The hip-hop artist goes deep on the late artist’s legacy in an essay for Rolling Stone.
Outlining how he discovered Prince as an 11-year-old who was forbidden to listen to his music by born-again Christian parents, Questlove reveals how he hid cassettes in drum heads and went about modelling everything he did on the musician.
“I studied his fashion, I studied his affect. I studied his taste in women — carefully. And he began to mentor me in musical matters, too.
“I wouldn’t have started listening to Joni Mitchell without him. And that led me to Jaco Pastorius, who led me to Wayne Shorter, who led me to Miles Davis. I had a simple rule: if Prince listened to it, I listened to it.”
He also argues that Prince was “more hip-hop than anyone,” describing his innovation with the drum machine on 1999: “It wasn’t just one new idea — it was several, all together; you knew from that song and the album tracks around it (“Automatic,” “Lady Cab Driver”) that he was going to be the new breed leader.”
Questlove also outlines Prince’s loneliness and “level of mistrust when it came to letting the outside world in,” as well as remembering one of the times he met the artist and had to put $20 in a swear jar at his Paisley Park studio.
“Much of my motivation for waking up at 5 a.m. to work — and sometimes going to bed at 5 a.m. after work — came from him. Whenever it seemed like too steep a climb, I reminded myself that Prince did it, so I had to also,” he concludes.
Last year, Questlove shared a story about the time Prince kicked him off the decks in a club to play a Finding Nemo DVD instead – watch an animated version below.