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5 reasons you should buy Questlove’s new book, ‘Hip-Hop Is History’

Chris Hewitt | (TNS) Star Tribune

Questlove’s “Hip-Hop Is History” could end up being one of the year’s most expensive books.

I’m not talking about the book itself, which is a standard hardcover $30, but about the music it’ll make you buy.

Even before you get to the 16-page appendix titled “Hip-Hop Songs I Actually Listen To,” which lists hundreds of classics and deep cuts, the chatty-but-authoritative book demands to be read next to your Spotify playlist, vinyl collection, YouTube or however you consume music.

Questlove, a “Tonight Show” bandleader, Oscar-winning filmmaker (“Summer of Soul”) and go-to guy for awards shows, also is a chummy, clever writer who knows what he is talking about because he and his band, the Roots, lived it. (The book was co-written by Ben Greenman, who deserves credit for making sure it always sounds like Quest.)

Here’s why you should pick it up:

1. Questlove knows every song. The musician recalls five-hour listening sessions, dating as far back as his youth in Philadelphia. Once he became a pro, he refined a sensibility that is generous and opinionated. So you believe him when, for instance, he talks about why Jay-Z’s collaboration with Dr. Dre failed (Jay-Z “sucked the air out of a room….Because of that he needed a musical backdrop that was bland. He needed butter so you could spread on it.”)

2. Questlove spills (some) tea. There are a few disappointing instances in which the man born as Ahmir Thompson alludes to gossip he won’t reveal, but not many. He recounts his maneuvers while begging stars to do the 2023 Grammy Awards’ “50 Years of Hip-Hop” (the book also marks that anniversary). And, even before recent evidence of Puff Daddy/P Diddy/Diddy’s horrible behavior, it’s clear Questlove didn’t like him as a musician or person. Of the hundreds of songs listed on “Actually Listen To,” none are by Diddy; there’s only one by Kanye West.

3. Questlove dives deep. He has thought hard about sounds most of us barely notice, so the book often feels like a peek into his busy brain. A big Wu-Tang Clan fan, he writes, “With the RZA’s productions for Wu-Tang, I developed an assumption that he hadn’t read the owner’s manual for whatever equipment he was using, both figuratively and literally, and the amateurishness of the execution was part of the charm.”

4. Questlove is full of entertaining surprises. When the book gets to Dre’s album “The Chronic,” Questlove admits he was suspicious of it but “I couldn’t entirely turn my back on the first single, ‘Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang,’ because one of its samples (the hook) was taken from Congress Alley, a 1970s band started by two people named my parents.”

5. Questlove knows everyone. Which is why he can casually drop anecdotes about Solange Knowles, Common, Erykah Badu, Kendrick Lamar and others. The man’s phone has a huge contact list and this entertaining book feels like scrolling through it and saying, “OK, Quest, what can you tell me about Nas?”


Hip-Hop Is History

By: Questlove with Ben Greenman.

Publisher: AUWA, 340 pages, $30.

©2024 StarTribune. Visit at Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Source: Berkshire mont

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