Questlove’s Mo’ Meta Blues
The Roots’ drummer Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson has just released Mo’ Meta Blues, his memoir which serves several functions. Part historical retelling of his life, growing up the son of Lee Andrews of the doo-wop group, Lee Andrews & The Hearts, part autobiographical discography — in addition to his encyclopedic recounting of the music in his life, the guy is a massive Prince fan — and part self-effacing recounting of several, what he calls, “Forrest Gump moments” in his life. Through various opportunities, first as the drummer for “the last great hip hop band” and now as the house band for Jimmy Fallon’s Late Night program, Quest has found himself at several of history’s focal points. As he points out on Fresh Air, when President Obama slow-jammed the news, a segment in which Fallon hypes the news being read — typically by NBC’s Brian Williams — that though the event was a big deal, he’s learned to curb his enthusiasm. “I don’t mourn the bad. I don’t celebrate the good. Just walk forward.”
In this interview with The Daily Show’s John Oliver, Questlove talks about how a generation of artists were inspired by a single episode of The Cosby Show, featuring Stevie Wonder, a car crash, and a sampler.
On Fresh Air, he tells Terry Gross about his addiction to Soul Train, and he explains his Five Record Rule, that is, when DJing, for every record he spins, he “needs” know five records that could work with it, plotting his payoff as far off as twenty minutes later.
That day in March when he and D’Angelo performed a sold out show at Brooklyn Bowl, he spent part of the day with Esquire’s Scott Raab. He revealed his four things theory, that is that a person can do four “real things” every day.
The other day, I was standing in my local bookstore, City Lit Books. It was Milton Glaser’s birthday. I had just tried, unsuccessfully to return some books. With a store credit burning a hole in my pocket, standing over this cover, a riff on Glaser’s Bob Dylan poster — which was inspired by Marcel Duchamp’s self-portrait — I thought to myself, “Duchamp begat Glaser’s Dylan begat Mo’ Meta Blues. I had just read his piece “My Youth in 27 Records” in New York Magazine and listened to Terry Gross’ interview. I laughed at the addition of the question marks, a nod to the spelling of his nickname (?uestlove), and his trademark afro pick. I had to buy it. I’ve begun a Spotify playlist inspired by the records mentioned in the book.
The thing I enjoy most about the press push for his memoir, as opposed to press pushes for other famous people’s memoirs, is how refreshingly even-keeled Questlove remains throughout. At times, he can be too self-deprecating. I can’t fault him. The man has led a charmed life, and the book is living testament. Pick it up. Tell me if you agree.