Ahmir Khalib Thompson (born January 20, 1971), known professionally as Questlove (stylized as ?uestlove), is an American musician and music journalist. He is the drummer and joint frontman (with Black Thought) for the Grammy Award-winning band The Roots. The Roots has been serving as the in-house band for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon since February 17, 2014. Questlove is also one of the producers of the Broadway musical Hamilton. He is the co-founder of the websites Okayplayer and OkayAfrica.[1] Additionally, he is an adjunct instructor at the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at New York University.[2]

Questlove in São Paulo in 2011
Background information
Birth nameAhmir Khalib Thompson
Also known as
  • Questo
  • BROther ?uestion
  • Brother Question
  • Qlove
  • Questlove Gomez
Born (1971-01-20) January 20, 1971
OriginPhiladelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
  • Record producer
  • rapper
  • multi-instrumentalist
  • disc jockey
  • music journalist
  • actor
  • songwriter
  • Drums
  • keyboards
  • bass
  • guitar
  • percussion
  • turntables
  • vocals
Years active1987–present
Associated acts

Questlove has produced recordings for artists including Elvis Costello, Common, D'Angelo, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Bilal, Jay-Z, Nikka Costa, and more recently, Al Green, Amy Winehouse, and John Legend. He is a member of the production teams the Soulquarians, The Randy Watson Experience, The Soultronics, The Beat Biters (with producers Just Blaze and 9th Wonder), The Grand Negaz, and The Grand Wizzards.

Early life

Ahmir Khalib Thompson was born into a musical family in Philadelphia on January 20, 1971. His father was Arthur Lee Andrews Thompson, from Goldsboro, North Carolina,[3]. A singer, he became known as Lee Andrews and was lead with Lee Andrews & the Hearts, a 50s doo-wop group.[4] Ahmir's grandfather Beachy Thompson had sung with the gospel group, The Dixie Hummingbirds.[5] Ahmir's mother, Jacquelin Thompson, together with his father, was also part of the Philadelphia-based soul group Congress Alley.[6] His parents did not want to leave him with babysitters so they took him with them when they were on tour.[7] He grew up in backstages of doo-wop shows. By the age of seven, Thompson began drumming on stage at shows, and by 13, had become a musical director.

Questlove's parents enrolled him at the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts. By the time he graduated, he had founded a band called The Square Roots (later dropping the word "square") with his friend Tariq Trotter (Black Thought). Questlove's classmates at the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts included Boyz II Men, jazz bassist Christian McBride, jazz guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel, jazz organist Joey DeFrancesco, and singer Amel Larrieux. He attended senior prom with Larrieux. After graduating from high school, he took jazz and composition classes at the Settlement Music School.[8]

Thompson began performing on South Street in Philadelphia using drums, while Tariq rhymed over his beats and rhythms. Thompson and Jay Lonick, a childhood friend, were known for improvisational "call and response" percussion battles with plastic buckets, crates, and shopping carts. This style translated into Thompson's usual drumset arrangement, with most drums and cymbals positioned at waist level, emulating his original street setups.

From the PBS television series, Finding Your Roots, hosted by Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Questlove learned in December 2017 that he was descended in part from Charles and Maggie Lewis, his three times great-grandparents, who had been taken captive in warfare and sold as slaves in the port of Ouidah, Dahomey (now Benin) to American ship captain William Foster. They were among 110 slaves smuggled illegally to Mobile, Alabama, in July 1860 on the Clotilda. It was the last known slave ship to carry slaves to the United States. Questlove is the only guest to have appeared on Gates's program to be descended from slaves known by name, ship, and where they came from in Africa.[9][10]


1993–96: Beginnings with The Roots

The Roots' lineup was soon completed, with Questlove on drums and percussion, Tariq Trotter and Malik B on vocals, Josh Abrams (Rubber Band) on bass (who was replaced by Leonard Hubbard in 1994), and Scott Storch on keyboards. While the group was performing a show in Germany, they recorded an album entitled Organix, released by Relativity Records in 1993.

The group continued recording, releasing two critically acclaimed records in 1995 and 1996, Do You Want More?!!!??! and Illadelph Halflife, respectively.

1997–2003: Breakthrough, Soulquarians era, and increased output

In 1999, The Roots had mainstream success with "You Got Me" (featuring Erykah Badu); the song earned the band the Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group for 2000. The song helped fuel the success of their Things Fall Apart album, which has since been hailed as a classic, eventually selling platinum.

