More Culture:

October 17, 2022

Kenan Thompson, Fran Lebowitz among featured guests on second season of Questlove's digital series

Four new episodes of "Quest for Craft," which investigates the creative process, are available now on YouTube

After a successful debut that amassed millions of views, Questlove is once again partnering with whiskey brand The Balvenie to host the second season of "Quest for Craft," a digital series exploring creativity through the lens of well-known artists and celebrity guests. 

The full season is available to stream now on YouTube. Each episode is filmed inside the Electric Lady Studios in New York City, popularized by musical greats like Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Wonder. The episodes delve into the often obsessive nuances of an individual's creative process. This season features four celebrity guests who have proven to be legendary in their chosen fields, analyzing their backgrounds and how it has influenced their artistic expression.

"The Balvenie is anchored in heart, and that's exactly what drives this project, our guests and myself, personally," Questlove said. "There's no substitute for that kind of passion needed to drive the continual pursuit of the extraordinary. Coming back for season two of 'Quest for Craft,' we dig in deeper and hone in on the elements that have inherent value and major impact on the creative process." 

The first episode of the season explores craft and expression with music producer Mark Ronson, a DJ widely known for his collaborations with artists like Amy Winehouse, Duran Duran, Lady Gaga, Lily Allen, and Miley Cyrus. Ronson sits down with Questlove to discuss his method of "taking a song that I love and going under the hood," finding the influence for some of his most popular projects as a producer. 

Ronson has won seven Grammy Awards, including for Winehouse's "Back to Black" and Bruno Mars' "Uptown Funk." He spoke to Questlove about his process of determining which artists to collaborate with, how to explore sounds with each particular artist, and finally "making it" as a producer with the breakthrough popularity of Winehouse's final studio album.

Misty Copeland, one of three principal dancers in the American Ballet Theatre, takes over episode two to discuss unrealistic expectations of perfection among ballerinas, hoping to achieve an ideal similar to a ballerina in a music box. Copeland, who participated in her first ballet class at age 13 when many of her peers had been studying dance since early childhood, was later catapulted into success as a ballet student and professional dancer. 

She joined the American Ballet Theatre as a student in 2000, later advancing as a soloist in 2007 and becoming the first African American woman to be promoted as a principal dancer in the theatre's 75-year history. 

Copeland spoke on how her upbringing influences the way she hears music and the way she expresses herself through dance, especially when compared to members of the theatre who came from a more traditional background in ballet. 

In the third episode, Questlove spends some time with author and social commentator Fran Lebowitz for a discussion on the impact of an artist's environment on their craft and creativity. Lebowitz remarks that New York City is "centrally" important to her, and that "place" — whether a time or a geographical location — is profoundly important to writers in a way that it may not be for other art forms.

Though the 71-year-old Morris County native is well known for her writing on American life told from a New York perspective, she notes to Questlove that there is no "one" version of New York. She talks about being a pop culture figure despite navigating the world without advanced technology. 

In the final episode, Questlove is joined by comedian and longtime "Saturday Night Live" cast member Kenan Thompson. In the episode, Thompson remarks on his decades-long career and his experience working with an ensemble cast. Thompson, who is the longest running cast member on the show's 47-year history, spoke about the culture of constantly riffing with other cast members, which can grow tiring. 

In the episode, Questlove tells the story of The Roots' time on tour with the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 2012. During each show, members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers would form a huddle on stage to celebrate their friendship and gratitude at their success. 

When Questlove brought that idea to his manager, he was met with a startling observation: his friendship with The Roots — and with Tariq "Black Thought" Trotter — had devolved into a simple business partnership. 

After that, he began to make more of an effort to do more with the band other than simply performing and writing, to redevelop their friendship and love for their craft together. Thompson noted that as a "Saturday Night Live" cast member, the audience is largely able to tell when the cast does not truly like one another outside of the work they're doing for the show. 

In the first season of the series, which premiered in the fall of 2021, another "Saturday Night Live" cast member joined Questlove at Electric Lady Studios — Michael Che from the show's "Weekend Update" desk took part in the premiere episode to discuss chaos and creativity in comedy. 

All episodes are currently available to stream for free on The Balvenie's YouTube channel. Check out the new season or catch up on the full series below.