Book Review: Questlove's 'Mo' Meta Blues'

The Roots drummer's memoir is a smart, funny, insightful tour of his jam-packed mind

June 18, 2013 10:40 AM ET
'Mo’ Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove' by Ahmir 'Questlove' Thompson
'Mo’ Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove' by Ahmir 'Questlove' Thompson
Courtesy of Grand Central Publishing

Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson
Mo' Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove
Grand Central Publishing
Four stars

Anyone who has followed the Roots' 20-year career has already soaked up so much of Questlove's writing – in novella-length liner notes, message-board posts and endless tweets – that the drummer-bandleader's new memoir hardly feels like his first book. Thumbing through these pages is more like picking up an ongoing conversation with the smartest, chattiest music nerd you know.

Questlove's Top 50 Hip-Hop Songs of All Time

Mo' Meta Blues (co-authored with New Yorker editor Ben Greenman) follows a loose chronological arc, tracing Questlove's path from shy Philly kid to the kind of guy who gets invited to roller-skate with Prince. He's as much cultural critic as memoirist – he can't resist interrogating, debating and riffing on every milestone he achieves. When Jay-Z asks the Roots to back him at an MTV Unplugged show in 2001, Questlove's first instinct is to worry about alienating underground purists: "He was the antichrist to a certain kind of hip-hop fan." There are other voices in the mix, too, including some priceless interjections from the Roots' sardonic manager, Rich Nichols. But the joy of this book is getting to live inside Questlove's jam-packed, restless brain for a while.

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