santa has decided you were extra good this year.
While reading about The Black Keys having the best sales week of their career (206,000 first week sales; possibly related: they’re not on spotify) I got to wondering about the silent third partner on El Camino. Brian Burton aka Danger Mouse.
As you’re reading this on the internet, I can’t be sure you’re old enough to remember the song “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley (released in 2006, just before Twitter). At the time our own Chuck Klosterman did a NYT profile about Danger Mouse in which he, Burton, likened his approach as a music producer to Woody Allen making movies, “And what I realized is that they worked because Woody Allen was an auteur: he did his Thing, and that particular Thing was completely his own. That's what I decided to do with music. I want to create a director's role within music.”
In the last eighteen months, all while very much under employ of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, the Roots have managed to write and record three albums. The latest in that string, the upcoming undun, is also their most ambitious ever: it’s a concept album inspired by Sufjan Stevens, the Guess Who, and a list from a 1999 issue of SPIN, about a young man corrupted into a world of crime. (There are also weekly video accompaniments dropping). And the amount of content that has actually seen the light of day, by the way, only scratches the surface. In the new issue of Rolling Stone, drummer and band leader Questlove explains that during downtime on Fallon, while working in a studio space at 30 Rock, the band makes “On average … between three and 11 songs every day.” Yes, that is a shame-inducing amount of work and achievement! Which only makes Questlove’s latest trick all the more impressive.
Recently The Roots announced and previewed their next LP, undun. You may glean from the title’s lowercase styling that it’s a concept record. undun is “an existential re-telling of the short life of one Redford Stephens (1974-1999).” Or as Questlove says: “Undun is the story of this kid who becomes criminal, but he wasn’t born criminal. He’s not the nouveau exotic primitive bug-eyed gunrunner like Tupac’s character Bishop in Juice… he’s actually thoughtful and is neither victim nor hero. Just some kid who begins to order his world in a way that makes the most sense to him at a given moment… At the end of the day… isn’t that what we all do?”
Considering that this is an Auto-Tune-free ballad whose video features T-Pain gently stroking piano keys in the dark, there is plenty to make fun of. Let’s just focus on this one line, though: “When I’m diseased / I hope you’re dying next to me / In my watery grave.” Thanks for giving him "watery," Lonely Island!
1. Beyoncé and the Roots, "Best Thing I Never Had" (live on Jimmy Fallon)
Turns out the only person who can upstage Beyoncé in a ballad is the girl playing the piano behind her in this Fallon performance. She is feeling it so hard that not even Bey can keep up.
2. Young Jeezy, "Shake Life"
The real is back! With a Toto sample and his trademark positive attitude, rap's favorite motivational speaker returns to help you train for that triathlon.