Winning an Academy Award on his first try was pretty, pretty sweet for Roots drummer Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson. But getting props from the former First Couple? Icing on the gravy. On Monday (March 28), Quest got a congratulations from former First Lady Michelle Obama, who praised the beat-keeper for winning the best documentary feature Oscar for Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised).
“Congratulations, @Questlove and the team at @SummerOfSoul, for your #Oscar win!,” Obama tweeted. “Barack and I were so moved by this celebration of Black music, culture, and joy. What you did in telling this overlooked story is so important—and we are grateful for artists like you leading the way!” Quest responded with a big “(((HUG))),” clearly moved by the praise.
Summer of Soul, helmed by first-time director Quest, tells the unjustly forgotten story of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, which included performances from Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder, Sly & the Family Stone, Mahalia Jackson and more iconic artists operating in the ’60s, making the case that had this not been a primarily Black festival, it would have been as well remembered and celebrated as Woodstock, which took place in New York that same year.
On Monday night’s Tonight Show, Quest got to step out from behind the kit and take a seat on the couch — Oscar in tow — to chat with host Jimmy Fallon about his historic win. “This is so heavy, man,” Quest said. “They told me to never put it down because people have been known to steal it.” You could tell that wouldn’t be a problem, because the Roots drummer revealed that on the plane ride back from L.A. he was “spooning” with his award the whole time.
“It’s a weight I’m willing to carry,” he said when Fallon scooped up the trophy and marveled at its heft. Asked if he’d gotten any sleep, Quest said of course not, because if anyone knows anything about him it’s that he will never, ever turn down any DJ gig. Which is why when he got the invite to spin records at Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s Oscar Gold Party, the answer was yes, even though he said it was “the hardest things to do ever in life.”
In Quest’s mind, though, that took the pressure off worrying about the Oscars. “Then it was like, ‘Oh, what Oscar? I don’t care!’” he said. And though he did not live up to the bet he had with Jimmy to play Smash Mouth’s “All Star” to kick off the party — “which I don’t think is what Jay-Z really wants to hear” — the drummer did manage to slip a bit of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” into the mix.
He then described a “cyclone” mosh pit at the soiree that included famed Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour in the mix, which made him think that if he gets invited to DJ the Met Gala he will absolutely get “All Star” in the mix.
As for what it felt like when he got a standing ovation when his name was announced, Quest said it felt like he and his +1, his mom Jacqui Andrews, were “the only two people in the room… we went through so much, from them sacrificing to put me in music school… either our bills or my future,” he said of the lengths his parents when to support his dreams. Explaining that he’s been practicing transcendental meditation for two years, Quest said that before his category was to be announced he had begun practicing him mantra and when he opened his eyes he wondered, “why is everyone so quiet?”
“Like I literally was not present for that whole, entire moment,” he said. “And as I’m walking to the stage, I’m kind of putting two and two together and I realize that that was a real moment like maybe three seconds before I spoke words.” Fallon said he watched the moment over and over and said, “You know we love you and we’re proud of you, but everybody, everybody who knows you loves you and is so proud of you, dude. It couldn’t have happened to a better dude.” And, to really drive the point him, Fallon referred to his friend and bandleader as “Academy Award-winning director Questlove” two times to end the segment.
Check out Quest on The Tonight Show and Michelle Obama’s tweet below.
— Questo (@questlove) March 29, 2022