LISTEN: Questlove Talks Prince, Ping Pong, Philly in Interview With NPR’s Terry Gross

Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson discusses his friend Prince and growing up in Philly in an interview recorded in front of a live audience on Sunday.

Terry Gross (Daniel Burke/Fresh Air), Questlove (Jeff Fusco)

Terry Gross (Daniel Burke/Fresh Air), Questlove (Jeff Fusco)

Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson has had a tumultuous and emotional few weeks, with the deaths of his friends and music legends Prince — about whom he penned an essay for Rolling Stone — and Billy Paul. Just over a month ago, the Roots drummer lost his father, Lee Andrews, at the age of 79. His friend Phife Dawg from A Tribe Called Quest, died a week later.

His live interview from Sunday with Terry Gross, host of the WHYY-produced, nationally syndicated radio show Fresh Air, will be broadcast on WHYY and other NPR stations tonight at 7 p.m., and is streaming now on NPR’s website. In their talk, Questlove opens up about some of his recent losses: 

The interview, which was recorded in front of a live audience at the Penn Museum this past Sunday, had already been scheduled in early March, so his recent losses added emotional resonance to Questlove’s chat with Gross.

Gross and Questlove “discuss everything from eating West Philly squirrel stew to Prince’s golden ping-pong paddles,” Billy Penn reports.

On Monday night’s episode of The Tonight Show, Questlove, surrounded by The Roots, told the story of the time he helped arrange a ping-pong game between Prince and host Jimmy Fallon, only a day after Fallon’s child was born. Fallon, of course, lost the match.

During his interview with Gross, Questlove also goes into detail about how he’s dealt with the bevy of funerals he’s recently attended, his parents’ strictness growing up and his experiences being part of The Tonight Show. Of particular interest is his discussion of how the band wrote the show’s new theme song.

After he talked with Gross, Questlove signed copies of his book, Something To Food About, a collection of his interviews with chefs which delves into the deep connection between food and art. Gross, one of America’s most celebrated interviewers, praised Questlove’s own interrogation style, remarking that the book would be worth reading even if you only read his questions.

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