Grammy Award-winning musician Questlove has been a revered figure in the entertainment world for over two decades. In 2022, his film Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) took home the Best Documentary Feature award at the 94th annual Academy Awards. But the minutes before his acceptance speech were fraught with tension, as Will Smith infamously slapped Chris Rock across the face. But despite all the onstage drama, Questlove didn’t see any of it.
Questlove won an Academy Award for Best Documentary for ‘Summer of Soul’
Questlove rose to fame as part of the hit hip-hop band The Roots. He’s become a household name over the past decade as The Roots have served as the official band for both Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.
In 2021, Questlove made his directorial debut with Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised). The documentary chronicles the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, which invited the likes of music icons including Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, and Gladys Knight & the Pips, to perform and stand up for their rights.
At the 2022 Academy Awards, Summer of Soul won the award for Best Documentary Feature. Questlove was gracious in his speech, which came just minutes after the slap heard ’round the world.
Questlove was ‘not present’ for the Will Smith/Chris Rock slap
In an interview on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Questlove admitted that he wasn’t aware that the slap had just happened until he was about to take the mic for his acceptance speech. Instead, he was practicing transcendental meditation, something that Jerry Seinfeld introduced him to a few years ago.
“When the commercial break was happening, I was just in my ‘Mmmmm,'” he told Fallon, closing his eyes. “So when I opened my eyes, I didn’t realize. Like, ‘Why is everyone so quiet?’ Like I literally was not present for that entire moment.”
It dawned on him right before he accepted the award that what happened with Smith and Rock was a real moment. “As I’m walking to the stage, I’m kind of putting two and two together and I realized that [the slap] was a real moment maybe three seconds before I spoke words,” he recalled. “But in my mind, [Rock and Smith] are just doing a sketch or whatever, and I’m just like ‘OK, Ahmir, remember to thank your mom, your dad.'”
“So I was not present at all.”
In accepting the award, Questlove pointed out the significance of the film and of highlighting an important part of history that has often gone forgotten. “This is about marginalized people in Harlem that needed to heal from pain,” he told the audience. “Just know in 2022, this is not just a 1969 story about marginalized people in Harlem.”
Questlove won a Grammy Award for ‘Summer of Soul’ a week later
A week after winning Best Documentary Feature, Questlove added another Grammy Award to his collection. Summer of Soul took home the honor for Best Music Film at the 2022 Grammy Awards in Las Vegas.
In his acceptance speech, Questlove expressed his gratitude and humility for the entire journey that Summer of Soul has gone on. He took a minute to shout out the artists who performed at the Harlem Cultural Festival all those years ago, choking back tears.