Philadelphia rapper and former member of The Roots collective Questlove is a hip-hop icon and has made massive contributions to the culture over the years. As a producer, DJ and film director, the musician (real name Ahmir Thompson) is a highly sought-after creative. However, on one occasion, Thompson declined to work with a legendary singer.
In an interview with the 1980s legend Rick Rubin and Malcolm Gladwell’s Broken Record podcast, the three spoke about Questlove’s entry into music and the collaborations he has done over the years. During the segment, Thompson unveiled that in the mid-1990s, he had the opportunity to join forces with the renowned neo-soul singer D’Angelo but declined.
Discussing the vocalist’s 2000 album, Voodoo, Rubin stated it was “absolutely perfect” and Questlove agreed. However, one project Thompson loved even more was the album he turned down the chance to work on. D’Angelo’s 1995 debut, Brown Sugar.
Explaining why he didn’t want to work with D’Angelo in 1995, Thompson recalled, “At the time, I was like ‘ehhh, soul singers in the 90s. Whatever. I’m not doing this.’ Nothing about soul singing had moved me from any 90s offering, the same way it did with Otis Redding, Stevie Wonder, Lou Rawls.”
Detailing how he initially got asked, Thompson disclosed an associate of D’Angelo had approached him with news that the singer wanted to work with him. However, not feeling right, Questlove recalled, I looked at him like ‘I’ll pass.’ Then I [bought] Brown Sugar and was like, ‘Oh my god. This guy could be the one.”
After listening to D’Angelo’s debut body of work, Thompson admitted he then became desperate to work with him and luckily bumped into him at a show in LA, recounting, “I’d been trying to figure out how to get back in his good graces so I could be there for Round two! But when I saw D’Angelo, I decided to call an audible and basically have a conversation with just him.”
Thompson concluded by saying since their 1996 conversation, the two have been close collaborators but revealed he should have never rejected D’Angelo as he could have been part of history if he appeared on the renowned album Brown Sugar. You can watch Questlove’s interview on the Broken Record podcast below.