Ever since author Dan Brown brought freemasonry into the mainstream with his bestselling book The Da Vinci Code — which is really just a fictional rehashing of research done by the likes of Robert Bauval, Michael Baigent, and Richard Leigh — the idea of a shadowy cabal of powerful people running the world known as the Illuminati has permeated several facets of pop culture, including hip-hop. Since then, there have been all sorts of conspiracy theories about which rappers are down with the mysterious organization, leaving people searching for imagery in everything they create from videos to song lyrics.

So when I heard Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson of the The Roots would be at Manhattan’s ritzy Core Club for a foodie event on Tuesday night featuring Spotted Pig chef April Bloomfield, I used the intimate occasion to ask the noted musicphile an off-the-cuff question about the Illuminati. If anyone was going to give me a straight answer, I figured it would be Questlove.

“I think there’s always been this theory of selling your soul to the devil for success since the days of the Delta Mississippi Blues,” said Questlove with a professorial flair when I asked him if the Illuminati in hip-hop is real or just a fad. “That folklore has always been sort of prevalent in all of music. I guess it’s unprecedented how most people think Jay Z is the Illuminati leader.”

As the crowd chuckled, he continued. “And often times, even though I don’t believe it, I’ve been in a few situations in which I feel uncomfortable with how comfortable they are being in front of me. Like, we’re friends and so sometimes I feel like ‘oh I shouldn’t have seen that’ and now they’re going to kill me,” laughs Questlove.

(Photo: Bucky Turco/ANIMALNewYork)