Questlove served as executive producer for D'Angelo's 2000 album Voodoo, Slum Village's album Fantastic, Vol. 2, and Common's albums Like Water for Chocolate and Electric Circus. Besides the aforementioned albums, he has also contributed as a drummer or producer to Erykah Badu's Baduizm and Mama's Gun, Dilated Peoples' Expansion Team, Blackalicious's Blazing Arrow, Bilal's 1st Born Second, N*E*R*D's Fly or Die, Joshua Redman's Momentum, and Zap Mama's Axel Norman Ancestry In Progress, Fiona Apple's Extraordinary Machine, and Zack De La Rocha's currently unreleased solo material.

In 2001, he collaborated as the drummer for The Philadelphia Experiment, a collaborative instrumental jazz album featuring Christian McBride and Uri Caine, and the DJ of the compilation Questlove Presents: Babies Making Babies, released on Urban Theory Records in 2002. He played drums on Christina Aguilera's song "Loving Me 4 Me" for her 2002 album Stripped. In 2002, he and The Roots released the critically acclaimed Phrenology, which went gold.

In 2003, he played drums on John Mayer's song "Clarity" from his second album Heavier Things. He also arranged and drummed on Joss Stone's cover of The White Stripes' "Fell in Love with a Girl".

2004–present: Continued output and other media endeavors

In 2004, The Roots released The Tipping Point, which contained a more mainstream sound, allegedly due to demands from Interscope Records. The album sold 400,000 copies. In 2004, Questlove appeared in Jay-Z's Fade to Black. In addition to appearing in the documentary portion of the film, Questlove was the drummer/musical director for all portions of the show with a live band. In 2005, Questlove appeared along with such luminaries as Madonna, Iggy Pop, Bootsy Collins, and Little Richard in a television commercial for the Motorola ROKR phone. Questlove also appears for a short clip in the 2005 film, The Longest Yard.

In 2006, Questlove appeared in the film Dave Chappelle's Block Party, as well as a couple of skits on Chappelle's Show. These included the Tupac "The Lost Episodes" skit, and one featuring John Mayer, wherein Questlove performs in a barber shop, inducing the occupants to dance and rap. With the exception of The Fugees and Jill Scott, Questlove served as the drummer at the 2004 Brooklyn street concert and was the musical director for the entire show. Questlove was given an Esky for Best Scribe in Esquire magazine's 2006 Esky Music Awards in the April issue. In 2006, Questlove was one of a handful of musicians hand-picked by Steve Van Zandt to back Hank Williams Jr. on a new version of "All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight" for the season premiere (and formal ESPN debut) of Monday Night Football. Along with his fellow Motorola ROKR commercial co-stars, Bootsy Collins and Little Richard, Questlove's bandmates included Rick Nielsen (Cheap Trick), Joe Perry (Aerosmith), Charlie Daniels, and Bernie Worrell. In the same year he appeared in the studio album Fly of the Italian singer Zucchero Fornaciari.

In 2007, Questlove co-produced with VH1's The Score winning producer Antonio "DJ Satisfaction" Gonzalez, from The Maniac Agenda, the theme to VH1's Hip Hop Honors 2007. Questlove joined Ben Harper and John Paul Jones for the Bonnaroo SuperJam on June 16, 2007, to play a 97-minute set.[11] In 2007 he provided the foreword for the book Check the Technique.[12]

On March 2, 2009, Questlove and the Roots began their run as house band for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.[13] He continues to perform with The Roots on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, continuing his duties from Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. He occasionally performed solos titled, 're-mixing the clips', where he drew on his production and DJ abilities to dub video clips, cue audio samples in rhythm, and play drum breaks simultaneously.

In late 2009, while serving as an associate producer of the hit Broadway play Fela!, Questlove recruited Jay-Z to come on board as a producer. It was reported that Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith have also signed on as producers.[14]

In January 2010, he was writing material with British singer Duffy for her second album.[15] He has been featured in a commercial for Microsoft's short-lived mobile phone, the Kin. In 2010, he made a cameo in the music video of Duck Sauce's song "Barbra Streisand", and with The Roots released the album Dilla Joints with renditions of producer J Dilla's music. He contributed drums to the song "You Got a Lot to Learn", which was recorded for the self-titled third studio album by Evanescence,[16][17] but did not appear on the final release.[18]

Questlove was planning to collaborate with Amy Winehouse before her death in July 2011. He said "We're Skype buddies, and she wants to do a project with Mos and me. Soon as she gets her visa thing together, that's gonna happen."[19] Rolling Stone named Questlove #2 in the 50 Top Tweeters in Music. In June 2011, Questlove played drums alongside The Roots bassist Owen Biddle for Karmin's cover of Nicki Minaj's "Super Bass."[20] Questlove placed 8th in the Rolling Stone Readers Pick for Best Drummers of all Time.

