Questlove: The Roots Never Squashed Biggie Beef

Questlove: The Roots Never Squashed Biggie Beef

Drummer shares story behind "What They Do" video and never making it "right" with Brooklyn MC before he died.

Published November 28, 2014

The Roots never got a chance to settle a discrepancy with the Notorious B.I.G before he passed away, Questlove revealed during a podcast with Juan Epstein. The late Brooklyn MC was upset with the Philly collective over their music video for “What They Do,” which he felt was directly mocking his “One More Chance” video.

Quest explained that video was actually a more general commentary on the materialistic and mysognystic state of hip hop, but Biggie took it personally. “Biggie was like our biggest champion. Like when he did Ego Trip magazine he championed us and Jeru higher than anyone. He put Brooklyn onto The Roots,” Quest recalled.

“So, we did this 'What They Do' video, and it's sort of like a sarcastic look at what was then becoming champagne culture,” says Questlove. “So we told the director we don't want to do a direct reference to someone's video. We just talking about the impending lurking of this new — at the time it seemed like the new apartheid — the have-nots versus the haves. Based on the way the set looked, we didn’t know we were doing a direct reference to ‘One More Chance.’ So, when we saw the final cut, they showed it to us and I was like, ‘Oh, damn.’ But it was too late. We didn’t have the power to be like Kanye, like, ‘Scrap my video! do it again!’ We was just like, ‘Oh. well.’”

Big was offended, telling The Source that his feelings were hurt. The magazine in turn allowed Quest to write an op-ed explaining the video concept. The date was March 8, 1997, one day before the Bad Boy artist's death.

When he finally finished writing, Quest got the news: Biggie was dead. “Called The Source and said, 'Okay, I'm ready to send the response-to-Biggie op-ed,' and they're like, 'Oh God, you didn't hear what happened did you?' And I was like, 'What are you talking about?' They said, 'Biggie's dead.' That killed me. I never made it right."  

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(Photos from left: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images, Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)

Written by Latifah Muhammad

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