AOL: What was the inspiration behind 'Wake Up'?
Legend: The album 'Wake Up' was born back in 2008. If you flashback to that moment, we were in the middle of the election cycle. A lot of young people were getting involved in the campaign for Obama. A lot of conversations were being had about the future of the country and things we needed to do to make it right. You know, a lot of inspiration was in the air. I had just finished my album 'Evolver,' and it was about to come out in October of that year. But, I also wanted to do something that was a little more political and socially conscious, and of the moment that we were in politically and socially. So I reached out to the Roots and said, let's do some covers of a few songs, and make like a bonus disc, or an EP or maybe a digital download. So I reached out to them, they agreed to do it, and we started working on it, we recorded a few songs, and the more we got into it, we thought, you know, this is bigger than a few songs, this is bigger than just this moment, try to make a full album of this, you know, really get into a musical groove and let it play out fully. And so that's what we did. After I went on tour for 'Evolver,' then finished that whole album cycle, we came back in 2010 and started working on the album again. We finished it up this year, and now it's ready for everybody to hear.
Questlove: What he said.
AOL: Can you talk about the nostalgia involved with going back in time to select these songs?
Questlove: For the song selection, I spent about a week and some change, inside of my record room. I have a record library, of 70,000 plus records. And so, I just played a lot of records, made a copy of a few that I thought he'd dig. Then we made a list of 20 - 25 songs. We narrowed it down to the final selection. I wanted to avoid the usual cover album potholes. There's uber-obvious songs that I thought would have destroyed the project, even though they would have fit into it. You know, like, it would have been easy to been like, we'll let's do, 'A Change is Going to Come,' or 'This is a Man's World' by James Brown, or you know, that type of thing. Or any Stevie Wonder songs. So I wanted to pick some songs that were in the middle, that had strong messages.
And one of the coolest things about hip-hop culture is that a lot of these songs have been used in well-known hip-hop classics. So, even if you're not familiar with the original song, maybe as a hip-hop fan, you know from the hip-hop generation, you might be familiar with the music, or this loop, or, 'Oh, I heard that in A Tribe Called Quest song,' or 'I heard that in a Dr. Dre song,' that type of thing. That was probably our advantage to doing this record. The fact that, even if you weren't around during the Sixties and Seventies, you might have been around definitely in the Eighties and Nineties to hear these songs being sampled ... And they still have a strong potent message.
We're kinda hitting three demographics. People that were alive and around during that time period, that just like the music because it sounds old and soulful. People that lived through it, via the reprocessed generation of hip-hop, and then John's demographic target audience, that sort of passed the classic hip-hop stage between 2002 and 2007. We're hitting three demographics. You know, subject-wise I think we've hit a lot of areas, not just overtly political songs. Songs that just deal with what it means to be an American, how an American feels just from all angles. Like, we're just trying to hit all these birds with one stone.