On top of serving as drummer for Philadelphia-based band The Roots, musician ?uestlove also boasts the title of music snob, a title he chose himself. And during a recent interview with Vanity Fair, ?uesto went on to break down the qualities he feels make a music snob.
According to ?uestlove, in order to earn the title of music snob you have to be able to form your own conclusions on music and know what’s great without anyone having to tell you.
“We grew up in this idea of the canon and that ‘Okay, this artist named Picasso. He’s the greatest.’ And you just believe it,” said The Roots’ drummer. “‘And this is The Beatles. They’re the greatest.’ And you believe it. ‘Scorsese, he’s the greatest.’ And you believe it. But I need people to come to that conclusion themselves. Not just because an adult told me. That to me is the important part of being a music snob. The real payoff is when you can transfer it to someone else and then they get to see what’s great about it.”
Earlier in the year, ?uestlove took his music expertise to New York University where he taught a Classic Albums course at the Clive Davis Institute for Recorded Music at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Among the albums used during the class was Michael Jackson’s 1979 record, Off The Wall. ?uestlove went on to speak on one class in particular where he attempted to humanize the singer he feels was portrayed as being very caricature-like.
“They kinda saw this caricature figure marred in so much controversy,” said ?uestlove while speaking on Michael Jackson. “In the last 15 minutes, I played them all six takes of ‘She’s Out Of My Life.’ That’s the song where he starts sobbing at the end. So, I kinda explained the backstory, that this was his first heartbreak. By the time you get to take four, I just took all the music away and you just heard…you could hear him struggling and apologizing. It was such a heartbreaking moment and it made him human in their eyes. So, all of a sudden they didn’t see a caricature of Michael Jackson, they just saw a human being.”
?uestlove also spoke on an incident where he may have “freaked out” A Tribe Called Quest rapper Q-Tip due to his various questions. He later revealed how that particular incident partially inspired him to pick up his teaching gig at New York University.
“The first year we came out, I totally freaked out Q-Tip,” said the Philly musician. “Just questions that nobody should be asking. Like ‘Okay, on the fourth bar of ‘Electric Relaxation’ when the modulation happens, was that a mistake or did you purposely dudda-du-du-du?’ And he was like, ‘Leave me alone kid. You’re bothering me.’ And actually this ties in to why I decided to teach music at NYU. Here I am, the self-professed musical nerd that is all-knowing, you know, what’s the sense in having 70,000 records or all this useless information about music if you don’t even teach it? My whole goal was just to teach them how to absorb music and how to listen.”
?uestlove’s Classic Albums course at NYU, which was first announced last fall, began this year with the start of the Spring semester. According to Jason King, associate professor of recorded music and head of history and criticism at NYU, the two-credit class focused “on the concept of what it means for something to be called classic.”
“We wanted to bring [Questlove] in because we felt he should really be a professor; in a lot of ways he already is an informal, unofficial professor, not just in hip hop but in music in general,” said King while speaking to Billboard last year. “He’s one of the smartest people in music, besides being a fantastic musician. We thought [this class] would speak to his strengths.”
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