A Book Like a Song: Review of “Creative Quest” by Questlove


A female association asked me to write a review of ