Happy birthday to Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson! The striking, adaptable drummer, producer, talk-show bandleader, author, and hip-hop wunderkind was born today, January 20, 1971.
A champion of the funky drag beat, stripped pulses, and driving breakbeats, Questlove’s drumming is as thoughtful as it is original. Hip-hop fans were skeptical when The Roots (founded by Questlove and Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter) introduced live instruments instead of sampling, but their envelope-pushing clearly paid off. Thirty years into the game, The Roots consistently ranks as one of the top hip-hop groups around; they’ve been the house band for The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon since 2009; and their live shows are legendary, making Rolling Stone‘s list of the “Twenty Greatest Live Acts In The World.”
As Timothy Orr said of Questlove in our recent feature, “In an era when drummers imitated the pyrotechnics of progressive rock and the excess of fusion, Thompson wanted to be a drum machine. He stripped the beat to its naked core, over and over again. Practice made perfect.”
Celebrate Questlove’s impeccable timing and wicked beats in the following videos. Then learn his history and style with some of our articles and lessons.
“The Seed (2.0)” ft. Cody ChesnuTT
Drum solo from the Toronto Jazz Festival
“Everyone wants to show flash but you’re more effective being simple” —Questlove