KRONICK: Bein' that you guys are in a live band that does Hip Hop or a Hip Hop band, do you
see any correlations to how the whole Jazz era got lost in the mix? Or Reggae and then now Hip
Hop? What do you see in the near future for Hip Hop?
AHMIR: Hip Hop's lost already. It's easy to look at overall Black creations by Afrikans. And what
happens is as with anything that starts in the Underground, If anything happens in the Underground
which is accepted by a small population of people- the second it blossoms and becomes sort of like
public domain; it loses its edge. Then it loses the interest from the initial people that gave birth to it,
so to speak. So it's like, you have a situation where Blues was the beginning. When you start with
KRONICK: Black Bottom?
AHMIR: Yea, with her old travelling tent tour. And just the whole...
KRONICK: Chitlin' Circut?
AHMIR: Right! Just the whole beginning of the Blues movement and how soon after awhile you
found that white audiences embraced it more than Blacks did because they were in a financially
better position and more adaptable to nihilism. Like the Beastie Boys are millionaires but they dress
worse than I do. Meanwhile I just spent my last penny to get the bills paid and still owe. You see?
So then the Blues began to be perceived to be too Black and we don't wanna be associated with
that. And we decided to move on. So then Jazz was much more posh and more elegant and
sophisticated than the Blues was. And then we abandoned what Jazz came to be. And then because
of the Depression, large groups couldn't afford to stay together so then they pitted down to the initial
five piece unit. As with Blues, you had another angle which they said, "Oh that's the devil's music .
And that's where them people fornicate". So that's the church and the government gettin' involved.
I've heard this rap like old timers from the Jim Crow where they had shopkeepers tellin' people to
keep their daughters away from this music cause it's the devil's music. The next thing you know,
Jazz becomes too artsy. So singin' gets in front of it and that initiates a Doo-Wop and we
abandonded Jazz because, "That's too artsy. White people are embracin' it now. Let's move on".
And then Doo-Wop was perceived to be too churchy and Rock & Roll came. Then Rock & Roll
became too white because we abandoned it. Then it became Soul and Soul became too ethnic. So
we watered it down and made it Disco. Then Disco became too monotonous and too soft. Then we
made it Hip Hop and now Hip Hop branched off- House music; "Oh, that's too Gay. We can't
embrace that."Then Techno up to Drum & Bass respectively- Detroit and England; "That's too
artsy. Too confusing". See the cycle here? "Hip Hop is too Black". Now it's, "Hip Hop's too
watered down". It's like Hip Hop's goin' thru its Disco period right now. So now what's the next
movement? So it's like that's the story of music in general. I guess what we can expect is like... I'm
pretty sure during the `60's they were saying , "Wow! Black expression can't get no better than
this!" And now Hip Hop comes along. So now I would like to say Hip Hop's the final movement but
Blacks will invent something else totally off the cuff. Then that'll go thru, "Aww it won't last...
That's the Devil's music.... Oh, it's too violent! Ehh, it's too soft, enough already!", on and on until
the end of time.
KRONICK: I've got a couple more questions cause I know you have unfinished business to handle
with your frauline friends (some German Sistahs nearby). We started off with Erykah so I wanted to
end up with her. What was the real inspiration behind Pick Yo Afro?
AHMIR: (pausing for a few, then laughing to himself) It's funny you say that cause she and I got in
a little tassle yesterday because Source did an article and they were askin' about how songs get
written. And I was basically explaining that primarily when any song gets written it's always with
The Roots in mind, of course. Like, you don't wanna make no badass joint and give it to P.M.
KRONICK: (We all break into muffled laughs)
AHMIR: Hey, don't laugh! I gotta get with P.M. Dawn tomorrow.
KRONICK: (the serious punchline hits us all in the gut!)
AHMIR: You know, you always make it with you in mind. Like if some shit is Dope, I'll call Riq
like, "Yo, you want this?" That's how it is. But because this is only a paragraph article, the woman
who was doin' the interview asked, "What's the process?" And I said, "We make the music and they
either yay it or nay it. If they nay it, it usually goes in the vaults and then we save it for someone
else and develop it further". Then she said, "Well what songs have you done for other people?",
cause she didn't know. And I said we did Erykah, Jungle Bros, etc, etc, etc. So the article says, "If
we yay it, then we work on it. If we nay it, then it becomes the Otherside Of The Game for Erykah
KRONICK: Aww, she twisted your shit up!
