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Questlove in 2011
Questlove in 2011
Background information
Birth nameAhmir Khalib Thompson
Also known as
  • Quest
  • Questo
  • BROther ?uestion
  • Brother Question
  • Qlove
  • ?uestlove
  • Questlove Gomez
Born (1971-01-20) January 20, 1971 (age 51)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
  • Musician
  • record producer
  • DJ
  • music journalist
  • actor
  • film director
Years active1987–present
Member of

Ahmir Khalib Thompson (born January 20, 1971), known professionally as Questlove (stylized as ?uestlove), is an American musician, record producer, disc jockey, filmmaker, music journalist, and actor. He is the drummer and joint frontman (with Black Thought) for the hip hop band the Roots. The Roots have been serving as the in-house band for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon since 2014, having the same role in Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Questlove is also one of the producers of the cast album of the Broadway musical Hamilton. He is the co-founder of the websites Okayplayer and OkayAfrica.[1] Additionally, he is an adjunct professor at the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at New York University.[2]

Questlove has produced recordings for artists including Elvis Costello, Common, D'Angelo, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Bilal, Jay-Z, Nikka Costa, and more recently, Booker T. Jones, Al Green, Amy Winehouse, and John Legend. He is a member of the production teams the Soulquarians, the Randy Watson Experience, the Soultronics, the Grand Negaz and the Grand Wizzards. As an author, he has written four books.

Early life[edit]

Ahmir Khalib Thompson was born into a musical family in Philadelphia on January 20, 1971. His father was Arthur Lee Andrews Thompson, from Goldsboro, North Carolina.[3] A singer, he became known as Lee Andrews and was lead with Lee Andrews & the Hearts, a 1950s doo-wop group.[4] Ahmir's mother, Jacquelin Thompson, together with his father, was also part of the Philadelphia-based soul group Congress Alley.[5] His parents did not want to leave him with babysitters so they took him with them when they were on tour.[6] He grew up in backstages of doo-wop shows. By the age of seven, Thompson began drumming on stage at shows, and by 13, had become a musical director.

Questlove's parents enrolled him at the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts. By the time he graduated, he had founded a band called the Square Roots (later dropping the word "square") with his friend Tariq Trotter (Black Thought). Questlove's classmates at the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts included Boyz II Men, jazz bassist Christian McBride, jazz guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel, jazz organist Joey DeFrancesco, and singer Amel Larrieux. He attended senior prom with Larrieux. After graduating from high school, he took jazz and composition classes at the Settlement Music School.[7]

Questlove at a New York book signing, 2013

Thompson began performing on South Street in Philadelphia using drums, while Tariq rhymed over his beats and rhythms. Thompson and Jay Lonick, a childhood friend, were known for improvisational "call and response" percussion battles with plastic buckets, crates, and shopping carts. This style translated into Thompson's usual drumset arrangement, with most drums and cymbals positioned at waist level, emulating his original street setups.[citation needed]

For the Okayplayer platform and web television OkayAfrica TV, Questlove had his DNA tested in 2011 and genealogists researched his family ancestry. Questlove's DNA revealed from both of his biological parents that he is of West African descent, specifically the Mende people (found mostly in Sierra Leone as well as Guinea and Liberia).[8]

From the PBS television series, Finding Your Roots, hosted by Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., Questlove learned in December 2017 that he was descended in part from Charles and Maggie Lewis, his three times great-grandparents, who had been taken captive in warfare and sold as slaves in the port of Ouidah, Dahomey (now Benin) to American ship captain William Foster. They were among 110 slaves smuggled illegally to Mobile, Alabama, in July 1860 on the Clotilda. It was the last known slave ship to carry slaves to the United States. Questlove is the only guest to have appeared on Gates's program to be descended from slaves known by name, ship, and where they came from in Africa.[9][10]


1993–1996: Beginnings with the Roots[edit]

The Roots' lineup was soon completed, with Questlove on drums and percussion, Tariq Trotter and Malik B on vocals, Josh Abrams (Rubber Band) on bass (who was replaced by Leonard Hubbard in 1994), and Scott Storch on keyboards. While the group was performing a show in Germany, they recorded an album entitled Organix, released by Relativity Records in 1993.

