Customer Reviews: Mo' Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove
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on June 23, 2013
The title of this review is taken from a line in this memoir, and is delivered by Questlove's manager Rich, who appears throughout the book as somewhat of a music "Sensei" to the prolific drummer. Applying this proverbial phrase to Hip-Hop really struck a chord with me. It fits perfectly: Hip-Hop is the culmination of so many musical genres before it, it spearheads the future of popular music, samples (borrows) from great songs and styles, and lyrically continues the tradition of the 'blues' with expression of struggle and doubt.

I was indecisive on rating this book three or four stars, but ultimately "rounded up" because I feel it's more difficult to write about a modern musician than one from decades ago, say, a Carole King (whose auto-biography is a "must-read" for any music fan: A Natural Woman: A Memoir). Also, rock star Marilyn Manson once said in an interview, "I try not to explain my music, I let my music explain me". I think that wisdom applies here as well -- while the writing is interesting, I believe Mr. Thompson's music is the true 'World According to Questlove".

What I like about this memoir is he covers a lot of ground by moving quickly. It's evident that if permitted, he could write an Epic about music that has inspired him over the years. Instead, it seems that he is forced to select one album per year of his life in a recurring segment called "Quest Loves Records". Additionally, he discusses in great depth both the artistry and political sides of the music industry (e.g. the art of reconciling an underground and commercial sound, the effect of bouncing around major labels, the process and goal of the band when crafting each of their albums).

One of the highlights of the book is when he attends Prince's post-Grammy Rollerskating party. It's great for a few reasons: 1) Questlove talks about Prince a lot throughout his memoir, and it is clear Prince is a huge influence on his life. 2) Without revealing any spoilers, let's just say this party includes Eddie Murphy, and what occurs will undoubtedly conjure up associations with the "Charlie Murphy" segment of these two celebrities on the Chappelle Show (on which, of course, Questlove served as musical director).

One of my criticisms of the book is that he tells so many stories and industry briefings that they begin to seem anecdotal instead of notable. And, though not too frequently, I felt myself at times getting impatient with his nearly obsessive analysis of musical direction. The fragmented narrative voice (linear storytelling, conversations with Rich, e-mails from Ben Greenman, etc.), which is clearly intentional, seems disruptive at times.

However, all and all, I would absolutely recommend this read. The reader will learn a great deal about the industry and the photos are a trip (look at the one of Questlove age 6 rockin' a huge Afro and tell me he ain't bad). And, despite the incredible career of Questlove up to this point, I still believe he is constantly maturing as an artist and the best is still yet to come.
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on June 27, 2013
I love this book. It's like a short history of hip hop, The Roots, Questlove, and more. He brings up so many good points. Music is a language. It's always communicating something. This book gives an honest and clear look at where hip hop came from, where it might be going, the dilemmas and joys of music-making and movement-making, and all the important questions at hand. I am in love with the perspective and appreciate for music shown by Questlove. I am a music teacher, and as such, his use of albums like textbooks is perfection to me. I am so excited about this book. And what's more, it's an easy and enjoyable read. You won't want to put it down!
"The exceptions don't prove the rule. They shame it. They banish it." ~ Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson, pg. 56
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on July 5, 2013
"Music has the power to stop time but music also keeps time."

Mo' Meta Blues was a delightful musical journey. Sure Thompson shared the details of his life but it was more like the soundtrack of his life.
I appreciated the fact that this book was not structured like a chronological biography. There were memos from the publisher, footnotes from The Roots comanager, and extended playlists spread throughout the text.

"When you live your life through records, the records are a record of your life."

There was not a time when music was not apart of Thompson's life. His parents had a band and Thompson likened them to Johnny Cash and June Carter. Thompson was tapping out patterns at eight months old which blossomed into a drumming career. He obsessed over album reviews and covers. The small details and obscure facts that he shared throughout the book about certain pieces of music, groups, and individuals kept the book interesting.

It is no secret that Thompson is a Prince fan and his affinity for the artist is as prominent in the book as is his presence in The Roots band. The Roots individually and as a band come together and take shape in the text but those experiences do not overshadow or dominate. It's quite obvious that Ahmir and Tariq "Black Thought" are total opposites but make for a great balance within the band. Only a few weeks prior to reading this book I found out that Scott Storch was an original member of The Roots. Thompson mentioned Storch but considering his rise and fall in hip-hop I expected and wanted more details in regards to their relationship.

This would not be a legit hip-hop memoir unless the Source Music Awards of 1995 were mentioned. Thompson referred to the show as hip-hop's funeral. While making a swift exit from the show, Thompson was given a demo cassette of an artist who would leave his mark on neo-soul and R & B music for years to come. That artist was D'Angelo. The highlight of the bio was how Thompson came to know local Philly youngsters before they became the famous neo-soul artists we are now so familiar with. How he described meeting Alicia Keys had to be my favorite celebrity moment of the entire book.

