These days Questlove is known as the drummer of the Roots, the bandleader on The Tonight Show, and an Oscar-winning documentarian. But there was a time when the young man born Ahmir Thompson didn't have that level of recognition, so he used an early brush with fame to get phone numbers on the street.
As he told Conan O'Brien on a recent episode of the Conan Needs a Friend podcast, Questlove went to high school with the Roots vocalist Black Thought, a.k.a. Tarik Trotter, and the members of Boyz II Men also attended that same school. That's how Questlove wound up with a cameo in the quartet's "Motown Philly" music video.
"[Boyz II Men] are calling up their high school friends, 'Hey, be in the video,'" Questlove recalled. "So they asked me to play drums in that video. I milked those 1.9 seconds. Wait, let me rephrase it: Tarik milked those 1.9 seconds. Because after the video became heavy rotation on MTV, we'd be ready to go out for whatever, and he'd just look at me like, 'What are you doing?' I'm like, 'What?' He's like, 'C'mon, man, put the shirt on.'"
Mike Coppola/Getty Images; Boyz II Men/YouTube Questlove in 2023 and in the 'Motown Philly' music video
He continued, "That entire summer, I had to dress in the exact outfit. [We'd] walk up and down South Street, we would do like nine rotations. 'Wait, ain't you that, oh my God!' and Tarik would take their numbers down and everything."
Questlove also recounted how sad it was that his moment of fame didn't last after the buzz died down. "Suddenly, the magic's not working any more," he lamented.
On the podcast episode, which was recorded in June, Questlove also discussed how he and Trotter went out on South Street to do bucket drumming for "date night money" after a Spike Lee commercial brought big attention to drumming on the street. Getting out on the street with Trotter, he explained, was "literally how the Roots were born."
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