Martell, The Vanguard Series and The Roots: Grungy Gentleman Interview
Grungy Gentleman: Can you tell our audience about your partnership with Martell?
Black Thought: Yes, our partnership with Martell – we’re calling it The Vanguard Series. In short, Martell is a vanguard brand in the cognac world and The Roots are a vanguard brand in the world of music. We’ve come together because we have common interests in influencing and inspiring the public. We’re coming together to raise the bar with regards to craftsmanship and legacy. Martell is celebrating its tri-centennial right now and The Roots aspires to be—obviously we won’t be around doing what we do for 300 years, but…
Questlove: Hopefully our work will.
Grungy Gentleman: Where is your favorite destination to drink Martell?
Black Thought: I like to drink Martell anywhere, but there’s something about coming home and throwing some Martell in a snifter with one ice cube that resonates with me. Home is my favorite destination. Home with my family, my familiar surroundings, and my office with my books. Put my feet in some slippers – I’m a classicist in that way [laughs].
Grungy Gentleman: Who has the funniest guest been on Jimmy Fallon to date?
Questlove: There’s a few couch guests that I always look forward to whenever they come to the show. Martin Short is always hilarious when he comes on the show… Artie Lange!
Black Thought: Oh Artie Lange – he’s hilarious. They always book him with a super-beautiful supermodel – somebody he can come out with and trip with. I was thinking of Adam Carolla. He’s really funny too. But yeah, there’s no shortage of hilarity. It’s a fun place to work.
Grungy Gentleman: What has been the most rewarding moment being a member of The Roots?
Questlove: Still being here. People in general always think about the future, but there’s really no precedent—I mean, 15 years ago I would’ve said for a rap group, 10 years ago I would’ve said for a band, but now it’s almost like period. Units don’t stay together this long. You’ll be hard pressed to find anyone. We’ve been doing this since we were 19, like straight out of high school. Every day and every year is a new adventure. It’s gone linear and higher as we speak every year. Just the fact that we’re still able to do this 20 plus years after we’ve started and still have the general interest of the public at hand is…
Black Thought: Is a testament to the achievement of the band. For me, in terms of moments, I’m going to say definitely being commemorated in Philadelphia with a mural and then more recently being recognized with a plaque in the street on the Philly Walk of Fame those are two super high points for me because Philly is just the toughest, toughest audience to please, so everything that we’ve always done has been first and foremost for the city. To be recognized in that way by the city from which we come from, for me, that’s some of the greatest, brightest shining moments for us. It’s a glimpse at what I feel like is what’s to come on a larger scale. Next year hopefully there will be a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and we’ll be inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame as opposed to inducting others. But all things in time, you just have to around long enough for it all to take place. It’s a testament to our professionalism and why we’re still doing it. But yeah, just being recognized by Philly is pretty monumental.
Grungy Gentleman: Where is your favorite venue to perform?
Black Thought: A couple of my favorite venues to perform – there’s a place called Burns in Stockholm, Sweden that I love to play because it’s a world-class restaurant, it’s a four-star hotel, and it’s a world-class music venue all in one building and I think that’s a super dope and efficient concept that’s been maybe tried elsewhere, but I feel like they perfected it years ago and it continues to be one of my favorite places to go. Stockholm is beautiful. There’s a lot of beautiful people there. It’s a really responsive audience. I like Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London just because you get a different type of audience at Shepherd’s Bush or at Brixton Academy in London, which is where we played at most recently, than you would at some of the legendary theaters and arenas there. It’s a more gritty, a more real level of concert goer. It doesn’t have as much to do with the aesthetics of the venue as it does with the actual people who come out to the shows. We could play Royal Albert Hall, which is like a Carnegie Hall in London, and it would be a totally different audience that would come out to that show than you would get at Shepherd’s Bush. Oh and you can’t forget Paradiso in Amsterdam – I feel like that’s our home. We literally grew up there. There’s so much that we tried for the first time on the road in Europe, and then we bring that concept back home and it’s something applicable to the audience here in the States. Maybe those three venues overseas, and then in the States I love Red Rocks and The Gorge in Colorado. I like both of those venues for the same reasons. Their venues are theaters that are dug out of actual mountain ranges and they just got it right sonically. You’re able to see almost everyone in the audience when you’re on stage – it’s just breath-taking views…
Questlove: It’s almost looks like the Paramount logo.
Black Thought: Yeah! So yeah, The Gorge and Red Rocks here in the States. But then there are classics like LA House of Blues. I love all of the places we play for different reasons.
Grungy Gentleman: Where are your favorite spots to shop?
Questlove: The internet.
Black Thought: Yeah, I would have to say online. I do most of my damage online now.
Grungy Gentleman: Favorite sports teams?
Questlove: We’re Philadelphians.
Black Thought: Philadelphia Eagles, 76ers, Flyers, Phillies.
Grungy Gentleman: What can we expect next from The Roots?
Questlove: We are involved with The Hamilton Project, so we co-produced the last album that came out. Not to mention the other offspring records that will come from that project. There’s a Hamilton mixtape with a bunch of MCs, a remix project, and an additional cast album.
Black Thought: Expect The Roots to take Broadway next. That’s kind of the terrain – at one point it was uncharted and now it’s not as uncharted as it was even a year ago. There’s The Hamilton Project that Quest just mentioned that we’re working on and other projects outside of The Hamilton Project. I guess the foray into Broadway was [Questlove] coming on as one of the producers of Fela and it’s been a snowball effect since then.