On June 18, 2013, Questlove released a memoir, Mo' Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove. On October 22, 2013, Harper Design published the Questlove authored book, Soul Train: The Music, Dance, and Style of a Generation.[21]

Questlove released his third book, Something To Food About: Exploring Creativity with Innovative Chefs, along with co-author Ben Greenman and photographer Kyoko Hamada, which was published by Clarkson Potter Books on April 12, 2016.[22]

In September 2016, Questlove launched a weekly radio show on Pandora, Questlove Supreme.[23] Notable guests have included Solange,[24] Chris Rock,[25] Maya Rudolph,[23] and Pete Rock,[26] among others.

Questlove was interviewed by Alec Baldwin for the January 3, 2017 episode of Baldwin's WNYC podcast Here's The Thing, where he joked about being "obsessed" with his Wikipedia profile. During the interview, he also discussed his musical and cultural interests, how The Roots started a "movement" with three 15-passenger vans, and the impact of the loss of musical icons in 2016.[27]

In 2018, Questlove curated the soundtrack The Michelle Obama Musiaqualogy for Michelle Obama's memoir Becoming.[28] He also released the book Creative Quest in April 2018.[29]



Year Title Role
2001Brooklyn BabylonActor
2014Finding the FunkCo-executive producer
2014Top FiveExecutive music producer, composer
2016Popstar: Never Stop Never StoppingHimself
2019Someone GreatHimself
2020SoulVoice Actor


Year Title Role Notes
2003Street TimeComposer1 episode
2004Chappelle's ShowOriginal sketch music12 episodes
2009–2014Late Night with Jimmy FallonMusical director969 episodes
2009Yo Gabba Gabba!Actor1 episode
2010Nickelodeon Presents History and HeritageComposerSpecial
2010VH1 Rock DocsComposer1 episode
2011iCarlyHimself1 episode
2011Philly's 4th of July JamMusic directorSpecial
2012Independent LensComposer1 episode
2012The Cleveland ShowVoice1 episode
20122012 Soul Train AwardsComposerSpecial
2013The Eric Andre ShowHimself1 episode
2013Top ChefHimself1 episode
2013Say Yes To The DressHimself1 episode
2014–15Inside Amy SchumerComposer, actor11 episodes
2014Law & Order: Special Victims UnitActor1 episode
2014–presentThe Tonight Show Starring Jimmy FallonMusical director900+ episodes
2016SoundClashProducer1 episode
2015EmpireVoice1 episode
2015The Jim Gaffigan ShowHimself1 episode
2015Lucas Bros. Moving Co.Voice1 episode
2015Parks and RecreationLeVondrious1 episode
2016Hamilton's AmericaAdditional musicSpecial
2016Night Train with Wyatt CenacActor1 episode
2016RootsExecutive music producer1 episode
2016SPARKLE: A Don Quixote StoryProducer1 episode
2016–18Drunk HistoryHimself2 episodes

In 2000 Questlove appeared with The Roots in Bamboozled, directed by Spike Lee.

In 2001 Questlove appeared with many other Roots members as The Lions in Marc Levin's 2001 Brooklyn Babylon, in which Black Thought had a starring role.

In 2005, Questlove appeared with The Roots in Dave Chappelle's Block Party and the following year, he appeared in the popular music film, Before the Music Dies. His latest appearances include Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest and documentary The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 (2010) for which he won the Swedish Guldbagge Award for best music together with Om'Mas Keith.[30]

In 2013, Questlove appeared as himself on The Eric Andre Show as a part of the show's band.[31]

In 2014, Questlove appeared in the famous James Brown documentary Mr. Dynamite: The Rise Of James Brown that was directed by Alex Gibney

In 2015, Questlove appeared on Parks and Recreation as Levondrious, the estranged brother of Retta's character Donna Meagle. Questlove also appeared in a documentary film that depicts the life and death of Amy Winehouse called Amy.

In 2016, Questlove appeared in the film Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping as himself.

In December 2017, Questlove was one of the subjects of an episode the TV series Finding Your Roots, produced by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. He learned that one set of 3xgreat-grandparents had been taken captive in Ghana, sold as slaves to traders in Dahomey, and brought to the US illegally in 1860 on Clotilda, which had been adapted as a slave ship.


