In Music Is History, bestselling author and Sundance award-winning director Questlove harnesses his encyclopedic knowledge of popular music and his deep curiosity about history to examine America over the past fifty years. Choosing one essential track from each year, Questlove unpacks each song’s significance, revealing the pivotal role that American music plays around issues of race, gender, politics, and identity.
Music Is History focuses on the years 1971 to the present, not only the country’s most complex and rewarding half-century when it comes to the ways that pop culture and culturally diverse history intersect and interact, but also the years that overlap with Questlove’s own life. Music Is History moves fluidly from the personal to the political, examining events closely and critically, to unpeel and uncover previously unseen dimensions, and encouraging readers to do the same. Whether he is exploring how Black identity reshaped itself during the blaxploitation era, analyzing the assembly-line nature of disco and its hostility to Black genius, or remembering his own youth as a pop fan and what it taught him about America, Questlove finds the hidden connections in the American tapestry.
Complete with playlists organized around personal, playful themes that touch on everything from the relationship of hip-hop to music’s past to the secret ingredient in all funk songs, Music Is History is filled with and informed by Questlove’s preferences, perspectives, and particularities. It feels like both a popular history of contemporary America and a conversation with one of music's most influential and unique voices.
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About the Author
Drummer, DJ, producer, culinary entrepreneur, New York Times bestselling author, and member of The Roots Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson is the unmistakable heartbeat of Philadelphia’s most influential hip-hop group. He is the musical director for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, where his beloved Roots crew serves as house band. Beyond that, this five-time Grammy Award–winning musician’s indisputable reputation has landed him musical-directing positions with everyone from D’Angelo to Eminem to Jay-Z. Questlove has also released multiple books, including the New York Times bestsellers Mo’ Meta Blues and Creative Quest, the Grammy-nominated audiobook Creative Quest, Soul Train: The Music, Dance and Style of a Generation, James Beard Award–nominated somethingtofoodabout, and, most recently, Mixtape Potluck Cookbook.
Questlove and Black Thought of the Roots have executive produced the acclaimed documentary series Hip-Hop: The Songs That Shook America on AMC under their production company, Two One Five Entertainment, which recently announced a first-look deal with Universal Television to develop scripted and non-scripted programming. Questlove will serve as executive producer for the upcoming documentary The League, centered on the tumultuous journey of Negro League baseball. He also made his directorial debut with the acclaimed feature documentary Summer of Soul, which explores the legendary 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival. The film premiered on the opening night of the 2021 Sundance Film Festival in January, where it was awarded the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award for Best U.S. Documentary. The film most recently broke the record for the highest-selling documentary to come out of Sundance when it was acquired by Searchlight/Hulu. Questlove is also set to direct an upcoming Sly Stone feature documentary.
Questlove has cemented himself as one of the most sought-after DJs in pop culture, with a resume that includes gigs for the Academy Awards, the Golden Globes, the White House, Cartier, and hotels and nightclubs around the world. After streaming nearly three hundred virtual DJ sets in 2020, he has used this momentum to launch his own Twitch show called GO DJ, which champions sets from renowned international peers.
Additionally, Questlove served as the executive music producer and composer on the A&E Miniseries Roots. He also scored Chris Rock’s film Top Five and coproduced the Grammy Award–winning Original Broadway Cast Recording of Hamilton. Questlove also hosts his own acclaimed podcast, Questlove Supreme, on iHeart. Questlove costarred in Disney Pixar’s Golden Globe–winning animated feature Soul, which landed him an NAACP Image Award nomination for Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance.