I really hate to admit that I don’t like most hip hop music. I like to think of myself as extraordinarily open minded to virtually all types of music but I’ve just never been able to get on board with hip hop. That’s not to say that I don’t like any. But I could probably fit a playlist of all my favorite hip hop songs on a single CD or cassette.
Since the early 2000s I’ve been following the career of The Roots. I like the way they play real instruments and mix traditional R&B stylings into their contemporary sound. They’re smart too.
When I heard that their drummer and musical director, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, had written a book I decided to pick it up and give it a read. (I had also heard that he is an avid record collector and musicologist – my kind of guy!) The book, titled Mo’ Meta Blues – The World According To Questlove, is a good read. It gave me a greater appreciation for the history of hip hop music and specifically the career and influence of The Roots.
Today’s SotW is their best known song, “The Seed (2.0)” from the album Phrenology.
In the book Questlove tells the whole story of how the song came to be. He first heard the song’s writer on a demo CD that was played for him by his friend dream hampton who had received it from Ishmael Butler who made her promise not to identify the artist to anyone. But Questlove was able to sneak a peek at the CD case and identified the artist as Cody ChestnuTT. Through some clever sleuth work he was able to get a copy of ChestnuTT’s full album where he heard the song “The Seed.”
He contacted ChestnuTT and told him the Roots wanted to record a hip hop version with him for their new album. The session was arranged and the recording was cut in just two takes. That’s all that was needed to capture “the feel” that makes the song work.
“The Seed (2.0)” was a hit and a big part of our crossover success. It was also Don Was’s favorite record of the year. When he was making “A Bigger Bang” with the Rolling Stones, he played it for the band. “That’s the kind of sound we want,” he said. “This is what you need to be sounding like.”
I think they were on to something. The song came in at #43 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Best Songs of the 2000s.
Now, when you listen to the words, be forewarned that they should not be interpreted literally. The Roots were a band that insisted on taking hip hop into new directions – merging various styles, including rock. The lyrics are a metaphor for the merging of musical styles and their disdain for the direction hip hop was taking at the time (a rote reliance on samples, and lyrics that promoted materialism and created a distance between the artist and audience). Well, that’s how I see it.
Enjoy… until next week.
No shame in not liking hip hop, Tom. It mostly blows.