The Roots’ drummer spilled the story on the Juan Epstein podcast Tuesday alongside Chris Rock, saying in the time before the Brooklyn rapper’s Life After Death album was released “not all was good between The Roots and Biggie.”
He explained, “We was always good. Biggie was like our biggest champion. When he did Ego Trip magazine he championed us and Jeru higher than anyone. He put Brooklyn onto The Roots.”
“So, we did this ‘What They Do’ video,” says Questlove. “And it’s sort of like a sarcastic look at what was then becoming champagne culture. … We told the director we don’t want to do a direct reference to someone’s video. We just talking about the impending lurking of this new — at the time it seemed like the new apartheid — the have-nots versus the haves. … Based on the way the set looked, we didn’t know we were doing a direct reference to ‘One More Chance.’ So, when we saw the final cut. … They showed it to us and I was like ‘Oh, damn.’ But it was too late.”
And it caught feelings, Questlove said, and from the Biggie commented in The Source he had been disrespected by The Roots. When The Source reached out to Questlove for a comment, he offered instead to write an op-ed fully explaining himself. The next day, Biggie was killed.
“I said, let me do an op-ed. What I wanted to do was kind of explain the dangers…. New York was kind of becoming divided by the haves and the have-nots and I wrote this beautiful manifesto. It was like a 1,000 pages. I faxed it to The Source, and literally, I called The Source. It took me 10 hours to do it. Proofread it. It was great. Called The Source and said ‘Okay, I’m ready to send the response-to-Biggie op-ed.’ And they’re like ‘Oh God, you didn’t hear what happened did you?’ And I was like ‘What are you talking about?’ They said ‘Biggie’s dead.’ And that killed me. I never made it right.”
Questlove, Rock and the hosts go on to discuss Rock’s classic hip-hop film CB4 and his role on Kanye West’s track “Blame Game” off My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, which Rock called the “greatest hip hop album of all time.”
He described recording that track, saying, “Kanye West is a genius…I’m gonna say I was in the booth for about two hours. No man, he was just throwing shit at me. And ‘Try this, try that. Try this. Come out here.’ He snapped it all together. Called me about two weeks later…He was feeding me with ideas and I would just run with it. It’s a great song.”
Watch the full session here: