Mo' Meta Blues by Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson, Ben Greenman
Published by Grand Central Publishing, Thorndike Press on March 1, 2014
Genres: AutoBiography, Nonfiction
Buy at Amazon •
In this series of punch-drunk-on-culture essays, Ahmir Thompson, better known as The Roots'drummer Questlove, expounds on his vast and opinionated knowledge of music-from the greats, the lates, the fakes, the headliners, and the almost-were's-as well as important themes in black art and culture. These essays will be filtered through the eyes of one of our most recognizable cultural chameleons in Thompson's passionate, stream of consciousness style. Through these stories, he will reveal some of his own formative experiences, such as growing up in 70's Philly with 50's doo-wop singers as parents and finding his way through music, as well as random musings about his run-ins with celebrities and playing with some of his idols.
MO' META BLUES is a tripped-out amalgam of pop culture, black culture, white culture, music essays, and memoir, and, like its creator, is absolutely one-of-a-kind.
I’m not really into music – by that I mean I am not an audiophile. I enjoy music and I have a large number of musician friends – who introduced me to wonderful music and informed my rather eclectic taste. But I don’t read books about musicians or music. I picked up two books about music at the library for a challenge and I’m glad I did! I enjoyed [what I did read of] Mo’ Meta Blues. It was…just a little past boring and focused on a subject that doesn’t quite hold my interest.
I always planned on reading this book – someday. Questlove and The Roots are intimately tied to my college days. Although I wasn’t heavily into music, most of my friends were musicians and they introduced me to OkayPlayer. OkayPlayer was THE social site for hip hop when I was in college. Through OkayPlayer I learned about some of Hip Hop’s real roots: songs that told stories. My favorite being “Me and Jesus the Pimp in a ’59 Granada Last Night.”
Every time I see the cover and as I read this book, Mo’ Meta Blues transport me directly to those exploratory days and it lifts my spirits.
“Because we’re the last hip-hop band, absolutely the last of a dying breed. Twenty-five years ago, rap acts were mostly groups.”
I agree with this. I remember hip-hop when I was a kid – there were a lot of groups and even a lot of solo acts were attached to a group. I certainly believe that The Roots is [currently] the last hip-hop band. Few hip-hop/rap artists use live music period but that seems to be slowly changing (which is exciting!).
Jazz grew out of a peace between black music in the New World and white music in the Old World.
In reading this, it appears that both Questlove and Greenman have a musical way of writing. And Questlove has a musical way of thinking. At one point he says he worries how younger people are going to process memory due to music overload – because all of his memories are attached to music. I was a little amazed when I read that as I’m almost the opposite. Like most humans I really enjoy music but I don’t consider it the soundtrack of my life. I do have memories attached to music but I have more attached to books: when I read what and how it made me feel, think or cope.
I do have a very powerful memory attached to a song: the Oklahoma City Bombing. The radio station I listened to at the time played a version of Lighting Crashes by Live that was mixed in with the 911 calls, tears, cries and emotional devastation that occurred on that day. I have never been able to get that rendition out of my head and hearing that song brings me to tears to this day.
I consider these two albums [Midnight Marauders & Enter the Wu Tang (36 Chambers)] the last pure, unadulterated moments in the genre. That’s not to say that hip-hop hasn’t offered anything of substance since, of course. There have been plenty of classic records. But these two were the end of innocence, and they came at such a great moment.
Mo’ Meta Blues (at least the parts I read) give the reader a history lesson in music. Mindsets, trends, historical perspectives and Questlove’s personal recollections. It’s both fascinating and snore inducing at the same time. It was fascinating to watch Questlove meet and become friends with Tariq (Black Thought) and to see how large of an influence they had on each other. It was fascinating to get Questlove’s thoughts on music I grew up on and/or listen to currently. I mostly agree with him regarding the pureness of the Midnight Marauders & Enter the Wu Tang (36 Chambers) albums…except that I really enjoy GZA’s Liquid Swords (1995) and I feel it captures that “pure hip-hop” that Questlove is missing.
It was also fascinating to learn that Questlove has worn that Afro his entire life.
Mo’ Meta Blues has some great info about The Roots, Questlove and music as a whole – it’s also boring as all hell.