NEW YORK — "Time is definitely of the essence." That was the simple message Roots drummer ?uestlove said about why the hip-hop band is doing its part on Friday night (January 22) in MTV's
"Money talks," ?uestlove told MTV News. "We need contributions to help rebuild that society. It's only right. You would want it done for you. You need to contribute."
The band's iconic beat keeper predicted that the mood of Friday night's performances and appearances on behalf of the people of earthquake-devastated Haiti would be serious, but he was still looking forward to participating in the massive fundraising event.
"The tone ... is quite somber, very serious," he said after finishing several hours of rehearsals at the New York soundstage where one-third of the night's performances will take place. "We're going to back up Mary J. Blige. I know that usually people expect Mary's work to be rather upbeat. ... Shakira, there's no hip-shaking tonight." In addition, the band will play behind Jennifer Hudson and Sting. "When [George] Clooney comes calling, you come running," he said of one of the actor/philanthropist who will appear in the Los Angeles segment of the event.
"Hope for Haiti Now," which airs Friday at 8 p.m. ET/PT (7 p.m. CT) on dozens of television networks, is predicted to be the largest event of its kind. Hundreds of millions of people are expected to watch and donate, and dozens of celebrities, including Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert Pattinson, Halle Berry, Will Smith, Julia Roberts and Chris Rock have signed on to participate. Additional performers include Wyclef Jean, Bruce Springsteen, Alicia Keys, Christina Aguilera, Beyoncé, Madonna, Justin Timberlake, Taylor Swift, Coldplay and a group performance by U2's the Edge and Bono with Jay-Z and Rihanna.
At first, due to the Roots' day job as the house band on "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon," ?uest said the group had to pass. "But Jimmy Fallon was nice enough to let us shoot the show hours earlier [on Friday], so we can have a free schedule," he said. "To me, there's nothing else I'd rather do." Despite the attention the veteran hip-hop act has gotten over the past year backing up Fallon, ?uestlove said at the end of the day, "we were always men of the people. ... We're guys that do unto others as we like done for us. ... We're never too busy. I'm always thinking, 'What if that was us?' "
And while the Roots have happily chipped in for benefits supporting everything from AIDS awareness, to September 11th causes, Hurricane Katrina relief and voter registration, ?uestlove said the urgency of the situation in Haiti gives Friday night's show a different mood.
"Of course, we're in real time right now, and lives are literally on the line," he said. "There are still literally hundreds of thousands of people who haven't been located, that are still buried under the rubble. ... It's a sense of urgency. ... There's so much work to do, and so little time to do it in."
Learn more about what you can do to help with earthquake-relief efforts in Haiti, and for more information, see Think MTV. Join George Clooney and Wyclef Jean for MTV's "Hope for Haiti Now" telethon, airing commercial-free Friday, January 22, at 8 p.m. ET, and visit HopeForHaitiNow.org or call (877) 99-HAITI to make a donation now.