The group continued recording, releasing two critically acclaimed records in 1995 and 1996, Do You Want More?!!!??! and Illadelph Halflife, respectively.

1997–2003: Breakthrough, Soulquarians era, and increased output[edit]

In 1999, the Roots had mainstream success with "You Got Me" (featuring Erykah Badu); the song earned the band the Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group for 2000. This song was written by Jill Scott who wanted a large participation in a new album. When the group went on tour, Scott would join and sing on occasion. [11]The song helped fuel the success of their Things Fall Apart album, which has since been hailed as a classic, eventually selling platinum.

Questlove served as executive producer for D'Angelo's 2000 album Voodoo, Slum Village's album Fantastic, Vol. 2, and Common's albums Like Water for Chocolate and Electric Circus. Besides the aforementioned albums, he has also contributed as a drummer or producer to Erykah Badu's Baduizm and Mama's Gun, Dilated Peoples' Expansion Team, Blackalicious's Blazing Arrow, Bilal's 1st Born Second, N*E*R*D's Fly or Die, Joshua Redman's Momentum, and Zap Mama's Axel Norman Ancestry In Progress, Fiona Apple's Extraordinary Machine, and Zack De La Rocha's currently unreleased solo material.

Aftershow party 1999, Germany

In 2001, he collaborated as the drummer for The Philadelphia Experiment, a collaborative instrumental jazz album featuring Christian McBride and Uri Caine, and the DJ of the compilation Questlove Presents: Babies Making Babies, released on Urban Theory Records in 2002. He played drums on Christina Aguilera's song "Loving Me 4 Me" for her 2002 album Stripped. In 2002, he and the Roots released the critically acclaimed Phrenology, which went gold.

In 2003, he played drums on John Mayer's song "Clarity" from his second album Heavier Things. He also arranged and drummed on Joss Stone's cover of the White Stripes' "Fell in Love with a Girl".

2004–present: Continued output and other media endeavors[edit]

In 2004, the Roots released The Tipping Point, which contained a more mainstream sound, allegedly due to demands from Interscope Records. The album sold 400,000 copies. In 2004, Questlove appeared in Jay-Z's Fade to Black. In addition to appearing in the documentary portion of the film, Questlove was the drummer/musical director for all portions of the show with a live band. In 2005, Questlove appeared along with performers including Madonna, Iggy Pop, Bootsy Collins, and Little Richard in a television commercial for the Motorola ROKR phone. Questlove also appears for a short clip in the 2005 film, The Longest Yard.

Questlove performing with the Roots at the 2011 Ottawa Bluesfest

In 2006, Questlove appeared in the film Dave Chappelle's Block Party, as well as a couple of skits on Chappelle's Show. These included the Tupac "The Lost Episodes" skit, and one featuring John Mayer, wherein Questlove performs in a barber shop, inducing the occupants to dance and rap. With the exception of the Fugees and Jill Scott, Questlove served as the drummer at the 2004 Brooklyn street concert and was the musical director for the entire show. Questlove was given an Esky for Best Scribe in Esquire magazine's 2006 Esky Music Awards in the April issue. In 2006, Questlove was one of a handful of musicians hand-picked by Steve Van Zandt to back Hank Williams Jr. on a new version of "All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight" for the season premiere (and formal ESPN debut) of Monday Night Football. Along with his fellow Motorola ROKR commercial co-stars, Bootsy Collins and Little Richard, Questlove's bandmates included Rick Nielsen (Cheap Trick), Joe Perry (Aerosmith), Charlie Daniels, and Bernie Worrell. In the same year, he appeared in the studio album Fly of the Italian singer Zucchero Fornaciari.

In 2007, Questlove co-produced with VH1's The Score winning producer Antonio "DJ Satisfaction" Gonzalez, from the Maniac Agenda, the theme to VH1's Hip Hop Honors 2007. Questlove joined Ben Harper and John Paul Jones for the Bonnaroo SuperJam on June 16, 2007, to play a 97-minute set.[12]

On March 2, 2009, Questlove and the Roots began their run as house band for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.[13] He continues to perform with the Roots on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, continuing his duties from Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. He occasionally performed solos titled, 're-mixing the clips', where he drew on his production and DJ abilities to dub video clips, cue audio samples in rhythm, and play drum breaks simultaneously.

