Questlove’s Most Awesome Guide to the Made In America Lineup
Jay-Z’s Made In America Festival will feature two days, four stages, tens of thousands of fans, and more than 30 different groups, performers and DJs. Overwhelming to be sure. So I asked Questlove, Philadelphia’s ultimate music snob, to break down the Made In America lineup. Here, he offers his thoughts on everyone from Jay-Z (whom he naturally calls “Jay”) to Santigold to Skrillex to Pearl Jam. The guy has a story for everything.
[Photo: Frank Uyttenhove]
“Jay wanted me to have a Questlove stage, but we already committed to this festival in Ireland. But every time I had to play with Jay, I’ve had to wear some sort of five-figure tuxedo that I wouldn’t even wear to my own wedding. Last time, he let me get away with the ’70s ruffled shirt thing. The 10-year anniversary of Reasonable Doubt, Jay-Z at Carnegie Hall, the Rat Pack-ish New Year’s show in 2007. The tux is always a requirement. Like with James Brown, except Jay doesn’t give you a $50 fine if your jacket is wrinkled.”
“Yo, man. Someone that small shouldn’t be that scary. That trademark noise. Pac-Man on steroids. I see Pac-Man and the four ghosts chasing me with sharp teeth, eating me in slow motion. That is the sound of that breakdown. It’s addictive and unavoidable. The first time we were on a bill together—I think it was San Francisco—I heard that noise for the first time, ran from my dressing room, and saw a small, lanky kid. It’s sharp, razor edge, slice your throat music.”
“The most psychedelic Roots show ever came courtesy of a Roots-Run DMC show in, of all places, Amsterdam. That was the closest to a Dark Side of the Moon performance if there ever was one because of the natural assistance that we got from Amsterdam’s finest resources. And one of the first-ever non South Street corner performances of the Roots was with Run DMC at the Dell East. We got a call at the last minute to show up at like 7:30 and be their opener. We had another show later that night at the Trocadero, and Jam Master Jay asked us permission—he said, ‘We got this group … can they come do like one song or two during your show?’ We said yes. And that group was Onyx. That was the first time we ever saw hip-hoppers slam dancing.”
“I have not met or worked with Calvin Harris, but whenever magazines ask me to submit my 10 favorite party jams of all time … I’m proud of the new found success he’s getting, but I swear to God, his ‘Colours’ is one of my favorite favorite, unsung, unheralded songs ever. I wish that was the song that the public was embracing, but I am glad that he’s getting exposure from Rihanna. ‘Colours’ is without a doubt one of my favorite super super super super favorite songs. That’s my party starter song.”