It’s good to be Ahmir Thompson these days. His band, the Roots, just won their second, third and fourth Grammys, and they’re entering a promising third year on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. Still, the legendary drummer, producer, DJ, prolific tweeter and hometown hero hasn’t forgotten his, um, roots: He’s playing the Kimmel in April and already talking up the annual Roots picnic on June 4th at Penn’s Landing — plus taking time to unload to us about his job, Charlie Brown and the broken Grammy on his toilet.
My full name is … Ahmir Khalib Thompson
I am … actually attempting to be witty at 2:36 a.m. in Philly, despite the fact I have to cram seven Itzhak Perlman songs before 2 p.m. tomorrow in New York.
I was born … in Children’s Hospital.
I’ve lived in Philadelphia … for all of my life. Fifty-second Street runs through these veins.
The thing I like most about myself is … I just recently found out via therapy that it’s okay to say I actually like myself.
The thing I would change about myself is … my resistance to saying “no.”
My greatest extravagance … Well, what y’all call “extravagance,” I just call everyday stuff. But I love vicariously living through other people’s excitement and happiness when I share it.
The place I’d most like to live someday is … Well. You really have to understand that the Roots have traveled like no other act in recent memory. We don’t “visit” places. You live there. And it’s been so frequent that we pretty much know ’em by heart. That said, I will give my five favorite places on Earth, and why:
- Portland: The best record stores. Great food. Nike headquarters. More strip clubs per capita (not a game-breaker, but a great factoid). Awesome throwback ’80s arcade.
- Austin: Our best shows have been there. Awesome barbecue. Not all “red state.”
- Tokyo: Pop-culture paradise. My advice to all first-time visitors is to not even think of going there without $5,000 to blow. On an average, I think I blow somewhere between $15,000 and $20,000. Rare albums (most expensive one I copped was $2,000). High-end denim, toys, “Soul Train” episodes and concert footage. And electronics and gadgets.
- Pretty much any city in Switzerland: As a train connoisseur, I think you’ll never have a more beautiful experience than traveling to Montreux by train. Most people ask me when I sleep — it’s now 3:23 a.m. — or relax. The only “me time” I get and enjoy is jumping on a train and doing cross-country trips. When in Europe, I never miss the chance to go to Switzerland by train.
- Philadelphia: You know what I crave most whenever I’m away too long? The urine stench of the subway or the el. Whenever I’m bored, I’ll throw a hat on and ride the front car of the train, and just go from end to end like I used to when I was a kid, looking out the window. There is no place like home.