From the days when I first his production of Al Green’s Lay It Down in 2008,I have grown to greatly admire Amir ?uestlove Thompson. His adherence to the instrumentality and craft of music has become a conversation starter with many of my online friends-especially Henrique Hopkins. It was him who first recommended that I seek out and read this book earlier this summer. Of course the erratic arc of my personal life has left me halfway through the book. Yet Questlove’s prose within what I’ve read so far has inspired what has since come from this blog as much as those I know has. It gives a strong literary context to one particular Philadelphia native’s musical journey from the late 1970’s through the beginning of his career in the early 1990’s. One special quality about the book is,following many of the chapters are a collection of reviews of albums from funk to hip-hop and how the cross-influence it had within the life first of Ahmir Thompson and later his adopted moniker of Questlove.
Because of age difference and difference in life experience perhaps,Questlove and my own musical journey’s started out similarly but diverted quite a lot after the early 1990’s. Still his perspective was still vital. And remains so seeing as I have yet to finish the book. There is something that is mentioned only occasionally in the book that does trouble me a bit. And that is Questlove’s tendency to refer to himself as a music nerd. On a personal level perhaps its possible for him (where it isn’t with me) for Questlove to refer to himself in that way because he willingly pursued higher musical education. And therefore had the added concern of relating to a given peer group. Finding the aggressive ignorance of some of my peers totally antithetical to any learning,I rejected the idea of public education entirely to pursue what turned out to be a successful pipe dream of being a homeschooler. So the people I encountered actually had a greater level of variety among them. And we could learn about each other on our own terms rather than a contrived and forced relationship.
Of course after reading the book I learned that Questlove was far from the only person referring to himself as a music nerd. As a matter of fact,only a mildly close analysis of any YouTube video or blog revealed that most intelligent and informative people are now referring to themselves as geeks and nerds. What disturbs me is that the original definition of a “geek” was a circus sideshow,usually a developmentally challenged person,forced to make a living by doing bizarre dances or shoving sharp objects into various orifices of their bodies. Today even some the most politically incorrect people have taken a stance against bullying-understanding it to be destructive rather than constructive to human emotional growth. Yet a cynic could easily,and even correctly,view what’s happening now by saying that people are now bullying themselves. Internalizing hatred. Woman call themselves “bitches’,grown African American’s are calling each other “niggas”,homosexuals continue to refer to themselves as “queer” and now music lovers are calling themselves music nerds-probably believing they are healthily embracing a negative stereotype.
The 21’st century is a a time when American culture is going through some very painful growing pains. There is this unspoken pitch battle between the politically correct and the politically incorrect. Between the bully and the victim. Between the lover and the hater. And between thinking in terms of we instead of me. Members of four American generations-the Silent,Baby Boom,X and Millennial are all surviving in this world. Some of these people don’t like each other. But much as with the unique cultural blend of New Orleans when jazz music was being born,these people have to deal with each other. You have people who equate bullying with discipline-even child/spousal abuse. You have others who are so politically correct they are willing to change whole phrases of American English to suit their means. Yet you have others who flat out just don’t care. These are very disparate and fixed points of view. They are more bound to clash than come together. In the end,how one perceives their love of something probably comes down to a vital mix of love for others and yourself. Those types of love are seeming more mutually exclusive every day. Doesn’t seem self love is going to be much of a problem for people. Genuine love and empathy for others would seem to be the next undiscovered country in America’s emotional journey.