  1. Bischof, Jackie (February 11, 2013). "Questlove of The Roots Branches Out to Africa". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved January 3, 2017.
  2. "Ahmir "?Uestlove" Thompson: Adjunct Instructor". New York University Tisch School of the Arts. Retrieved October 16, 2019.
  3. Brandle, Lars (March 17, 2016). "Lee Andrews, Questlove's Dad and Frontman of Lee Andrews & the Hearts, Dies at 79". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved May 24, 2016.
  4. "Ahmir Thompson Reflects On His 'Roots'". Fresh Air. March 13, 2009. NPR. Retrieved August 11, 2012.
  5. "Questlove On Prince, Doo-Wop And The Food Equivalent Of The 'Mona Lisa'". Fresh Air with Terry Gross. April 27, 2016. NPR. Retrieved April 29, 2016.
  6. "Congress Alley". Discogs. March 13, 2009. Retrieved December 30, 2018.
  7. "Questlove on His Musical Upbringing, Hip-Hop's 40th, Soul Train and New Memoir, "Mo' Meta Blues"". Democracy Now!. August 14, 2013. Retrieved August 14, 2013.
  8. Thompson, Ahmir "Questlove"; Greenman, Ben (June 18, 2013). Mo' Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove. Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4555-0136-6. Retrieved August 15, 2013.
  9. Gates, Henry Louis, Jr. (December 12, 2017). Finding Your Roots. Season 9. Episode 4. PBS.
  10. Boyd, Jared (December 18, 2017). "PBS show reveals Questlove descended from last known slave ship, which landed in Alabama". The Birmingham News. Retrieved December 18, 2017.
  11. "Superjam 2007 featuring John Paul Jones, Ben Harper and Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson". Bonnaroo. 2007. Archived from the original on June 8, 2011. Retrieved May 9, 2011.
  12. "Wax Facts: About the Book". Wax Facts Press. June 12, 2007. Archived from the original on October 7, 2011. Retrieved May 9, 2011.
  13. Farhi, Paul (March 1, 2009). "Ready or Not, Here Comes Jimmy Fallon To Update Late Night". The Washington Post. p. M1. Retrieved February 28, 2009.
  14. Sutton, Benjamin (November 16, 2009). "?uestlove Recruits Jay-Z, Will and Jada Pinkett Smith as Producers on Fela!". L Magazine. Retrieved May 9, 2011.
  15. "Singer Duffy begins new album sessions in New York". BBC News. January 13, 2010. Retrieved October 24, 2011.
  16. "Part 2. Steve Lillywhite interview with Amy Lee (East Village Radio)". YouTube. March 23, 2010.
  17. Lee, Amy (March 5, 2010). "Thank you, thank you, thank you @questlove ! It was an honor. :)". @AmyLeeEV. Retrieved November 6, 2019.
  18. "Evanescence". Discogs. 2014. Retrieved January 6, 2014.
  19. Fox, Luke (August 2010). "Conversations: The Roots' Questlove". Exclaim!. Archived from the original on August 4, 2010. Retrieved May 9, 2011.
  20. "Karmin's Cover of Super Bass". YouTube. Retrieved August 8, 2011.
  21. Questlove (2013). Soul Train: The Music, Dance, and Style of a Generation. Harper Design. ISBN 978-0-06228-838-7.
  22. Questlove & Greenman, Ben (2016). Something To Food About: Exploring Creativity with Innovative Chefs. Clarkson Potter. ISBN 978-0-55345-942-5.
  23. Espinoza, Joshua (August 25, 2016). "Questlove Lands His Own Radio Show on Pandora". Complex. Retrieved February 21, 2017.
  24. Hughes, Hilary (November 30, 2016). "Solange Reveals Why Master P's Influence Was Golden On Her Latest Album". MTV News. Retrieved February 21, 2017.
  25. Young, Alex (November 25, 2014). "Questlove and Chris Rock nerd out over hip-hop on Juan Epstein podcast — listen". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved February 21, 2017.
  26. Sacher, Andrew (December 14, 2016). "Pete Rock interviewed on Questlove's Pandora show (read an excerpt)". BrooklynVegan. Retrieved February 21, 2017.
  27. "Questlove Can't Take a Compliment". WNYC Studios. January 3, 2018. Retrieved January 24, 2017.
  28. Stutz, Colin (November 20, 2018). "Questlove Expertly Curates Soundtrack for Michelle Obama's 'Becoming' Book Tour: Listen". Billboard. Retrieved November 21, 2018.
  29. Questlove (2018). Creative Quest. Ecco Press. ISBN 978-0-06267-055-7.
  30. "Här är alla vinnare av Guldbaggen 2012" [Here are all the winners of Guldbaggen 2012]. Aftonbladet (in Swedish). January 23, 2012. Retrieved July 13, 2014.
  31. "Chance the Rapper/Mel B". Adult Swim. Archived from the original on August 31, 2014. Retrieved February 23, 2016.

Further reading

Media offices
Preceded by
Max Weinberg
Late Night bandleader
March 2, 2009 – February 7, 2014
Succeeded by
Fred Armisen
Preceded by
Rickey Minor
The Tonight Show bandleader
February 17, 2014 – present
Succeeded by
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