Another blog courtesy of “drinking” and “driving.”Pitchfork recently interviewed ?uestlove and as always, it is an entertaining and incredibly informative read. The guy is an absolute music genius, one of the few of our generation whose music references I take very seriously and view as must-adds to my music collection. He’s got this intense knowledge of music; today’s various music scenes as well as a deep intimacy with soul music of the ’60s and ’70s. It blows me away.
This blog is inspired by two interviews with ?uest that I read today. One is from 2003, and one is from yesterday (8/19/11). The guy is this mad scientist/chameleon/jack-of-all-trades of music. I certainly would not want to restrict him to a hip hop box because he clearly knows the world outside of it, even though his band (The Roots) is a hip hop group. He makes music references like all he does all day long is listen to music. It’s amazing. I want that job. I want the music research job, where you listen to records all day long, read liner notes all day long, figure out who played drums on what record while producing another record, how music connects, how musicians align, continually grow the big picture view of this giant web of music of the last 100 years. It’s obvious by how he talks that ?uestlove has this kind of over-arching, encyclopedic knowledge of music.
But what I love the absolute most about ?uestlove is when he talks about D’Angelo. ?uestlove was integral in the creation and production of D’s landmark album Voodoo and all I’ve ever wanted is for a musician to put out something as good as Voodoo in the last ten years. I think some have come close, possibly even matched it, but so, so few. This album is just out of control good. I am talking a kind of good that percolates. Good that sneaks up on you. Good that shows up after the fifteenth listen and gets better every single time. I still hear stuff on this album that I haven’t caught before. I’ve never heard anything as layered as this.
But this isn’t the time to actually write about Voodoo in a review sort of way.* What I want to highlight here is how important ?uestlove is to the current music scene. The first interview is eight years old now. ?uestlove and the interviewer chat about the then-current state of black music and how sociopolitical aspects of the day play into black music, but the good stuff comes when they start to chat about working with D’Angelo during the recording of Voodoo. It’s such a cool concept; Voodoo was made on the principle that music is art and should be made with the utmost respect to those pioneers who have come before and the unknown visionaries that are to come and always with respect to the art itself. All of these incredibly musical people came together and made this mind-blowing album. It wasn’t about money or gaining fans, it was about releasing a product, this work of art that could change how someone listened to music. “If creating music were a political party, then we were sort of being socialists.” Why can’t more artists think this way?
What I love is how he reinforces this ideal. He mentions going into the studio to record with John Mayer around the time of the interview (?uestlove played drums on “Clarity” off of the Heavier Things album in 2003). And ?uest actually says it was the most fun he’d had playing since recording Voodoo. He said he went in to record the one tune and they ended up jamming out like six new songs. That’s incredible. It makes me so excited to know that these two musical brains have collaborated in the past and they are both still making music today, albeit not together. It is a giant relief to me, and it’s one of those moments I have so infrequently nowadays when I think “Oh yeah, John Mayer used to be make amazing music and still has the potential to put out a completely life-altering record.” Here’s to hoping.
Also equally as interesting in this interview is how he profiles the breakdown of D’Angelo. How releasing “Untitled (How Does It Feel)” as a single off of Voodoo contributed to a very sexualized public persona that D’Angelo found hard to overcome. How the tour to support Voodoo quickly unwound because of all of this public hype. It’s a sad story, but one that is pretty common in genius artistic circles, as ?uestlove puts it, “…they sabotage their shit.”
Fast forward to August ’11. In this interview with Pitchfork, ?uestlove speaks a lot more about The Roots and where they are, what it’s like to be a house band of a late night host, etc. He does delve into the Soulquarian era a bit at the end, but overall this whole interview shows less his involvement with D’Angelo and more his ground-level view of rap over the last 20 years and how it has changed. This guy has been an integral part of hip-hop for over two decades now, and he has been in various circles as that time has gone by. This is a really interesting read for anyone who likes music, and especially anybody who likes hip hop.
I’m happy we still have ?uestlove around. I desperately hope he continues to coax D’Angelo out of semi-retirement, but at the very least, I hope he keeps collaborating. That is where I think he comes up with the greatest stuff. He has this uncanny ability to pull real music out of artists; he is our generation’s Quincy Jones and D’Angelo is his Michael Jackson. I just hope they eventually reconnect and make their Bad.
*Not sure I ever will, only because it’s hard to write about something that good. All it seriously would be is me repeating over and over how awesome the whole freakin’ album is. Each track, “Wow this one is amazing.” Doesn’t make for the best read. What I should do is accumulate every time I’ve mentioned it in passing in another post and you’d have basically my every thought about the insanity and genius that is that album.