behind the music

How the Roots Became a House Band

Ever since learning that the Roots would serve as Jimmy Fallon’s house band, pretty much everyone in the world has wondered how the hell that happened. Why the Roots would leave behind their perpetual schedule of touring and releasing albums and growing into elder statesmen of hip hop, no one knew. But once Fallon’s show started, everyone (or at least those who watched) were glad they did. Now, The Roots drummer ?uestlove tells Paste how America’s most respected hip-hop group became a late-night house band:

I was the musical supervisor for the Chappelle Show, which is basically two people—Dave Chappelle and Neil Brennan, aka the white guy. Neil was set to come over to Fallon to be the producer of the show, but at last minute he got movie offers. He did that film with Jeremy Piven, so he decided to go to Hollywood. However, I guess as a side comment he said to Fallon, “Know what would be great—why don’t you get The Roots to be your house band?” He meant it as a joke because he knew we’d never give up the life of traveling. Then we just happened to see Jimmy at a show we did at UCLA. He said, “Hey, I know it’s a weird idea.” He knew we wouldn’t even consider it because who would give up their 18th straight year of traveling to slow down and be 40-year-old beings for a second? We laughed, “Ha, that’s real funny,” then three days later we were like, “Wait a minute, hang on.” We called him back, but it was a crazy Mexican stand off. We said, “OK, we’ll consider it,” but he thought we were bluffing, then of course we thought he was bluffing. It took about three weeks for everyone to put their guns down and take each other seriously because time was ticking. He needed to get a band, and we had three weeks to convince each other we were serious and finally put our guns down and be serious about it.

And there you have it, how the Roots learned to put their guns down and love being a house band.

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How the Roots Became a House Band