Thompson has a wealth of knowledge about music that is astonishing but was in no way hubris in his presentation. The footnotes provided by The Roots comanager, Rich, gave even more depth to the narratives. The ending was a bit abstract which was my only complaint with the book.
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on September 30, 2013
I was looking to this as a memoir of a fascinating cultural phenomenon, but most of it was really detailed information about his musical tastes and background. I like music as much as the next chick, but I wanted more about his education, his political views, and his friendships. If you want to read every detail about every B side of every funk music from 1981, this is the book for you. If you are looking for an insightful memoir about ?uestlove, you will be slightly disappointed.
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on July 2, 2013
Amazing account of one of music's unsung geniuses of this generation. Couldn't put this book down.

Must-read for anyone who is a fan of music. The stories within the story make for such a fascinating read. Really worthwhile.

If I were to recommend a music memoir to a person who loves music and to a person who isn't too crazy for music, this would be the one hands down.
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on June 13, 2016
I'm so glad I picked up Quest's memoir after finishing Something to Food About, which I also highly recommend. This was truly an insightful book which offered a look at his work, within our world, interweaved with music and hip hop...MY kind of hip hop (which is the best of hip hop). I loved many things about it, including the structure--it was different. As a huge fan of ATCQ and the Native Tongues and D'Angelo, I'm absolutely amazed at how connected the Roots crew is to everything I love in music, especially neo-soul and hip hop but also just plain good music from any genre. It was about music but so much more. I most enjoyed reading about his creative journeys -- success, failure, success, failure, success...the never-ending cycle of highs and lows, the intricate relationships, the everything. Mirrors my own...except I DVR Fallon instead of starring on it. lol I came away with quite a few takeaways--here are 7. 1. The artistic factions within the hip hop industry are eerily similar to those in the AA literary industry. There's a constant tug of war between artistic traditionalism and commercialism. Excellent discussion on that throughout. 2. No matter what your journey, your gift, or your art is, the key to success is perseverance. Simply can't quit. And when opportunity knocks you have to say yes. 3. Side note -- I could see the birth of Black Messiah in here -- thanks to Quest for Pino Palladino and that bass line in Another Life. 4. I'm not the only one who judges the "Coolness" of Jimmy Fallon's guests by whether they acknowledge The Roots. 5. If you need creative energy this is a great place to find some. 6. We all need a Ben Greenman to help tell our stories. 7. We Aquarians rock.

This was a fantastic read. I devoured it in a couple of days. Like the Steve Jobs bio, this is definitely a book that I'll read more than once. I highly recommend it
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on August 12, 2013
Questlove is obviously a music junkie. This fact shines throughout the book. His passion for music and hip hop is infectious. As I was reading about the various studio sessions surrounding Roots albums, I started listening to the Roots. The memoir is pretty straight forward, notwithstanding the fact that he states in the introduction this is something he wanted to avoid. What makes the linear approach work in this particular case, is the soundtrack of his memory. Each period of his life he talks about is highlighted by what music he was listening to at that time.

You will be impressed by his dedication and knowledge of music. He takes you through a mini-history of hip hop. And you may be surprised by some of the records he considers hip hop classics. I know I certainly was. He seems very self-deprecating, which is kind of refreshing to experience from someone at his level of expertise. I liked the way the book kept the focus on his musical life. So, there are no wild jaw dropping moments, no outing of other musicians, just Questlove and how the Roots evolved. I will add this caveat, if you aren't a fan of music in general and hip hop in particular, you probably won't find much joy in this book. But for those who are fans, a solid 4 stars. I am now a bigger Roots fan, thanks to Questlove's Mo' Metta Blues.
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on September 19, 2013
The Roots, Prince, Erykah Badu, Alicia Keys, DJ Dilla, Jay-Z, Kanye West (yuck) and many other artists appear in this interesting book. Questlove might not be a great writer, but he's insightful, honest and brings all pieces together. If you;e into music (Hip-hop, R&B, Rap) this book is a treat.
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on July 8, 2014
I liked Ahmir's stories about himself and the people he meets more than his stories about the music that he was listening to at particular times in his life. But I understand that musicians are different from me, and I appreciate how he explained it all fitting into his worldview. The book was well put together, and I really appreciated the footnotes from collaborators on the project.

I read the book in Kindle format. In a perfect world there would be links to the music he is talking about so that I could hear a snippet or the whole song as he writes about it. I'm sure the music is for sale on Amazon, and they would love to sell me the music after I hear about it in the book ........
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on July 10, 2013
I have to admit that I purchased this book because I've a crush on Questlove, not because I'm a fan of hip hop. I am glad that I invested money in this book. I love music but my favorites are 70s/80s, jazz and old skool R&B. I had mixed feelings about hip hop. Now thanks to Questlove, I understand hip hop and its origins and where it is now. I actually asked a few of my friends who are hip hop heads if I could listen to the records Questlove writes about and all I can say now is that "I GET IT!" I finally appreciate hip hop. Not just the conscious hip hop groups or rappers but hip hop on the whole. Questlove's anecdotes sometimes made me laugh out loud on my commute to and from work. Questlove's world has made me a bonafide fan of him and the Roots. I was always a fan of theirs but now I'm solid. LOL. I would highly suggest for anyone who is not a fan of hip hop but want to understand this genre of music, to read Mo'Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove. It's fast moving, different in how it is projected, which is, in essence hip hop and educating.
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