KRONICK: I heard you were in Texas last week.

AHMIR: Yea, I was seein' about Erykah for some stuff we're doin'.

KRONICK: Is that right? You were down there checkin' Erykah? I thought you were down there checkin' for somethin' more on your personal pleasure like a big-booty girl.

AHMIR: Aww naw, naw naw naw naw. That was strictly all a business thing.

KRONICK: I just read a quote in a magazine- I do a lot of reading and I see your name and your perspective quite often in different Hip Hop publications. Recently I saw one where you were quoted about talkin' to Erykah Badu about how you didn't do this street sample. Could you talk about your street survey a little bit? And what that entails?

AHMIR: Oh my Focus Groups? Just kids or anybody- I'm always asking questions like what do you think about Tribe or what you think about De La? Or I'll put some record on like... I always want an honest reaction so I'll never say, "Listen to this", cause people will always say, "Yea I like it" for fear that I might have had something to do with it. So I'll just put it on or whatever and listen to their responses. But with Erykah, I was so convinced that she was not gonna reach Black people that I didn't even bother. It's cause there was such a big Arrested Development backlash at that point as evidenced by our fisrt two albums which were critically acclaimed but not necessarily received the way I particularly wanted it to be. I was sort of taking it to mean that Black people wouldn't like it. But upon further inspection I just realized that the Black audience is capped at like two million. Even at that, because of the whole financial disarray that life is in, Blacks are more singles oriented purchasers and they're quite a minority when it comes to purchasing albums. But I laid all this on the line, and she was just like, "Yo, watch this"! I was like, "OK, whatever".

KRONICK: How do you feel about the reception that you guys as a group have received thus far with the real strong Underground base? And where you guys are with this next album Things Fall Apart?

AHMIR: I'm fortunate. I feel fortunate, cause it's like this is the best setup we could possibly have. Back then, nobody wanted to be at the bottom of the barrel. When you first get signed, all you are thinking about... As a mater of fact, a Brother today was like, "Yo man, I wanna work with you! I do the same shit you do and man, my shit can sell!!" As a matter of fact, I'm not gonna sing it, I'ma bring it. This is somewhat exemplatory of the kind of message that I receive. It's like ring-ring-ring. Now it's borderline like, "This'll make money. This'll sit at #3 on the Billboard. (As he calls his voicemail via cellular, I take the mic and put it to the receiver) This guy has been real persistent.

[Voice on the other end: "Peace to the Man. Yo, you know who this is? This is Conspiracy. Well the group that y'all probably heard of have met you up in Toronto and Vancouver Canada... Yo, what's up legendary Roots? I don't know how I got this number... Oh! You know a girl named Cassandra who lives in Vancouver. Uh, she ran into me. Yo, she's in our Crew. I got too much to say to y'all so I'm just praying to Allah and all the other divine beings that y'all Muh'fuckas give me a call back. KnowhatI'msayin??? Alright, here's my #]

See what I mean about this guy? And ironically his name is Conspiracy. I wasn't bein' rude when I wasn't returning phone calls or nothin' like that. But basically this guy is very persistent like, he sees "the vision". There's nothin' wrong with being a visionary. I saw "the vision", but then I woke up. I went to Geffen and asked everyone at the label, "Alright, worse-case scenario: what do you think we're gonna sell?" Of course they're gonna say, "Three million!". But then it's like a learning process that I think like everyone... Like we went thru what G.I. Jane had to go thru. And now I feel like this is the beginning. I feel like everything in the past was just preparation for now. So we're basically treatin' this like it's our very first album; like this is a new group. Relatively to only have an album or artist at 300,000, there's people who haven't from us. And as long as I walk up to Cheetah or to The System and can go unrecognized, it's always gonna be the beginning. I'm definitely bein' like diplomatic and positive about it but we're wiser about it and we're stronger for it. But back then, just watchin' people that you know that you know that you're better than, and watching people that you feel as though you have more talent than, Shinin': and you're just stuck at the bottom of the barrel; that hurt. But that makes you wanna do more. I'll go to clubs and I'll hear the same song 45 minutes in a row. And that'll just make me wanna go- I don't get mad or say, "Man this is bullshit!" I'll dance to it, get a drink, get a girl's #- just go home. And that inspires me to go on and on. And that's the whole story of this whole group. We've been doin' this for ten years.

KRONICK: Let me ask you this. Since you're recognized by us from Kronick as bein' sorta like a Hip Hop Historian and at the same time as the drummer of the group: could you speak upon you perspective or Philosophy of the Drum?

AHMIR: It's funny you said that. We were actually... there's a song that we're considering for a single. And we were borderline debating which engineer to use, and we used our regular engineer. He brings the drums out. But isn't it ironic that if you want a radio mix- mix for the radio, the drums are the least concern of that engineer. Of course I was arguing for the louder drums, not because I'm a drummer and it's an ego thing. It's just that the song sounded better with the drums moving it. I just felt that it was really ironic how psychologically the drums are even a problem in corporate radio. We definitely send our mixxes to radio. HOT 97 is like, "The drums are too aggressive. This can't go on afternoon radio. We have to do this on a mix show". Or it's more like, "Aww, you guys go to mix show". I find that sort of ironic how that psychologically historically still relevant from the beginning of time with the drums to now. Literally, this is live insruments and radio is playin' songs in the afternoon about, "Wavin' two teks" and "Guns & teks", and we can't get on the radio? But they tell us, "It doesn't sound like a radio mix, it sounds like a street mix". There has to be some sort of compromise. Just from West Afrika all the way to West Philly, Western United States I find a serious irony four hundred and some odd years later that's still poppin'. It's a big part of our History: the Drums. Watch, drums are gonna make a comeback in `99. The good thing is that people are using more syncopated styles. Busta started with the little cha-cha use of E.T. Boogie by Extra T for Dangerous. Before that Puffy used the Nona Hendrix thing for Mic Geronimo. Even Horse & Carriage. You can debate `til the cows come home, but still I'm glad to see more syncopated styles being used in drumming now.

Continue To Questlove, Part 2...

The Roots

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