AHMIR: So she...
KRONICK: Like most writers do.
AHMIR: I'm very, Very, VERY sensitive... OK, I'll explain it to you. You seem trustworty, but
Erykah took that offensively. Meaning that it wasn't something that we created together. Cause she
made that song just like it was a collaborative effort. So she's a little hurt because it sounded like I
said it was a Roots throwaway.
KRONICK: Understandably. Like I said, the writers tend to do that sometimes.
AHMIR: So, from what I do believe to be the origin of Afro- yes I was the origin of the song. I was
asleep at the time it was created but I believe I was the origin of the song.
AHMIR: Allegedly! I put that there so that she doesn't mistake that. Yea I was the inspiration.
KRONICK: The final thought would be the name B.R.O.T.H.E.R. ? or ?uestlove.
AHMIR: Definitely ?uestlove. Might be Kool ?uest.
KRONICK: How did that name come about? The B.R.O.? The periods and the question mark?
AHMIR: Alright, real quick: I'ma give you the whole enchilada. That, when Tariq and I like... I
always had the misfortune of picking names that would be dated. Like you should now know never
to have... Like MC is a safe bet to have in front of your name. But like, people will know what
period you came from if you use the word Def or whatever...
KRONICK: Or your initials nowadays.
AHMIR: Exactly. So it's like back in the day I was uh... Oh god how do I say this? Before The
Roots... Damn, I done built it up so I know it's gonna be an explosion. I was Def Doe Money.
KRONICK: (We all repeat while laughing) Def Doe Money? D-o-e?
AHMIR: As in a female deer. I don't know...
KRONICK: (We start laughing harder)
AHMIR: Nah, the shit looked Dope. That's just how it was written. The shit looked Dope in
Grafitti. Then I became Skme because S-K-M-&E were my best letter for writin' Grafitti. I didn't
know how to fuck with the A. When we started The Roots I became... Lemme incriminate Tariq
first. Tariq was (laughing)... Black Thought was T-Metaphor and I was A-Sample. But we weren't
even The Roots, we were Radioactivity. Then Radioactivity wasn't workin' so then we became
Black To the Future.
KRONICK: (He's gettin' his Komedy on now cause we're all rolling in laughter) Sounds like an
AHMIR: I was Divine Technician Controlling the Stix- DTCS. And Tariq was a Big Daddy Kane
fanatic. So in tribute to The Wrath of Kane he became Hawk Smoov which was an acronym for...
These are all strictly late `80's words we was dealin' with... Hype Afrikan Warrior Kickin' it Smoov.
KRONICK: (the laughter is starting to hurt)
AHMIR: So then what prevented us from becoming Square Roots was that thankfully a copyright
problem with a Reggae group that was called Square Roots. So then we became The Roots and
when it came time to get a name I got tired of the reaction that y'all was always givin' me an shit. So
what happenned was I was (makes a popping noise with his mouth and a question mark symbol
with his finger) and Riq became Black Thought. But the problem was when people would just see
that symbol they would say, "Oh, Question Mark". And then they started calling me Mark. I'm like,
"Well my name is not Mark". So then I had to put that away. Then I was like, "Well let me get a
title that details my duties". So I didn't wanna be Mr. Question or whatever. I just wanted to be a
regular everyday cat so I chose Brother. And the Brother in acronym for Beat Recycler Of the
Rhythm. So that described my duties and I was still (making the popping noise and finger drawing).
But then it became Brother (?) Question-mark. And I was like Damn! So when Illadelph Halflife
came out I was like, "Ahhite, I'ma keep the ?uest and I'ma get an Old School name. I'm either
gonna be ?uest-Ski, ?uest-Rock, or ?uest-Love. So then I took ?uestlove. So right now I'm debatin'
whether or not to further confuse you Journalists and become Kool ?uest. Nah, I might stick with
?uestlove because people aren't mistakin' that. That's my name.