Last night in New York City, Ahmir Thompson, aka Questlove, stopped by Barnes and Noble (Union Square location) to talk about his new memoir Mo’ Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove.
The musical virtuoso and beloved drummer of The Roots has worn many hats including producer, arranger, DJ, and musical director and is now taking on a new role as author.
Mo’ Meta Blues chronicles his joys and struggles navigating through life and the entertainment industry and tackles “the lates, the greats, the fakes, the philosophers, the heavyweights, and the true originals of the music world.”
The memoir, according to Questlove, took about two years of persuasion from the publisher before he agreed to writing it. At the book signing event in Manhattan, Questlove was interviewed by co-author Ben Greenman, who is an editor at The New Yorker and author of several acclaimed fiction books including Superbad.
During the evening, Questlove discussed the frustrations experienced in The Roots’ slow climb to success, talked about a show on tour that he sabotaged (according to the rest of the band) in order to impress R&B singer D’angelo, and ultimately got trapped into answering a question from an audience member about Kanye’s new Yeezus album!
The night began on a comical note with Questlove reliving the embarrassment of meeting Quincy Jones for the first time. Quincy Jones was standing several feet away, sees him for the very first time in person and tells him that he is the funkiest dude in the music industry.
Questlove, in awe and with tears welling up in his eyes, reaches out to shake Quincy Jones’ hand and then realizes that the comment was made towards Andre 3000, who was standing behind him.
Moments like these were a recurring theme for him, according to Questlove, and during the interview he contemplated whether he would take the scenic route to success if he had to do it all over. “It’s hard to say…Would I have taken the journey if I knew it would be the slowest crawl to safety. Like, I literally want to copyright The Tortoise and the Hare. That has always been our journey…Maybe I would have just listened to my dad and just been a session musician. His idea of me succeeding was like me calling from Scandinavia and saying I’m with Anita Baker and I’ll see you next week…My idea of making it was actually…controlling my own destiny. So, yeah he’s proud now.”
When asked by an audience member about the current climate of hip hop and the darker themes that are prevalent now, Questlove cleverly unmasked the question as an attempt to get him to make a comment about the Yeezus album, but still decided to answer.
“Now that I’m a DJ and…DJing is now my most lucrative thing, I had to sorta desensitize myself with what I would call good and bad. I don’t believe in good and bad music anymore. As a DJ, I have to think of what is effective music and not effective music. In other words, would I personally listen to PSY’s “Gangnam Style” on my own, probably not, but if it’s a drunken bar mitzvah, definitely, if that’s legal! Absolutely I’m gonna spin that record because I know how effective it’s gonna be. As far as my opinion on it, am I a purest that longs for the days of the traditions of older music? Absolutely. But, you know, there’s things that I like today that people look at me like I’m crazy like, what do you listen to that for?!
Okay, yeah, look…it’s gonna take like 4 weeks for the Yeezus record to sink in. I wish he would add more humor. I mean, the humor and the charm of Late Registration, this is why I hate sounding like the old guy. But, yeah, “Bound”. I hate the fact that he closed the Yeezus record with Bound. Which, is a song that sounded like it should have been on Late Registration.
Because now I have Bound on loop for 24 hours, which basically in some sort of half full/half empty way. Does that mean that I don’t like the 9 songs that came before it or do I like bound that much? I will say, I like Bound that much, but part of me wishes that the next albums would have more loops and you know, hip hop tradition, which I know he won’t do.”
Written by John Wesley Sargent