Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Music Book: Mo Meta Blues

mo meta blues

As much as I love music of all kinds and actually know a little something about a lot of it, I'm not as hardcore as I wish I was sometimes. It's mostly because I just didn't have the access I would have liked growing up, but also I just have too many other interests that have sucked me in from movies to comics so I haven't been as single minded on any one thing, though music is the closest. But as a result, I have always had a bit of a hero worship thing of true music connoisseurs. I would love to be able to rattle off random, obscure facts about rare records and songs. I can do it a bit, but not enough. But what I don't like are music snobs. What I aspire to be is the type of music lover that truly gets the point of music, all music: the connection to humanity and the expression of that which cannot be expressed. For some time, I've recognized that knowledge of records that is beyond just nerdy obsession in Questlove of The Roots and his book, Mo' Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove is proof that he embodies that my ideal.

Quest's early life was somewhat unique and set up to develop a music nerd from the start. For starters his parents were both performers. But on top of that, and almost more importantly, his parents, sister and aunt were all record collectors who were constantly buying and playing all kinds of music around the house. Much of the first half of the book is framed around specific records he remembers from those early years and how his memories are all just tied to music. That part absolutely made this sing for me as I've mentioned how my parents would play records, mostly on Sundays. How that evolved for Quest is a bit different than for me though. While I also had the musician itch from early on, having a guitar and an organ and later keyboards around, I never had lessons or any sort of discipline around any of it. I think missed out on that to this day. Now in the house we have guitars, drums, keyboards and even a piano and my daughters are free to experiment, but there will be more formal lessons at some point soon.


The book has a meta level to it, hence the title, in which there are conversations with his editor, his manager, himself and others about the book, the events being discussed, and everything. Several times the idea that memory isn't an objective document of the truth comes into play, but it's all framed by the music of that moment. And once we get to The Roots existence as a band and the success that follows, in fits and starts, we get some great behind the scenes stories with a unique perspective. There are a couple of Prince stories, who was quite likely Quest's biggest hero. It's interesting to me that while he never really loses that fan perspective of Prince, he also is quite balanced when talking about him.

All in all, I really loved this book. Aside from just connecting with it because of a shared love of music with a guy that I probably don't have much else in common with, it's got me reevaluating and rediscovering a lot of hip hop and R&B I overlooked or forgot about for reasons I can't even explain.

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