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Mo' Meta Blues: The World According to Questloveby Ahmir "questlove" Thompson
"When you live your life through records, the records are a record of your life."
Drummer, DJ, producer, and cofounder of the legendary Roots crew, Ahmir "Questlove" (a.k.a. "?uestlove" and "Questo") Thompson is one of the music world's most virtuosic individuals. Possessing talent in spades, Questlove's accomplishments are many, but it is his encyclopedic knowledge and abiding passion for music past and present that set him in another realm. Mo' Meta Blues is indeed a music memoir, but it's the story of a life shaped by song most of all.
Quest begins his bio with the obligatory childhood recollections, albeit ones perhaps far more fascinating than the average musical superstar. Lee Andrews, his father, helmed a Philly-based doo-wop group, surrounding and immersing him in the music industry from a very young age. Questo revisits his formative years in West Philly — recalling an early (and still enduring) obsession with Rolling Stone and record reviews in general, the first time he heard The Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight," as well as the artists and albums that defined this era of his life (his love for Prince is likely unrivaled). Questlove goes on to detail his career chronologically, from meeting Roots MC and cofounder Tariq Trotter ("Black Thought") while at Philly's High School for the Creative and Performing Arts (and paying their dues as a drum/voice duet on South Street) through to the Roots' work as the house band on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and the group's most recent (and remarkable) album, 2012's Undun.
Surely, Quest's memoir will appeal most of all to fans of the Roots and hip hop in general. While a knowledge of rap isn't necessary, a passable understanding of the genre ought to enliven the myriad stories (especially as he elaborates on early hip hop pioneers and luminaries, as well as his later work with the likes of D'Angelo, Dilla, the Soulquarians, and others). Ardent Roots fan or not, Mo' Meta Blues is a candid, thoughtful, well-written work full of humility, humor, and anti-hubris. In writing about records, race, success, creativity, self-doubt, hardship, and heartbreak, Questlove stands raw and unadorned, without the familiarity and comfort of his drum set or turntables to deflect attention. Erudite and entertaining, Mo' Meta Blues is much more than the mere record of Questo's career — it's a sensitive, observant take on a life lived in, with, through, and surrounded by meaningful music.
And so that's how it goes. I keep moving through time and time keeps moving through me. And through that process, life takes shape. The question is what shape it is. I'm not the first person to ask this question, or to see how absurd it is to think there's a real answer. Maybe life's a circle. Maybe what goes around comes around. Maybe there's karma and an account ledger that balances off all debts and credits. Part of me believes that: the part of me that remembers that my drums are circles, that turntables are circles. But drumsticks are straight, and there are times when life seems like an arrow that goes in one direction and one direction only, toward a final target that might not be a final reward... Music has the power to stop time. But music also keeps time. Drummers are timekeepers. Music conserves time and serves time, just as time conserves and serves music. I think I have to believe in circularity, even if I know that the arrow's coming in on the wing... Will the circle be unbroken? That's not the only circle that's a question. Every circle is. Lines are statements. Arrows are especially emphatic statements. They divide and they define. They count up and count down. Circles are more careful. They come around again. They overthink. They analyze. They go back to the scene of the crime. They retrace their steps. That's where I end up, definitely maybe, always circumspect, always circumscribed by questions, by curiosity, by a certainty that I need a certain amount of uncertainty.
If you're a true Roots fan, Questlove's acknowledgements will undoubtedly be as gratifying as the past 20 years of liner notes.
Synopses & Reviews
"You have to bear in mind that [Questlove] is one of the smartest motherf*****s on the planet. His musical knowledge, for all practical purposes, is limitless." --Robert ChristgauMO' META BLUES
The World According to Questlove
Mo' Meta Blues is a punch-drunk memoir in which Everyone's Favorite Questlove tells his own story while tackling some of the lates, the greats, the fakes, the philosophers, the heavyweights, and the true originals of the music world. He digs deep into the album cuts of his life and unearths some pivotal moments in black art, hip hop, and pop culture.
Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson is many things: virtuoso drummer, producer, arranger, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon bandleader, DJ, composer, and tireless Tweeter. He is one of our most ubiquitous cultural tastemakers, and in this, his first book, he reveals his own formative experiences--from growing up in 1970s West Philly as the son of a 1950s doo-wop singer, to finding his own way through the music world and ultimately co-founding and rising up with the Roots, a.k.a., the last hip hop band on Earth. Mo' Meta Blues also has some (many) random (or not) musings about the state of hip hop, the state of music criticism, the state of statements, as well as a plethora of run-ins with celebrities, idols, and fellow artists, from Stevie Wonder to KISS to D'Angelo to Jay-Z to Dave Chappelle to...you ever seen Prince roller-skate?!?
But Mo' Meta Blues isn't just a memoir. It's a dialogue about the nature of memory and the idea of a post-modern black man saddled with some post-modern blues. It's a book that questions what a book like Mo' Meta Blues really is. It's the side wind of a one-of-a-kind mind.
It's a rare gift that gives as well as takes.
It's a record that keeps going around and around.
About the Author
Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson is the drummer and co-founder of the Grammy award-winning hip hop band The Roots. He's also a world-renowned producer, arranger, songwriter and The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon bandleader.
Ben Greenman is an editor at The New Yorker and author of several acclaimed novels, including Superbad, Please Step Back, and The Slippage. As a journalist and critic, he has written widely on music and pop culture.
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Arts and Entertainment » Music » Genres and Styles » Rap and Hip-Hop