Music and Passion: Spending time with Questlove

Posted in Beats & Soul with Carly,Guest Posts,Life and Culture,What's going On on November 29th, 2013 By Simba

It’s very rare that I come across somebody in the media spotlight whose life I envy. However, I have just read Ahmir Thompson aka Questlove’s book ‘Mo Meta Blues’ and wow I would happily trade lives with him for a while!!

‘Mo Meta Blues’ is described as a memoir/autobiography but it is more a journey with Questlove through his experiences with and passion for music. As founding member of ‘The Roots’, who have been together now for 25 years, as well as an experienced and globally respected DJ and producer Questlove has had an undeniably impressive career in music to date. The laid back style of the writing in this book makes it feel as though you are sitting having a conversation with him, it is so readable and interesting and his passion for music radiates through the paragraphs.

So what has Ahmir Thompson got to talk about? How about going to college with Boyz II Men or taking Amel Larrieux as his date to the prom? If that doesn’t quite impress read the pages where he talks about the early days of Neo-Soul when he used to hold jam sessions in his basement with Jill Scott, Common, Erykah Badu and Musiq Soulchild to name a few!!! There are highly emotive moments when he recalls his experience of being in New York during the 9/11 attack and losing his close friend and musical muse J Dilla when he passed suddenly in 2006. The book also provides an informative look into the politics of the music industry and how so many factors can go into the success of an artist or group, not just with his own experiences as part of The Roots but what he saw happen to artists such as Common when things went wrong in the industry.

It was particularly interesting to read about his accounts of close friend D’Angelo and the struggle he faced after the release of ‘Untitled’ which saw him rise as a sex symbol and ultimately took a lot of focus away from his musical artistry. There are laugh out loud moments in the book such as when he describes the first time he met his hero – Prince and his original perception of Jay-Z and how he wouldn’t last in the industry!! What makes the book feel so conversational as well is the questions he posing to the reader without attempting to answer them, ‘Is Hip-Hop dead?’, ‘how can we define music genres?’ and ‘what makes an artist or group credible?’

Questlove’s relationship with music is well documented throughout the book, he describes songs, albums and artists who influenced him and have impacted his life. My favourite element of the book is that at various points he will list and describe albums that he was listening to at the milestone moments of his life, those albums that you play over and over that capture your emotions of the time and form the soundtrack to who you become.

I cannot stress how much of a must for music lovers this book is, particularly if you are even slightly interested in R ‘n’ B, Neo-Soul or Hip-Hop, I guarantee you will finish reading feeling like you have spent hours talking to an intelligent, funny, engaging musical genius! If you only read one book in 2013 make sure it is this one!  And in the meantime go and revisit your own milestone albums, it inspired me to dust off some old gems (even if they are better off hidden away!!)

Nothing ignites memories like music.

A few of my musical milestones:

Terence Trent D’Arby: Introducing the Hardline - 1987

Watching Terence Trent D’Arby’s music video for ‘If You Let Me Stay’, was my first experience of a music video and it captured such an iconic image – a man with huge dreadlocks, even bigger shoulder pads and shiny leather trousers. I was younger than 5 and I just remember it made me want to dance, I would pick the vinyl for my parents to play over and over and it has stayed with me ever since, listening to it now it hasn’t dated at all - it is immaculate.

Janet Jackson: Janet – 1993

After debate between my parents about the revealing front cover I was allowed this cassette! The sexuality and complexity of the lyrics went way over my head but I loved it, it made me sing, dance and cry and I couldn’t turn it over quick enough when one side finished. I played it until the tape snapped!!

TQ: They Never Saw Me Coming – 1998 (maybe I shouldn’t have wiped the dust from this one!!)

My first boyfriend and first love played this album on repeat for 2 years! When I hear it I am transported back to his room, walls covered in sports car posters, cuddling while he sang/rapped the lyrics to me! I thought he was the coolest thing ever and thought this album was edgy and intense, now my friend and I listen to the lyrics in hysterics, it has become both entertaining and nostalgic.

TLC: Fan Mail – 1999

When this album dropped I was a teenager; I was hormonal, struggling with identity and independence and I was in love for the first time. ‘No Scrubs’ made me feel empowered and confident, ‘Unpretty’ made me feel understood and when I’d argued with my boyfriend ‘I miss you so much’ felt like it had been written for me. This album got me through my teens!!

Brian McKnight: Anytime – I discovered in 2001

The first time I heard the song ‘Anytime’ I cried. I must have heard it a thousand times since yet even when I’m happy it still makes me cry, this album ignited a deeper passion for music for me that is still growing but it was the first realisation I had of how powerful music can be.

-Carly (@CarlyMond)

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