Ahmir Thompson is the leader of The Roots, a fixture on “The Tonight Show,” and now he even has his own show on Pandora, “Questlove Supreme.” Even with all of that though, there’s still plenty to learn about the Renaissance Man behind the iconic drum kit.
Looking back on the 45-year-old’s life, there’s so much to uncover, including tidbits about his childhood, family, and career. Here are 10 things you may not know about Questo.
1. His Father Was a Singer: Questlove isn’t the only musician in his family. Just look at his dad, Lee Andrews. “I grew up with an oldies doo-wop lead singer of a father,” he told “Today” in July. Thompson called Andrews his “greatest teacher” upon his death in March. “I understand why you were so hard on me,” he wrote in a touching tribute. “Praying I didn’t succumb to a fate not meant for a teenager in West Philly in the mid-’80s.”
2. His Mother Was Also an Entertainer: Questlove’s mom Jackeline Thompson was a model and dancer, according to his memoir Mo’ Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove. She was also part of his father’s band. “We were a family act,” he shared on “Today.” “My band says that I grew up in the black Partridge family.”
3. He Got An Early Start in Music: Questlove had drumsticks in his hands when he was just a toddler. “I was about two when I started playing the drums,” he writes in Mo’ Meta Blues. But wait! Rewind further and things get even more impressive. “My mom and dad said that I had a natural sense of rhythm from six months or so, and by eight months, if you tapped out a pattern, I could tap it right back.”
4. He Worked Behind the Scenes Before His Teens: Instead of paying for a babysitter, Questlove says his family just brought him along to gigs as a kid. “By five, I was doing GPS and road stuff,” said the legendary drummer. “By seven, my dad taught me how to operate lights…Imagine a nine-year-old coming to your nightclub asking, ‘Where’s the ladder at?’…Then, I got promoted to sound.”
5. His Dad Didn’t Understand Rap: “He didn’t see [hip-hop] as an art form,” Questlove admitted during his Red Bull Music Academy lecture in 2013. “We just never bonded on that level. In terms of hip-hop, it was a harder sell for my father. Deep into our second album, he was still like, ‘You gotta get a real job one day.’ He just put his fears of his stalled career, he projected that onto me.” Eventually, of course, he changed his perspective on this.
6. He Helps Kids Collect Records: This tidbit was revealed in a 2015 Questlove profile on Instagram titled “Pure Imagination: The World According to Questlove.” “Questlove’s new form of giving back is by taking his friends’ kids record shopping,” reads the piece. “He’ll spend $1,000 to $3,000 a trip, picking up full catalogs — the Beatles and Led Zeppelin — snagging the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds.”
7. The Roots Never Resolved Their Biggie Feud: “We was always good,” said Questlove during a 2014 episode of “The Juan Epstein Podcast.” “Biggie was like our biggest champion.” But that changed when The Roots did a video for “What They Do,” essentially mocking B.I.G.’s “One More Chance” visual, even though Ahmir says that wasn’t intentional. Tragically, Biggie died before they were able to make things right.
8. His Idol Gave Him a Special Gift: When Questlove was a kid, he saw The Average White Band on “Soul Train” and discovered his idol, drummer Steve Ferrone. “I was transfixed,” he told “Today.” “I was like, ‘That’s what I want to do.'” Forty years later, on his first day on “The Tonight Show,” Ferrone presented Questlove with a very special gift. “He gave me the snare drum from that performance on ‘Soul Train,'” he revealed. “That’s my snare for ‘The Tonight Show.'”
9. The Roots Have a Boyz II Men Connection: Questlove and Black Thought went to school together, but they weren’t the only future stars there, thanks to Boyz II Men. “Boyz II Men were so magical,” Questlove recalled on “Today.” “Everyday, like clockwork, they’d be rehearsing in the bathroom or the hallways…Me and Tariq would just sit in the back like, ‘One day, man.'”
10. The ‘Tonight Show’s’ Travel Restrictions: Being on “The Tonight Show” has its perks, but in a 2010 interview with HipHopDX, Questo revealed that it also has its restrictions. “We’re technically not supposed to be over 1,000 miles away from home on a Sunday,” he said. “NBC is not fuckin’ around! [Laughs] They don’t want us over 1,000 driving miles away from home on a Sunday, just for worst-case scenario. When it’s snowing and raining they get nervous.”
BONUS: Questlove is a Foodie: He’s best known for his drumming, but his culinary game is also top notch. He believes Things Fall Apart was greatly aided by a chef who cooked 5-star meals during the creative process. He hosts “Food Salons” where a diverse group of friends come together over specialty dishes. And earlier this year, he even released Something to Food About: Exploring Creativity with Innovative Chefs.
Want to know more about Questlove? Join the Quest every Wednesday at 1 p.m. EST/10 a.m. PST as Questlove shares more about his storied career, alongside co-host Phonte and some very special guests.