In late 2009, while serving as an associate producer of the hit Broadway play Fela!, Questlove recruited Jay-Z to come on board as a producer. It was reported that Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith had also signed on as producers.[14]

In January 2010, he was writing material with British singer Duffy for her second album.[15] He has been featured in a commercial for Microsoft's short-lived mobile phone, the Kin. In 2010, he made a cameo in the music video of Duck Sauce's song "Barbra Streisand", and with the Roots released the album Dilla Joints with renditions of producer J Dilla's music. He contributed drums to the song "You Got a Lot to Learn", which was recorded for the self-titled third studio album by Evanescence,[16][17] but did not appear on the final release.[18]

Questlove was planning to collaborate with Amy Winehouse before her death in July 2011. He said "We're Skype buddies, and she wants to do a project with Mos and me. Soon as she gets her visa thing together, that's gonna happen."[19] Rolling Stone named Questlove number 2 in the 50 Top Tweeters in Music. In June 2011, Questlove played drums alongside the Roots bassist Owen Biddle for Karmin's cover of Nicki Minaj's "Super Bass."[20] Questlove placed 8th in the Rolling Stone Readers Pick for Best Drummers of all Time.

In September 2016, Questlove launched a weekly radio show on Pandora, Questlove Supreme.[21] Notable guests have included Solange,[22] Chris Rock,[23] Maya Rudolph,[21] and Pete Rock,[24] among others.

Questlove was interviewed by Alec Baldwin for the January 3, 2017, episode of Baldwin's WNYC podcast Here's the Thing, where he joked about being "obsessed" with his Wikipedia profile. During the interview, he also discussed his musical and cultural interests, how the Roots started a "movement" with three 15-passenger vans, and the impact of the loss of musical icons in 2016.[25]

He also served as the musical director of both the 2020 and 2021 Academy Awards ceremony, in addition to being the show's in-house DJ. The music for the 2020 ceremony was largely remixed from compositions created by his band The Roots, with no in-house orchestra present.[26]

In 2021, Questlove made his directorial debut with Summer of Soul (...Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised), a film about the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival,[27] which featured performances by Stevie Wonder, Sly and The Family Stone, Nina Simone, Mahalia Jackson, Mavis Staples, B.B. King, and many other top Soul, Jazz, Gospel and Latin artists of the era. Summer of Soul won both the US Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award for documentary at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.[28] Disney-owned Searchlight Pictures acquired the film for distribution, setting a new Sundance Film Festival record for documentary film acquisition price.


In 2007 he provided the foreword for the book Check the Technique.[29] On June 18, 2013, Questlove released a memoir, Mo' Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove. On October 22, 2013, Harper Design published the Questlove authored book, Soul Train: The Music, Dance, and Style of a Generation.[30]

Questlove released his third book, Something To Food About: Exploring Creativity with Innovative Chefs, along with co-author Ben Greenman and photographer Kyoko Hamada, which was published by Clarkson Potter Books on April 12, 2016.[31] In 2018, Questlove curated the soundtrack The Michelle Obama Musiaqualogy for Michelle Obama's memoir Becoming.[32]

He also released the book Creative Quest in April 2018.[33] The book delves into the concept of creativity, analyzing what it is, how to cultivate it and how to sustain creative processes.[34] The book explores first-hand one artist's creative journey, and analyzes how creativity thrives in order to guide readers to cultivate their inner artists.[35] Citing social science studies, the experiences of other artists and observations from a variety of artistic media, Questlove encourages readers to seek out (and embrace) boredom, to embrace things that scare you, and to be a little weird.[36]

Questlove's next book, Music Is History, was published in December 2021 by Abrams Image. The book explores popular music through the context of American history over the past fifty years, connecting issues of race, gender, politics, and identity with Questlove's own personal point of view.[37]


