Q&A: ?uestlove Talks Philly’s Eighth Annual Roots Picnic Festival
May 12, 2015 - Picnic Time
A male who truly needs no introduction, Philly-born 44-year-old Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson is one of a many famous drummers in a universe and positively a many famous in hip-hop itself. Along with rapper Black Thought and a review of consultant sidemen, his organisation a Roots are critically-acclaimed mainstays (2008’s dim and clangorous Rising Down was selected as one of SPIN‘s 300 favorite albums of a final 30 years) who’ve expelled about as many peculiarity albums as say, Jay Z (1999’s sheer Things Fall Apart, 2002’s vastly initial Phrenology, and 2010’s panic-stricken How we Got Over also being special highlights of a courteous career).
And Thompson is famous for subsidy greats including D’Angelo (especially on a classical Voodoo) and Jigga himself (for a truly underrated MTV Unplugged episode/album). When a Roots became a residence rope on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon in 2009 is unequivocally when he was cemented as a man who knows and has played with everyone, that was subsequently reflected by his memoir, Mo’ Meta Blues.
But among his dozens of other projects, Thompson has also curated a annual Roots Picnic in Philadelphia given 2007, that a organisation also traditionally headlines. This year a festival is on May 30 and facilities such heavy-hitters as A$AP Rocky and Rae Sremmurd, with Phantogram, Hiatus Kaiyote, DJ Mustard, and a Weeknd rounding out a lineup alongside legends like Afrika Bambaataa and Erykah Badu (who will also be corroborated by a Roots). SPIN spoke to Thompson over a phone about what to design this year.
Did we have any suspicion a Roots Picnic would strech a eighth year?
My suspicion was it was going to be a good small one-off, and afterwards when LiveNation was like, “Let’s have a sequel,” afterwards it was like “Wow, is this a repeated thing?”
It won’t feel like a thing until a Roots don’t have to seem themselves, though we know. [Laughs.] That will be years from now. Philly is only such a calamity of a domain since we know everybody in that city.
So if one internal rope gets left out afterwards word gets around and we feel bad?
No. [Laughs.] we theory there is vigour on us. We threw dual festivals final year. We did a Roots Picnic and afterwards we horde a incomparable one on steroids: The Roots Picnic is arrange of like a boutique where a Welcome America! Festival that we always horde is like American Apparel. When we do Welcome America!, that’s like 600,000 people… we unequivocally can’t contend that people, on their feet, will come down to see a Roots, though it’s a giveaway uncover we curate. It’s flattering many like a Roots Picnic, though a Roots Picnic is a baby. We put some-more internal Philly acts on a Welcome America! stage.
I mean, we are substantially a many organized, obliged act in hip-hop and people don’t trust me though we devise out a subsequent year’s Picnic three months after a Picnic has ended. Usually, this is how we have to do business. You have to devise things 8 months in advance. Usually, Sep is a wishlist time and afterwards Oct is [putting out] feelers and by Nov we will have tough answers and offers concerning who can participate, and afterwards that way, come February, we can announce it. It’s always during a time that we announce it that people ask, “Can we get on? Can we get on??”
This year we combined a third tent, a DJ tent. That’s central so now we’ll have 3 stages. So it’s substantially this is a biggest year and it’s a fastest seller.
Speaking of that DJ tent, what do consider of Win Butler’s DJ skills?
Oh Windows? we didn’t trust it during first. [Laughs.] At initial we suspicion that [DJ Windows 98] was a craziest, many mocking name that I’ve ever heard. My manager put me onto it and sent me some clips. So I’m with it. we wish it’s a strike with a people.
I always desired a fact that during your festival a stone rope tends to be a peculiar one out — like Phantogram this year — since alt-rock festivals used to have a token swat act or dual and it kind of flips a tables on that.
Well, we consider that as any year goes by, it’s kind of confused lines. If we unequivocally demeanour during it, a oddity out in this whole lineup are a Roots.
You consider so?
