Questlove Explains Why Black Thought Was “Blackballed” By Fellow Emcees

Written by on March 23, 2021

Talib Kweli and co-host Jasmin Leigh’s The People’s Party podcast has officially welcomed the wise and endearingly tangent-prone Questlove to the fold, and one of the highlight moments arose when the conversation shifted to Black Thought’s status as a bonafide GOAT contender. 

“Dude, that Hot 97 Freestyle ain’t shit compared to his Thanksgiving dinners,” jokes Quest, as Talib proceeds to praise Black Thought’s penmanship on “Act II: Love Of My Life.” After, Talib shares a startling revelation — that after slaughtering ten minutes of bars on Funkmaster Flex, Black Thought called him and seemed surprised at the positive response. He proceeds to ask Quest why the masses seem hesitant to recognize Black Thought as the game’s greatest emcee. 

“There’s a moment when Kid A came out by Radiohead, and the buzz was so heavy on Radiohead in a deafening undeniable way, that you almost weren’t cool if you weren’t down with Radiohead,” begins Quest. He explains how he always felt “the idea of The Roots was always bigger than the actual Roots,” which didn’t always translate to direct knowledge about the music itself. “With The Roots, the idea of liking us is cool. We structure it so there’s something for everybody…but oftentimes, [Black Thought] is too good for his own good.”

“That rule in The 48 Laws Of Power where you’re not supposed to outshine the teacher, I definitely know there’s some of that going on as well,” he continues. “Often with our peers. I think Jay told me once…When Jay heard Tariq’s verse on “I Will Not Apologize,” Jay had this wide-open thing like ‘finally! Ya’ll listened to me.’ Tariq does such a simple rhythmic pattern there, and that’s one of the rare times he spoon-feeds you a simple rhyme pattern that your brain can follow. Normally it’s like Crazy Taxi.”

“I was kind of asking, to Jay, can’t you use your influence to get him on more features,” reveals Quest, reflecting a meeting he had with the then-Def Jam President. “And he was just like — the logic of that thinking is, people will want to co-sign something new. He tells me, the problem with Thought is its one thing for a super-established artist to pull a move. He was sort of suggesting the ‘Renegade’ situation. That Nas line ‘Eminem murdered you on your own shit.’ That did a lot to establish emcees at the time. It’s one thing to get sonned by an established person, but the days of allowing Busta to [steal the show on ‘Scenario’] are far and few between.”

“Jay told me in no certain terms that no rapper can afford to look bad in front of him, so it’s almost why we gotta blackball him,” says Quest. t.” 

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