Questlove at a June 19, 2013 book signing


Year Title Role
2000 Bamboozled Actor
2001 Brooklyn Babylon Actor
2006 Before the Music Dies Himself
2011 The Black Power Mixtape 1967–1975 Himself
2011 Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest Himself
2014 Finding the Funk Co-executive producer
2014 Top Five Executive music producer, composer
2014 Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown Himself
2016 Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Himself
2016 Vincent N Roxxy Composer
2019 Someone Great Himself
2020 Soul Curley
2021 Summer of Soul (...Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)[38] Director
Winner – Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature


Year Title Role Notes
2003 Street Time Composer 1 episode
2004 Chappelle's Show Original sketch music 12 episodes
2009–2014 Late Night with Jimmy Fallon Musical director 969 episodes
2009 Yo Gabba Gabba! Actor 1 episode
2010 Nickelodeon Presents History and Heritage Composer Special
2010 VH1 Rock Docs Composer 1 episode
2011 iCarly Himself 1 episode
2011 Philly's 4th of July Jam Music director Special
2012 Independent Lens Composer 1 episode
2012 The Cleveland Show Voice 1 episode
2012 2012 Soul Train Awards Composer Special
2013 The Eric Andre Show Himself 1 episode
2013 Top Chef Himself 1 episode
2013 Say Yes to the Dress Himself 1 episode
2014–15 Inside Amy Schumer Composer, actor 11 episodes
2014 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Actor 1 episode
2014–present The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon Musical director 1,210 episodes
2015 Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown Himself 1 episode
2015 Empire Voice 1 episode
2015 The Jim Gaffigan Show Himself 1 episode
2015 Lucas Bros. Moving Co. Voice 1 episode
2015 Parks and Recreation Lavondrius Meagle 1 episode
2016 SoundClash Producer 1 episode
2016 Hamilton's America Additional music Special
2016 Night Train with Wyatt Cenac Actor 1 episode
2016 Roots Executive music producer 1 episode
2016 SPARKLE: A Don Quixote Story Producer 1 episode
2016–18 Drunk History Himself 2 episodes
2017-2020 Finding Your Roots Himself 2 episodes
2019 Sesame Street Himself 1 episode
2020 High Fidelity Executive music producer 10 episodes
2020 Saturday Night Live Himself 1 episode
2022 Billions DJ 1 episode


