Song Of The Day 9/11/2013: The Roots feat. Cody ChesnuTT - "The Seed (2.0)"

I just finished reading Mo' Meta Blues, the autobiographical treatise by Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson, drummer for the most renown live hip hop band The Roots, whom you can find every night on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. It's one of the best musical autobiographies I've ever read -- tops is still Johnny Cash's Cash -- and it's probably the one most aligned with my musical experience. Or at least Chapter 5 is, in two very pertinent ways. First:
"What do you do when just listening to the music you love isn't enough? I guess you do what I did, which was to become a serious music-press nerd, the kind of kid who collected back issues of Rolling Stone and memorized all the record ratings. The magainzes soon became as important to me as the albums they were writing about... Every Saturday I would go down to the Philadelphia Main Library's reading room and go through back issues of Rolling Stone. It was so ancient back then: you had to request the periodical and wait for it to come out to you on a microfilm reel, after which you hooked it up on the reader, which was kind of like a reel-to-reel tape recorder, and found out what critics had written about the records, whether it was Hall and Oates or Cameo or the Zombies or Warren Zevon or Parliament...

"I would have a friend tell me what Rolling Stone's lead review was, and then I would get the record and figure out in my head what rating I would give it. Sometimes my review was too high, and I'd read to find out why. Sometimes it was too low, and I'd see if I bought the critic's rationale for the higher rating. When Ragged Glory came out in 1990, I didn't know much about Neil yOung. I think that was the first record of his I bought. I listened to it and I knew it was strong: lots of guitar noise; a big, thick, sludgy sound; a kind of clear-eyed darkness in the lyrics. I did my internal calculations and thought to myself that it was probably a four-star record. Then I checked Rolling Stone. The headline was 'Neil Young's Guitar Ecstasy,' and the writer, Kurt Loder, gave the album 4½ stars. That blew my mind. Holy shit, I thought, they just declared him the lord Jesus Christ."
Four words: I was that kid. This is exactly what I did between ages 10 and, geez, probably 20. At least 20. Yes, I even did the thing with the microfilm at the library. Reading the first few paragraphs of Chapter 5 was some kid of retroactive validation of the information-gathering strategy of my youth.

And then this. Questlove is talking about Prince's 1999 album:
"The story of that record and how my parents and I saw it so differently is the story of my family, in a sense. When I was young, in the mid-seventies, my parents were... this funky, hip, post-civil rights, postrevolutionary [sic] bohemian black couple. They listened to all the cool music and wore all the cool clothes and had all the cool attitudes. In the early eighties, though, something switched over in them, and they became the black Ned and Maude Flanders. Beginning in 1983, they listened only to Christian radio... We still listened to Stevie Wonder, but there were other acts that were clearly on the other side of the line...

"There was this other guy named Prince, and if you wanted to see how dangerous he was, well, just take a look at the cover of this 1999 record. Turn it upside down, for starters, and the title changes from something futuristic and fun to 666, the mark of the beast. Oh and also the part of the title that's not Satanic when you turn it upside down, the 1, well that's clearly a drawing of a penis. This went out on the church wire as something to be worried about...

"At any rate, my mom found the record and threw it away. This would have been in the fall on 1982 -- the record came out in October and I had it maybe a month before it got tossed. Then winter came, and I shoveled smow until I got enough money to buy it again, at which point she found it... again... The third time I think it disappeared the same day I got it. The fourth time my father just cracked the album over his knee -- the second disc, sides 3 and 4. He destroyed it right in front of me, and slowly. He must have been so angry that he forgot it was a double album, and I kept the first disc and hid it in my room, between the mattresses."
To explain how relevant this whole passage was to my youth would be to spoil Chapter 3 of My Life In Music. Let's just say as an adolescent I encountered similar issues with Bruce Springsteen's The River, which I think we can all agree is neither satanic nor excessively phallic. I'll describe in more detail once I get to Chapter 3, which means I have to hurry up and finish Chapter 2.

Oh Ahmir... we're not so different, you and I. Well, a little different. Please buy Questlove's book.

1 comment

Popular Recent Posts