Arts & Entertainment, Music

Musicology: Questlove’s Playlist


Lesson time 20:46 min

Watch as Questlove breaks down the music in his playlist and explains the intricacy of his transitions.

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

Topics include: Mix and Match • Questlove Breaks Down His Playlist


[MUSIC PLAYING] - I'm a guy that sees what I'm doing up here as, you know, it's my version of bouillabaisse. It's my version of stew. It's my version of incorporating all these ingredients and serving it to you. So in any given night on a typical Questlove set, I'm trying to connect the lines between Benny Goodman, Louis Jordan, Miles Davis, Danny and the Juniors, Chuck Berry, The Beatles, Ray Charles, James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, WAR, The Bee Gees Michael Jackson, David Bowie, Queen, Public Enemy, Naughty By Nature, Nas, Britney Spears, Pharrell Williams, Lil Wayne, Drake, you know, Lil Baby, Burna Boy. I'm trying to connect all the dots between 1930 and 2021 and beyond. And not exactly in chronological order, either. Like, you got to find clever ways to mix and match. [MUSIC PLAYING] Okay, so this particular-- [MUSIC - JEAN KNIGHT, "MR. BIG STUFF"] This particular playlist that I chose, probably one of the biggest challenges that I face as a DJ is how to tell a power packed story in a certain amount of time. So of course "Mr. Big Stuff" by Jean Knight, a classic from the Stax, Memphis Stax Volt. 1971, '72. I guess my-- my default mode will always lean towards soul music, and how I can bend and drive through that. So the reason why-- [MUSIC - JEAN KNIGHT, "MR. BIG STUFF"] (SINGING) --than every star above. Mr. Big Stuff. - Now, here, I'm picking a song that's been used in commercials. It's been sampled before in certain rap songs. So I know already I'm talking to an audience between the age of 35 and 65. [MUSIC - JEAN KNIGHT, "MR. BIG STUFF"] - (SINGING) Mr. Big Stuff. - And so-- in this particular case-- Mr. Big Stuff. You're never going to get my love. [MUSIC - EARLE HAGEN, "THE FISHIN' HOLE"] So I use Andy Griffith for the pop culture of it all. Of course, had this been in the early 90s, this segue would have worked like gangbusters because of syndication. They were still showing the Andy Griffith Show, even on syndicated channels, in the late 90s. On Nickelodeon, that sort of thing. It's a little harder to sell now because it's sort of like, you know, it's sentimental to somebody of a certain age, of an older age. So it still serves me well. I'm going to "Bam Bam." [MUSIC - SLY AND ROBBIE, "BAM BAM"] I chose this because this rhythm, probably there's no rhythm section more dependable for really good, sexy dance music than the combination of Sly and Robbie. They are a drum-based combination that do their magic in Compass Point Studios in Jamaica. And they are probably the most powerful rhythm section of dance music. So this is one of their rhythms. And they will release these instrumentals, and then people do their different versions of them. So there's at least 15 songs with this rhythm under it. So I'll say of my selection of 15 songs, this is probably the most potent and strongest of them all. I'm not saying it's the biggest hit, but it's the song that I know will alway...

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.

Explore the Class
Sign Up