Questlove may have had a front row seat to the drama—but his mind was understandably elsewhere.
During the March 28 episode of The Tonight Show, the 51-year-old musician—with his trophy in tow!—recalled the moment he won the award for Best Documentary Feature for Summer of Soul at the 2022 Oscars—just moments after Chris Rock (the category’s presenter) and Will Smith took center stage with their own unexpected moment.
Looking back on that “situation,” The Roots frontman explained to host Jimmy Fallon that he was really didn’t grasp what happened in the moment since he was busy soaking in the full experience of his nomination.
“Of course, you know, that happened in the cyclone of a whole [other] situation with two very good friends of mine,” he noted, referencing Will and Chris. “And I really wasn’t aware of that, it’s weird to say, because—they tell you ahead of time, ‘This is your category!’ And so, in that moment, you’re either gonna be full of anxiety—or for me, I’ve been meditating for the last two years.”
Explaining that he learned the practice of trans-meditation from Jerry Seinfeld, Questlove added, “When the commercial break was happening, I was just in my ‘mmmm.’ So, when I opened my eyes, I didn’t realize, like, ‘Why is everyone so quiet?’ I literally was not present for that whole entire moment. And as I’m walking to the stage, I’m kind of putting two and two together and I realize that that was a real moment, maybe three seconds before I spoke words.”
After taking a beat to piece together what unfolded, the Philly native went back to the task at hand as he graced the stage. “I’m just like, ‘OK, Ahmir, remember to thank your mom and your dad,”’ he recalled telling himself. “So, I was not present at all. I was just in a blank space.”
(As for where Will and Chris stand now after the slap, the actor has since issued a public apology to the comedian.)
Questlove’s recent win is one that not only is he undoubtedly proud of—but Jimmy noted that he’s happy for him on a personal note, too. (Questlove, alongside his group, The Roots, have served as Jimmy’s in-house band since 2009.)
“I can’t tell you—obviously, but everybody who knows you loves you and is so proud of you, dude,” Jimmy told Questlove. “It couldn’t have had happened to a better dude.”
(E! and NBC are part of the NBCUniversal family.)
Peacock is live now! Check out NBCU’s new streaming service here.