Arts & Entertainment, Music

Knowing Your Roots: The Art of Crate Digging


Lesson time 14:45 min

Expand your catalog and explore different music with tips from Questlove.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Expanding Your Music Knowledge • Labels • Decoding Liner Notes


[MUSIC PLAYING] - I grew up in an era where you had the tastemaker. And that's what I imagine myself as, the tastemaker, that all-knowing person that puts in those hours, that tells you the difference between, like, this record and this record. And even back then in the 70s, it wasn't uncommon for a DJ to go home and go to the sink or the bathtub to wash the label off the record. So you couldn't be at the nightclub trying to see what they were playing, you know. And so a lot of people aren't too keen to share the information. I'm the exact opposite. A way that you can sort of exercise your brain and help it to expand and grow more is to get out of your comfort zone. One of the hardest things that, I think, it is for younger people to adapt to is learning music that you consider old music. I didn't come out the womb loving older music. I was just like you. I looked at Marvin Gaye and James Brown as my dad's old records, and I'm not listening to stuff, and that's what my dad listens to. And luckily I had hip-hop come and contextualize and sort of re-present it in a way for me that made sense. And it made me want to dive in further to my record collection. You should know, in general, who the top three people are, kind of, in terms of DJing, like when you think of soul music, I pretty much know that I can't go wrong playing James Brown. You can't go wrong playing Stevie Wonder. You can't go wrong playing Kool & the Gang, you know. And only then when you dive into their catalog, you'll learn that, oh, Kool & the Gang went through a lot of stages. So in the early part of their career, they were kind of doing this jazz thing. And then somewhere in 1974, funk really-- their funk really started to develop. But then in 1977, they went through this really weird disco phase. And then critics say that they had a comeback in 1979, once they added a singer to it. And then by 1983, they had a lot of pop hits. So they went from jazz to funk to disco to a pop run in their 10-year span. Probably the biggest hip-hop artist right now, in terms of putting in the numbers, is Drake. And Drake alone uses his music-- of course, using the sound of trap music is part of Drake's repertoire, but he's incorporated New Orleans bounce. So if you listen to songs like "Nice for What" or, you know, any of his songs that are in the 94 BPM range, then you realize that he's doing a hat nod, a tip of the hat to New Orleans culture. So then that will get you into a whole genre of music that you never knew before. Drake is also a fan of like new Afrobeat. And so there you can also look at his work and then start looking up Afrobeat. So Drake is a great contemporary artist to sort of take his music and then figure out what other songs would blend in with his music. So he's probably a really good contemporary artist to explore different genres. And that to me is important. You have to study an artist's canon. And that doesn't mean that you're going to be this Mensa...

About the Instructor

Ahmir Thompson—better known as Questlove—is an iconic DJ, the drummer for The Roots, and the “coolest man on late-night,” but his first love is collecting and mixing music. Now the Grammy winner is sharing his passion with you. Explore DJ techniques, expand your musical vocabulary, and learn how to glide from genre to genre—including hip-hop, neo-soul, jazz, R&B, and more—to curate your own perfect playlist.

Featured Masterclass Instructor


The iconic DJ and Roots drummer Questlove teaches you how to be a better DJ, deepen your love of music, and make a perfect playlist.

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