Black Thought & Questlove Talk Success, ‘Def Jam Payment Plan’

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So how do you measure success?

 BT: At this stage of the game, I measure success with just relevance. Like still being here. Being around.  Maybe short-term success is Yo, where you charted on Billboad Hot Whatever, but in the long run, the larger scheme of things, it’s about being able to change with the times and still matter. So I feel like the Roots is one of the most successful black bands ever. Just because of the fact that we’ve been here as long as we have.

QL: 18 [years].

BT: And each record has been timely and been credible in its own right. There’s nothing that I would necessarily change or nothing that I regret about our discography. I feel like it’s a legacy that we could all be proud of. That’s what is most important to me.

When you have stepped out as a guest—think of a song like “Super Lyrical” with Pun—that stands up with any record. What other records would you say you’re most proud of?

BT: Hmmm…. I think like, I’m proud of it all man. Like, it’s all true. It’s easy for me to make some shit up, or just name the luxuries in life that I enjoy. It’s a bunch of shit that people just gettin’ on now, like “Yo, drink this; wear this.” I stopped doing it 10 years ago. But I feel like that’s mine. That’s my shit. You don’t need to know that…

Yeah but I mean lyrically, like songs, verses. Ahmir, what’s your favorite “Black Thought” verse?

QL: Probably “No Alibi.” I mean but then again, it’s like, I hate the whole, you know, you name something from like 12 years ago, and does that negate what we did yesterday? Even though it is rather blasphemous—I mean, it’s no secret that everyone holds Things Fall Apart to their hearts—but more and more, people every day are coming to me and saying, Okay, this might be the album to beat. Or I never thought that you guys would even make me feel about music a certain way.

You’re talking about How I Got Over?

QL: There’s things on this record that I’m still discovering. But if I were to name just one rhyme, I think his Black Album was definitely “No Alibi” on Illadelph Halflife. Just for his lyrical sport.

There’s a line on “Dear God” that I have to ask about. You said “Look how they got us on the Def Jam payment plan?” What’s that about?

QL: That’s funny imagery. [laughs] Even L.A. Reid had to laugh at that one.

BT: It’s something to conjur up. It implants a visual and an idea in your mind. It blue-collaraizes, it kinda de-glamorizes the whole “I’m a rap star” and “I’m a Def Jam artist” kinda thing. It’s like I have a job, that it’s a blessing to have, and I go to work. And there’s still the same brown-nosing that goes on at the rock quarry or in the corporate world, but that goes on in the world of entertainment too.

 

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