Mo Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove is as much a treatise on postmodern aesthetics as it is a memoir of Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson (virtuoso DJ + drummer of legendary hip-hop band, The Roots). With the assistance of Ben Greenleaf, Questlove spins a yarn of entertaining anecdotes and favorite album lists. Ahmir's musings reveal formative moments of his creative passion, as well as those that sparked the Roots' fake-it-til-you-make-it grind to transform into an internationally revered act. Some of the most provocative passages of Mo Meta Blues occur within its footnotes scribed by the Roots' co-manager, Rich Nichols, who provides a clairvoyant counterpoint for this atypical music memoir.
Hyden balances anecdotes with phenomenal music criticism, and does more than I was expecting when I opened this book. Instead of merely a surveys course on pop's great rivalries, he digs deeper to discover what type of person takes which side, and why it both does and doesn't matter. Music fans both intense and casual will delight just the same in seeing petty disagreements about The Beatles vs. the Stones (#TeamBeatles), Taylor Swift vs. Kanye West (#TeamKanye), and Jimi Hendrix vs. Eric Clapton (#TeamHendrix) validated both intellectually and philosophically.
James McBride's Kill 'Em and Leave offers a nuanced portrait of the musical and cultural icon, James Brown, from the people who knew him best; McBride intertwines the stories of everyone from Brown's first wife in Augusta to the Rev. Al Sharpton with his own trials in uncovering the story behind the Godfather of Soul. The result is a humanist, clear-eyed examination of the musician, the man, and his decade-long estate case that penetrates the nation's unhealed racial and economic wounds. A vivid, blunt, and psychologically complex story of an oft-misunderstood man and his time, richer than any movie could portray.