Questlove on the Iggy Azalea debate: 'Hip-hop is a contagious culture'

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Image Credit: Monica Schipper/FilmMagic

Most people recognize Questlove as The Roots’ drummer and Jimmy Fallon’s sidekick, but as of Wednesday night, he will also be the executive producer of SoundClash, a new music show coming to VH1 and Palladia. In honor of this venture, in which he gets top artists to play different renditions of their hits and/or cover other performers’ work, Time talked with the artist about the music of summer, and specifically, where he falls on the cultural appropriation debate surrounding Iggy Azalea.

When asked if he was pro- or anti-Azalea, Questlove said he can see both sides. “I’m caught in between,” he said. “And I defend it. I see false Instagram posts like, ‘She said the N-word! She said the N-word!’ I’ll call people out—’Yo, don’t troll.’ I know you’re ready to give your 42-page dissertation on theGrio about why this is culture vulture-ism.

“You know, we as black people have to come to grips that hip-hop is a contagious culture,” Questlove continued. “If you love something, you gotta set it free. I will say that ‘Fancy,’ above any song that I’ve ever heard or dealt with, is a game-changer in that fact that we’re truly going to have to come to grips with the fact that hip-hop has spread its wings.”

For Questlove, the Azalea conversation is about more than just her music. It’s also about where she’s from. And she isn’t the only Australian artist Questlove’s currently listening to. “I don’t think it’s a mistake that a lot of of my favorite artists are coming from Down Under,” he said. “A lot of them [are] more soulful than what we’re dealing with now. When you think soul music and Aretha Franklin and the Baptist-born singer, that’s sort of an idea in the past. As black people, we’re really not in the church as we used to be, and that’s reflected in the songs now.”

Though he’s still on the fence about the simmering Azalea controversy—”I’m not going to lie to you, I’m torn between the opinions on the internet, but I’mma let Iggy be Iggy,” Questlove said—he was able to come to a decision on whether her hit “Fancy” should be labeled the song of the summer. “The song is effective. I’m in the middle of the approximation of the enunciation, I’ll say,” he explained, again acknowledging the debate. “Part of me hopes she grows out of that and [sings] with her regular dialect—I think that would be cooler. But, yeah, ‘Fancy’ is the song of the summer.”


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