I tried it one night just for the hell of it.
A while later, Questlove said, “You know,
you stopped doing that scatting thing.
You should do that.” And I was like, “Oh,
okay.” Sometimes just a little positive reinforcement can go a long way.
George Benson is featured in this issue
He sat in with us, too, and I told him,
“Y’know, I feel like I owe you a lot of money
for that scatting-and-playing thing I do—I
totally ripped that off from you.” And he’s
like, “Well, son, you better pay up then!”
Let’s go back to your guitars for a second.
Is the Gibson CS-356 your primary guitar?
I use that mostly with Fallon. I got that
guitar when I got that gig. My primary
guitar is a Les Paul that got burned during
a Heineken commercial. I use that one a lot
with the Roots when we go on tour.
And you had it signed by Les Paul, right?
Yep, it’s signed by Les Paul on the back.
But my main guitar is a white ’ 61
Epiphone Crestwood—that’s probably
what you saw on that Hendrix stuff. For
Hundred Watt Heart, that’s my favorite. It
just feels so good, and it’s got mini humbuckers so the sound isn’t as thick. It’s not
like thick magic marker—it’s more like
crayon. When you’re using a distorted amp,
the Crestwood offers more string-to-string
clarity on complex chords.
Guitarists can typically be pretty closed-minded about hip-hop—they tend to
lump it all together in a very narrow niche
and stereotype it as dominated by crappy-sounding drum machines or repetitiveness
and inane rhyming. What do you have
to say to players who might not have an
open mind to your style of music?
Well, I feel like the name of our band,
the Roots, is very fitting. Yes, samples are
used to create the music in a lot of hip-hop, but I feel like that’s also the doorway
to discovering a lot of other kinds of
music—music that you otherwise would
not be exposed to. Hip-hop also places a
lot of emphasis on rhythm and the word.
I’ve gotten better as a guitar player from
being in the Roots, and rhythm is a huge
part of it—discovering that, wow, maybe I
have issues with speeding up and it could
do me a lot of good to concentrate on a
Captain Kirk playing his Trussart Steel Top at Mesa Amphitheatre, Mesa, Arizona in 2008. Photo by Sol Allen
rhythmic beat. Concentrating on a repetitive rhythmic beat is way more soulful
and interesting than concentrating on a
When you’re looking at the roots of
hip-hop, you’re looking back at James
Brown—that’s like the original hip-hop.
The dude was generally rapping a lot
of the time. You could say the same for
Dylan and a lot of his stuff. He’s storytell-
ing—he’s rapping. Listen to, “It’s Alright,
Ma (I’m Only Bleeding).” Listen to “The
Big Payback.” That’s like rap before rap
existed. So if you’re dismissive about hip-
hop, then you’re being just as dismissive
to forefathers like James Brown, Johnny
Cash, and Bob Dylan.