Questlove Talks About Teaching at NYU, Michael Jackson, and Being a Music Nerd

Self-professed music nerd Questlove has compiled an incredible discography of music as a drummer and leader for The Roots, putting an encyclopedic knowledge of music and its history to help create a new genre of collaborative, big-band hip-hop. He’s also a very busy DJ and has recently started teaching music classes at NYU. Vanity Fair sat down with the Philly legend to talk about his process, both in the classroom and the booth. Questo reveals some great behind-the-curtain moments, including a little mini-lesson on Michael Jackson. Some choice quotes below:

“The first year we came out, I totally freaked out Q-Tip, asking questions that nobody should be asking..he was like, ‘leave me alone kid, you’re bothering me.’”

“What’s the sense in having 70,000 records or all this useless information about music if you don’t even teach it? My whole goal is to teach them how to absorb music and how to listen.”

“We grow up in this idea of the canon, and told that—okay, this artist named Picasso, he’s the greatest. And you believe it. And the Beatles, they’re the greatest, and you believe it. And Scorsese, he’s the greatest, and you believe it. But I need people to come to that conclusion themselves, not just because an adult told me.”