I’ve had near misses with Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson nearly my whole DJing career. Backstage at a Smokin’ Grooves tour, two degrees of separation with other musicians, photographers and friends of The Roots. I’ve always been a fan. To this day, “Dynamite” and “Stay Cool” are staples in my DJ sets. One record that was stolen from me back in the day that I know I will never get back, is a mint promo copy of Do You Want More???. I dug it up at the Englishtown Auction for twenty five cents and was one of my faves. At the time, a jealous DJ (who no longer DJs ironically) jacked that and my original Illmatic. That Roots record was one that got away, unfortunately. Despite that unfortunate event, I’ve followed Ahmir Thompson from afar from way back. He was, to me, not just a drummer, but a musical ambassador. As a crate digger, his record collection was well documented in videos (off the hook!) and his knowledge about music was second to none. I would not want to go head to head with him on Rock and Roll Jeopardy, debate the intricacies of the Black Jazz catalog vs. Strata East catalog or follow his DJ set with my own (although Questo get at me, I’ll share a show with you anytime). Big shoes to fill, size 14 to be exact. The man has played drums with the two surviving members of Led Zeppelin, and has added producer, TV score composer, and icon to his CV. He’s also one of the busiest artists around. It was just a logical progression that the professor, lecturer, band leader, and DJ among other things would add author to his list of accomplishments.
“How do you plan a rebirth? I’m not sure you do. You just stand in the darkness until you can’t endure it any long, and then you move forward until you’re standing in the light.”
― Questlove, Mo’ Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove
Mo’ Meta Blues is a memoir and reflection on the life and career of the hardest working drummer in Hip Hop through personal stories, music playlists, and candid revelations. The son of Doo Wop legend Lee Andrews, Thompson recants his lifelong travels and philosophies through his career as a musician. These include, but are not limited to his early musical education on the road with his parents as a child and teen, the evolution of The Roots, the birth of Neo-Soul, D’Angelo’s Voodoo, rollerskating parties with Eddie Murphy and Prince, inadvertently pissing off Biggie Smalls and not being able to rectify it due to his death, Chapelle Show antics and Jimmy Fallon show faux pas (the “Lyin’ Ass Bitch” Michelle Bachman walk out debacle), and Tracey Morgan late night shenanigans among others. There are also insightful, frank, and often hilarious narratives with co-author Ben Greenman and long time Roots mentor Richard Nichols peppered throughout this interesting read as well. Questlove, ever the music historian, relates many of his memories to the music he was playing while these events took place. I think we all can relate to what music was playing at important events in our life. He gets down off of his perch and is actually sitting next to you, going through the range of emotions with you. The book really cuts through his celebrity, and puts Questlove on your level. His first introduction to Prince, nervous, tongue tied and shy reminded me of the time I opened for Q Tip, and I nervously asked him about a record dealer instead of just waiting to talk and have a normal introduction. His response “I have to go to the toilet.” I felt embarrassed. However, as the night progressed, I calmed down, he and I talked quite a bit, and by the end of the night we were cracking jokes and he was asking why I was leaving so soon. That’s what Questo does in this book, let’s you into his busy world to take in the foundations that brought this talented artist to where he is today. It’s an open discussion at your table after a gig talking music, records, race, celebrities, TV, DJing, and the many facets of our generation’s James Brown, the hardest working man in showbiz 2013. If you are a fan of music, and want to get into the mind of one of the most talented dudes in the industry today, FMF recommends this book. It’s a life story of someone who has steadily progressed from pupil to professor, and what it took to get there. Looking forward to the next 40 plus years documented by Questlove the same way.
Get the book here.