A thoughtful, incisive analysis of hip-hop—and pop music in general—from one of its foremost contemporary architects.
It’s no surprise that this isn’t your standard musical memoir. As drummer and aural conceptualist for the Roots, producer for other artists, Jimmy Fallon bandleader and provocative cultural critic, Thompson, aka Questlove, has pushed the boundaries of convention wherever his creative energies have taken him. Here, he enlists New Yorker editor and novelist Greenman (The Slippage, 2013, etc.), not as a ghostwriter but as a collaborator and occasional interrogator, interweaving the subject/author’s voice with that of Rich Nichols, the Roots’ career strategist and co-manager from the start, in a book that mixes chronological memoir with critical issues not easily resolved—e.g., “What’s black culture? What’s hip-hop? What are the responsibilities of a society and the people in it?” It conjures the life of Questlove from boyhood prodigy to die-hard fan to seminal creative force, through midlife crisis and subsequent renewal, and it captures the revolutionary boyhood excitement of hearing “Rapper’s Delight” shift the axis of the musical world and the giddy weirdness of being invited by Prince to a private, after-hours roller-skating party. The author also discusses being a huge KISS fan, a worshipper of the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson, “a serious music-press nerd, the kind of kid who collected back issues of Rolling Stone and memorized all the record ratings” and how he and the Roots have faced the charges of being “not black enough.” The result is a book with as much warmth, heart and humor as introspective intelligence.
Fanatics and newcomers to the music will both find plenty of revelation here.