So, How Was Your 2020 is a series in which our favorite entertainers answer our questionnaire about the music, culture and memorable moments that shaped their year. We’ll be rolling these pieces out throughout December.
To say this was a low-key transformative year for Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson would be an understatement. The Roots co-founder and Tonight Show bandleader decamped to a New York farm, lost 70 pounds since March, began meditating three hours a day and “morphed into the exact guy I used to laugh at (a sleeping, meditative, Croc-wearing, health nut.”)
For a musician used to working on 438 projects at once, the quarantine has allowed Thompson a little time to devour books, binge Fiona Apple and UK group Sault and, in the most surprising twist for the vampiric producer, become “addicted to sleep.” Thompson went long on how his 2020 went for Rolling Stone.
The album I listened to the most in 2020 was:
Sault – Untitled (Black Is)
Sometimes you scour the Earth for the perfect musical moment, and sometimes it just finds you. Smack dab in the middle of the most terrifying time in recent memory (July 2020) in which you didn’t know if you were coming or going, or living or dying. And even if you were well off, you still have people in your life that are in the same predicament. Should you stay in? Should you protest? Is your mom safe in another state alone? Are you safe in your new location? From March to July was madness and somehow this entire album just …..calmed me. in a way that an album hasn’t done for me in DECADES.
My favorite TV show to stream during quarantine was:
The Jordan 30 for 30 was a godsend. I told myself I’d enlighten myself and watch every last Criterion Collection out, but like the rest of America I too fell in the Selling Sunset slump. But as far as actual series? Lovecraft Country was a deep dive I didn’t know I’d need. I’m now reading every Afro-Futurist book i can get my hands on.
The song that will define “2020” for me is:
As a DJ, I’m abreast of everything that has gone down so it would be easy to name the popular stuff. But as a music lover, very few things hit me in the gut. I will say that a lot of [Fiona Apple’s] Fetch the Bolt Cutters got much play on the farm I relocated to. The cut “Ladies” went particularly nice on my 90-minute drives to Manhattan.
I’d define my current state of mind as:
Peaceful as ever. My girlfriend allowed me three weeks of panicking before she predicted what the next year was gonna be so I had a choice to make: shit (panic) or get off the pot (thrive) — I went here kicking and screaming but by May I got my shit together and morphed into the exact guy I used to laugh at (a sleeping, meditative, Croc-wearing, health nut). I couldn’t be happier. And I mean real happiness. The celebs that are being quiet as a mouse now are clutching their pearls out of fear (lemme not show how happy I am out of fear that will make me look bad) — I can’t do that. This was the rest I needed. This was also the look inside my soul observation I needed. LONG overdue.
The viral video I kept coming back to in quarantine was:
Chappelle 8:46 like seven times.
The old-favorite album I returned to for comfort this year was:
I had to pretend i knew nothing about the Sign O’ the Times reissue to a lot of Prince fans lol. My comfort zone in music discovery is still 1967-2004.
The old-favorite movie I returned to for comfort this year was:
Without putting my business out there, I watch Fantasia in ways I’d never seen it before. 🍄 As a time travel junkie, I loved Palm Springs. My girlfriend also told me my dealbreaker in this relationship was my refusal to watch The Star Wars trilogy (still haven’t gotten to Jedi yet). I also peeped Animal House for the first time and learned a lot.
A new hobby I picked up in quarantine was:
Meditating two hours waking up and one hour before I go to sleep. (Some people also know it by its other title “Prayer.”) Lemme also add I got addicted to sleep (8-12 hours something i thought i’d NEVER say in this lifetime). I didn’t realize how crucial sleep was to health. I was halfway there on my health journey in December 2018 (415 pounds). I coasted late 2019 at 360something—-from March 2020 on, I dropped an additional 70 pounds mostly SLEEPING.
The celebrity I’d most want to quarantine with is:
Welp…without sounding weird: if D’angelo and Questlove of 1996/2013 were quarantining from March 2020 til now? Man….the music?!?!?
The most interesting thing I learned to cook during quarantine was:
I was forbidden to panic snack so believe it or not I stayed OUT the kitchen this year. However: on off nights, my popcorn mixed with Holy Tshili (trust me yall) was my GO-TO.
The best book I read in quarantine was:
I will say I did keep up my promise and read as many books as possible. I had a ridiculous amount of books to finish before year’s end. Like “Imma read 100 books by September!!!!!!” lol it was more like 19. I was doing like a book per week-and-a-half. Something serious and then something frothy. So a quick recap of the highlights:
–The Chitlin Circuit & The Road To Rock ‘n Roll (Preston Lauterbach)
–There Was A Time: James Brown,The Chitlin’ Circuit, & Me
–Black Music (Amiri Baraka)
–Roger Ebert’s Four Star Reviews
–If The Buddha Married: Creating Enduring Relationships On A Spiritual Path (Dr. Charlotte Kasi)
–After the Dance (Jan Gaye)
–Afrofuturism: The World Of Black Sci-Fi & Fantasy Culture
–My Friend Michael (Frank Cascio)
–The Beautiful Ones (Prince)
–Your Faith Is Your Fortune (Neville Goddard)
However, the five standouts that spoke to me:
5. The Potlikker Papers: A Food History Of The Modern South (John T Edge): I had to investigate on the food that I used to identify my blackness…and also subsequently had me on a fast path to my deathbed. Giving up soul food was the hardest battle I had in life. We all self-soothe. Some chose heroin and coke, some chose extreme sex…..I chose food. Dr. Mark Hyman suggested I investigate how Soul Food is actually the unspoken act of violence on black people. When seen that way, I changed my habits.
4. The Gene Keys (Richard Rudd): I listen to the audio version of this book in a roulette/random shuffle way. It’s my new Bible. I listen to a half-hour every day to learn how to not sabotage or regress into my old self. My girlfriend got me the book and audio version. I don’t go a day without it.
3. A Very Punchable Face (Colin Jost): Just for all the times he had to be rushed to the hospital. Hilarious.
2. Let Love Rule (Lenny Kravitz): Gotta admit, when I read celeb bios I skip to chapter 4 because “that’s the part i care about” — so you KNOW if your entire book is about your life BEFORE you get the record deal it must be special (last chapter starts the making of his debut and then ends….(leaving space for a part 2?)—this is part Forrest Gump, part Cooley High. Every page, danger meets creativity meets betrayal meets heartbreak meets lust meets drama.
1. The Meaning Of Mariah (Mariah Carey): My whole goal here is to undersell and make this Hyperboliquestification-free. I started off reading it and midway got the audiobook and realized I want Mariah Carey to read me everything. Seriously her comic timing, sarcasm, snide jokes and spot-on Aretha speaking voice imitation, heart and her love and truth ooze out of this book. Normally an artist has a die for me to refilter them in a whole new night. This book literally washed every pre-conceived snobbery dig I mighta casually (unfairly) placed on her and now i want a redo. Did I mention she has an amazing sense of humor?
The mistake I learned the most from this year was:
The ones you love if put into a corner will attempt to hurt you the most.
The biggest hero of 2020 was:
Welp it’s transformative axiom time: my girlfriend Gracie is a godsend hero. She introduced me to the world of Dr. Joe Dispenza (new hero) who taught me that I am my own hero.
A word or phrase I never want to hear again is:
Phrase: The New Normal
The thing I’m least looking forward to in 2021 is:
Anyone who will see this as “over” and “back to normal” and regress back into their old patterns.
The thing I’m most looking forward to doing when the pandemic is over is:
My biggest hope for 2021 is:
We are all still in one……peace (see what i did there?)