Imagine, if you will, a prestigious event taking place at the White House. Questlove is DJing, dignitaries are schmoozing, and everyone is having a lovely time and then, out of nowhere, the light mood comes to a screeching halt, replaced by a cacophonous sample of Uncle Luke yelling at you to “pop that pussy, bitch, what you twerkin’ with.” Imagine looking at Questlove in utter bewilderment, as if to say, “Who the heck requested this?” And imagine, finally, that Questlove points to none other than then-President Of The United States, Barack Obama himself. This is the story Questlove tells on the latest episode of Malcolm Gladwell and Rick Rubin’s Broken Record podcast, now available for streaming below.
He says it all started innocently enough, but before long, President Obama’s girls, Sasha and Malia, had grown bored with the stiff adult contemporary tunes, leaving President Dad to step in and save the day:
“So two hours into it, he taps me on the shoulder. ‘You’re doing a good job! I love the Donna Summer and the old school hip-hop and the jazz. But look at them, they wanna have fun too!’ And he’s pointing to his kids. They’re having a sit-in. They’re looking at me like, ‘Nah, none of this sh*t works.’
“Suddenly, that night became Animal House, the most debaucherous… [Obama’s] coming up to me like, ‘Do you have French Montana?’ And I’m like, ‘Sir! I don’t have the clean versions of that.’ He’s like, ‘We’re all adults here. Play it!’ I’m like, ‘Sir, I’m not gonna play ‘Pop that pussy, bitch, what ya twerkin wit.’”
Clearly, the President put poor Questlove in a compromising position. On the one hand, Obama gave Quest free reign to play whatever would make the kids happy. But it’s the White House; there’s an expectation of decorum. Besides, would you want to be on the receiving end of Michelle Obama’s famous side-eye when she decides she’s had enough of the shenanigans? It all turned out okay in the end, according to Questlove, so it probably wasn’t quite the disaster he imagined it’d be, but years later, it sure does make for one funny fish tale.
Check out the rest of the two-part episode, for more of Questlove’s insights on the music business and his famous cohorts above.