  1. ^ Bischof, Jackie (February 11, 2013). "Questlove of The Roots Branches Out to Africa". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved January 3, 2017.
  2. ^ "Ahmir "?Uestlove" Thompson: Adjunct Instructor". New York University Tisch School of the Arts. Retrieved October 16, 2019.
  3. ^ Brandle, Lars (March 17, 2016). "Lee Andrews, Questlove's Dad and Frontman of Lee Andrews & the Hearts, Dies at 79". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved May 24, 2016.
  4. ^ "Ahmir Thompson Reflects On His 'Roots'". Fresh Air. March 13, 2009. NPR. Retrieved August 11, 2012.
  5. ^ "Congress Alley". Discogs. March 13, 2009. Retrieved December 30, 2018.
  6. ^ "Questlove on His Musical Upbringing, Hip-Hop's 40th, Soul Train and New Memoir, "Mo' Meta Blues"". Democracy Now!. August 14, 2013. Retrieved August 14, 2013.
  7. ^ Thompson, Ahmir "Questlove"; Greenman, Ben (June 18, 2013). Mo' Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove. Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4555-0136-6. Retrieved August 15, 2013.
  8. ^ "The Roots of The Roots:?uesto and Black Thought Find Their Origins - OkayAfrica". YouTube. OkayAfrica. December 8, 2011. Retrieved January 2, 2020.
  9. ^ Gates, Henry Louis Jr. (December 12, 2017). Finding Your Roots. Season 9. Episode 4. PBS.
  10. ^ Boyd, Jared (December 18, 2017). "PBS show reveals Questlove descended from last known slave ship, which landed in Alabama". The Birmingham News. Retrieved December 18, 2017.
  11. ^ "Wikiwand - You Got Me (The Roots song)". Wikiwand. Retrieved November 30, 2022.
  12. ^ "Superjam 2007 featuring John Paul Jones, Ben Harper and Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson". Bonnaroo. 2007. Archived from the original on June 8, 2011. Retrieved May 9, 2011.
  13. ^ Farhi, Paul (March 1, 2009). "Ready or Not, Here Comes Jimmy Fallon To Update Late Night". The Washington Post. p. M1. Retrieved February 28, 2009.
  14. ^ Sutton, Benjamin (November 16, 2009). "?uestlove Recruits Jay-Z, Will and Jada Pinkett Smith as Producers on Fela!". L Magazine. Retrieved May 9, 2011.
  15. ^ "Singer Duffy begins new album sessions in New York". BBC News. January 13, 2010. Retrieved October 24, 2011.
  16. ^ "Part 2. Steve Lillywhite interview with Amy Lee (East Village Radio)". YouTube. March 23, 2010. Archived from the original on November 17, 2021.
  17. ^ Lee, Amy (March 5, 2010). "Thank you, thank you, thank you @questlove ! It was an honor. :)". @AmyLeeEV. Retrieved November 6, 2019.
  18. ^ "Evanescence". Discogs. 2014. Retrieved January 6, 2014.
  19. ^ Fox, Luke (August 2010). "Conversations: The Roots' Questlove". Exclaim!. Archived from the original on August 4, 2010. Retrieved May 9, 2011.
  20. ^ "Karmin's Cover of Super Bass". YouTube. Archived from the original on June 3, 2011. Retrieved August 8, 2011.
  21. ^ a b Espinoza, Joshua (August 25, 2016). "Questlove Lands His Own Radio Show on Pandora". Complex. Retrieved February 21, 2017.
  22. ^ Hughes, Hilary (November 30, 2016). "Solange Reveals Why Master P's Influence Was Golden On Her Latest Album". MTV News. Retrieved February 21, 2017.
  23. ^ Young, Alex (November 25, 2014). "Questlove and Chris Rock nerd out over hip-hop on Juan Epstein podcast — listen". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved February 21, 2017.
  24. ^ Sacher, Andrew (December 14, 2016). "Pete Rock interviewed on Questlove's Pandora show (read an excerpt)". BrooklynVegan. Retrieved February 21, 2017.
  25. ^ "Questlove Can't Take a Compliment". WNYC Studios. January 3, 2018. Retrieved January 24, 2017.
  26. ^ Jem Aswad (April 21, 2021). "How Questlove and Oscars Producer Jesse Collins Are Changing Music at the 2021 Academy Awards". Variety.
  27. ^ Greene, Bryan (June 2017). "Parks and Recreation: Harlem at a Crossroads in the Summer of '69". Poverty and Race Research Action Council.
  28. ^ "2021 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL AWARDS ANNOUNCED". Sundance Film Festival. February 2, 2021.
  29. ^ "Wax Facts: About the Book". Wax Facts Press. June 12, 2007. Archived from the original on October 7, 2011. Retrieved May 9, 2011.
  30. ^ Questlove (2013). Soul Train: The Music, Dance, and Style of a Generation. ISBN 978-0-06228-838-7.
  31. ^ Questlove & Greenman, Ben (2016). Something To Food About: Exploring Creativity with Innovative Chefs. ISBN 978-0-55345-942-5.
  32. ^ Stutz, Colin (November 20, 2018). "Questlove Expertly Curates Soundtrack for Michelle Obama's 'Becoming' Book Tour: Listen". Billboard. Retrieved November 21, 2018.
  33. ^ Questlove (2018). Creative Quest. Ecco Press. ISBN 978-0-06267-055-7.
  34. ^ Hess, Jason. "The Seed: Questlove Examines the Roots of his Creative Process," Kenyon Review (Retrieved Aug. 14, 2022)
  35. ^ "Creative Quest," Kirkus Reviews (Retrieved Aug. 14, 2022).
  36. ^ Kirkwood, Scott. Five Takeaways From Questlove's New Book on Creativity (Apr. 5, 2018).
  37. ^ Earl, William (April 14, 2021). "Music Industry Moves: Questlove Sets Next Book Release; Sony Music Publishing Signs Supah Mario". Variety. Retrieved April 14, 2021.
  38. ^ "Summer of Soul (...Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) (2021)". IMDb. Retrieved January 29, 2021.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

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