Questlove Is Bringing His Supreme Knowledge To His Own Internet Radio Station
The cultural icon who has quite possibly the most impressive résumé in music today is adding another job to the list: internet radio host. Questlove (born Ahmir Thompson), founding member of the Legendary Roots Crew, NYU professor, “Tonight Show” bandleader, New York Times bestselling author, international DJ, Grammy winner, “Hamilton” producer, and occasional actor has found the time to enter the streaming-entertainment market alongside Pandora, the music-streaming service which debuted over a decade ago, in 2005. The partnership has been in the making for a while, but today (August 24), it culminates with the announcement of “Questlove Supreme.”
Launching on September 7 at 1pm EST, Questo’s new program is described by the New York Times as a weekly “three-hour program with wide-ranging playlists and guests” which ” shows off its host’s eclectic tastes.” Thompson himself describes it as “the Black nerd version of NPR” and an unofficial extension of his New York University courses. The marriage of Thompson and Pandora is, in part, an effort to “compete directly with Spotify, Apple Music and Tidal,” as reported by the Times’ Ben Sisario. It’s a major offensive move by the internet-radio juggernaut who at times has “has clashed with the music industry in the past.” By merging creative forces with Quest, Pandora has aligned itself with one of the most beloved figures in pop culture.
It’s a major win for music fans, too (not the mention Hip-Hop Heads and Roots fans). While icons like Q-Tip and Sway have used internet radio to host conversations that go beyond music, Questlove’s show will be following a unique format. Firstly, it will be three-hours long, giving whatever music is played and whatever discussion is inspired a chance to breathe. Context will likely be a major player on “Questlove Supreme,” where the history of songs and their creators will be given the kind of encyclopedic attention Thompson is known for. Secondly, the music featured each week will be inspired by the topics discussed and not the other way around (which is by and large the formula for most shows of this nature). Questlove will be matching the thematic elements of any given week’s topic by including songs that help illustrate the concepts at hand, a process that will likely become as inventive a history lesson as the “Hamilton” Broadway play in which he is so heavily involved.
The show has been described as “a weekly ride through the global musical landscape featuring adventurous music selections, compelling conversations and revealing interviews with music lovers from the entertainment industry and beyond,” and there is no better guide for such a ride than the man with such a diverse list of accomplishments. Heads will have interviews with the likes of Bob Power to look forward to. The selection of the veteran sound man (whose work on seminal classics like A Tribe Called Quest’s The Low End Theory has made him a legend) as an inaugural guest is indicative of the exceptional curation and thought that will go into to each and every episode. Questlove himself has made it known that to prepare for each installment, he listens to over 200 songs. And it’s that kind of unbounded dedication that makes him an exemplary choice to steer Pandora in its next direction. “Pandora is a company born of a musician’s experience” with a “deep respect for the craft of music and a commitment to the musicians that make it their living,” says Quest.
The company’s co-founder, Tim Westergren, described the partnership with Quest as being emblematic of the fact that Pandora is “entering into a new phase” in which they “are working more directly with labels and artists.” As such, Westergren said of the partnership with Thompson, “having someone like him bridge that and speak on our behalf is really powerful.” But the relationship is far from one-sided. After all, Pandora “has long been the most popular internet radio service, and it is one of a handful of digital music brands that have become household names,” writes Sisario. However, the company hasn’t increased its peak number of average monthly listeners since 2014, when 81.5 million people tuned in.
To address such concerns, Pandora “plans to introduce a multitiered new service that, in addition to its basic radio version, will add levels of on-demand access — the ability for customers to listen to any song they want — for prices of up to $10 a month.” “Questlove Supreme” is an introductory offering into that type of dynamic content. On his first episode, longtime friend and superstar comedian Maya Rudolph will join Thompson (as will Power). The inaugural installment will be the first chapter in what he describes as “a commitment deeper than any girlfriend I’ve ever had.” But his show is just one facet of his partnership with Pandora. Unsurprisingly, the endlessly affable personality is also functioning as an ambassador, a duty which involves his “evangelizing for the service among fellow artists.”
This is an identifying facet that could prove to be Pandora’s secret weapon. “Pandora is eager to promote the marketing platforms it makes available to artists, such as audio messages that can be delivered to fans and detailed data about the popularity of particular songs,” reports Sisario.
For Heads already counting down the days until September 7, Questlove offered up a glimpse of his artistic vision for the show. “I want a world in which Drake’s ‘One Dance’ can also live with Frank Zappa’s Uncle Meat can live with James Brown’s ‘Talkin’ Loud and Sayin’ Nothing.'” For even more of an introduction, check out this celebratory mix created by the man himself.