Boredom can help generate creativity, according to Ahmir Khalib Thompson, known professionally as Questlove. On Friday, Feb. 15, Questlove spoke with African American studies professor Imani Perry about music and creativity.
During the talk, Questlove — a writer and the frontman for the Grammy Award-winning band The Roots — was named an honorary member of the class of 2019. The honor recognized his “contributions to culture, the arts, and the creative process, which have left an indelible impression on the members of the class of 2019.”
“Are you guys sure about this?” Questlove joked as he held up the award.
Questlove and Perry focused on creativity throughout their conversation. In particular, Questlove stressed that one of the key lessons he has written about in his books is that “boredom is essential” for creativity.
“I think that creativity still matters,” he said.
He asserted that boredom can allow people to be more creative, something that is stifled by constant distraction with cell phones.
For instance, Questlove said that Wu-Tang Clan, a hip hop group, ran into issues after initial success. The group, according to Questlove, had gotten too comfortable amidst their success and could not find sources for additional creativity.
“Once [The Wu-Tang Clan] got a budget in millions, they all went to Los Angeles in a plush studio and all the amenities, and there was such a conflict,” he said.
Since that point, according to him, the quality of their music declined.
Questlove stressed the importance of finding creative thoughts amid boredom and even discomfort.
“Once you’re creative and you’re in a zone, keep that zone,” he said. “We rarely get silent moments to immerse ourselves in hearing great ideas.”
“So even for me ... yes, I have a way better apartment than I did when I started, but I still keep the same studio,” he added.
In his discussion with Perry, Questlove also described his passion for music, particularly his love for record-collecting. For him, record-collecting is similar to “going to Six Flags.”
He explained that his drive to find new music comes from a friendly competition between him and other producers.
“We’re always trying to one-up each other,” said Questlove, noting that he has recently been digging up “bad covers” of Barry White and others.
In the discussion, Questlove spoke about his childhood, noting that he was privileged to attend a creative and performing arts school, which gave him a chance to develop his talent in music. He noted that Philadelphia International Records, a popular record label, was close to where he attended school.
He also briefly talked about the gift of writing, which offered him “an escape from music” and respite from what he said was a sometimes depressing, “cold period” from 2006 to 2014.
Additionally, he discussed his band’s transition from its “blue-collar” origins to the “white-collar” atmosphere of the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, where his group is the in-house band.
The event was held in McCarter Theatre at 9:30 p.m. and was organized by the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students.