Yeah, we mean, there is acts with experience — Afrika Bambaataa has some years [on him] and Erykah has some years in there. we feel like a alt act or a swat act on a alt-festival token mark is some-more or reduction like a comparison acts, acts that had albums in a ’90s. we feel like we intentionally wanted to make it younger only that so we can unequivocally devise an exit strategy. Really, a whole devise is to chuck Roots Picnics everywhere. We only stayed in Philly, we know, a hometown. Keep a training wheels on, though eventually, 10 years from now, we don’t wish to have to be during a festival. we still wish to chuck it though we have so many other projects to do this year, that we would adore for a day to come that it only runs on a own.
Afrika Bambaataa was a outrageous warn during first, though we kind of see swat and EDM entrance full round together, and we theory Bambaataa’s like a great, good grandfather of that.
I consider people demeanour during my story and some could delude it as being a small too overly earnest, so I’m always clever when perplexing to have an educational moment. we consider by example, a one thing blank between all a generations is only variety, we know what we mean? we don’t meant like a token inclusion of one swat act in that thing, though a small variety. we meant [Philadelphia DJ] King Britt, interjection to a work that Disclosure and all those other cats are doing by bringing genuine Detroit residence and Chicago residence back, we figured this is a unequivocally good possibility for Philadelphia to unequivocally get informed with a renter of a chairman that really, unequivocally had a large palm in electronic music, like people unequivocally don’t know.
I was never certain how large Britt was outward of Philly, though his name has been outrageous locally for years and years.
Oftentimes people only contend “Millennials don’t wish to know,” though you’ve got to know that there is some-more information accessible than ever before, so it’s overwhelming. When we was a teen and a immature adult there unequivocally wasn’t that many information, so a lot of things were easier to grasp. But when we go record selling in Pittsburgh or Amoeba, like if I’m really, unequivocally [digging] on Record Store Day, we make certain a group’s name is never after a minute E. Because a approach that we shop, it’s a spectacle if we get past a [sections for] C or D — generally in a record shops we go to that have like have during slightest 100,000 annals in them. There’s only so many information to process.
What Picnic acts this year do we many wish people to notice some-more than they already do?
I wish that Hudson [Mohawke] creates an sense on a crowd. That guy, he’s genuine ardent about his sets. I did a gig with Hudson once and he was so insane that a assembly was ignorant to what they were listening to, that he only played 4 Anita Baker songs in a row, gave a throng a core finger, and walked off. [Laughs.]
I know for reggae enthusiasts it’s about dancehall, and as distant as roots reggae and Marley and classical ’70s reggae, we feel like Chronixx unequivocally fits. He has a unequivocally overwhelming participation and we wish him to make an impression. But I’ve been fighting 3 years in a quarrel to get Hiatus Kaiyote on a show. Normally, we don’t privately uncover adult to Roots Picnics until accurately 4 mins before we go onstage. That’s how chaotic it is. Like I’ll stay in my container where it’s protected and everybody’s all “Where’s Ahmir? Where’s Ahmir? Where ?uest at? I’m his cousin.”
But we competence have to only mangle — good indeed twice, my sister’s performing. She rapped with us during Carnegie Hall when we did a David Byrne Talking Heads Tribute. She’s a unequivocally implausible performer so I’m substantially going to go early and watch her perform. And we unequivocally wish to see what pretence Hiatus Kaiyote have adult their sleeve. They’re only super creative.
What other acts have we unsuccessful to book after perplexing for years?
I consider Angel [Deradoorian], when she was with a Dirty Projectors — that’s another act too. Each Jun it’s frustrating because, well, their drummer was indeed a tyro during a University of Penn, though he was graduating a initial year we attempted to book them, and afterwards they were on debate a subsequent time, so we couldn’t get them. we will contend that it was a spectacle that Hiatus Kaiyote was accessible and were going to be in a States. we mean, I’ve been championing them so tough though let’s see. we know they have something adult their sleeve.
Are there any other surprises we should expect?
No, we start on time and people always get insane since a normal fans typically think, “I don’t wish to see nothing of these other acts so let’s wait compartment A$AP Rocky comes on.” Then they skip a special stuff. we remember one year New Kids on a Block only happened to be in a hotel subsequent doorway to a festival drift and they were about to get on their debate train and we were like, “Yo, come hang,” and we literally non-stop adult a Roots Picnic with New Kids on a Block and a Roots together, and we played to, like, 80 people, a diehards that were out there front and center. That’s a form of festival it is, where anything can happen, and I’m substantially going to DJ in a DJ tent as well. Watch out 98.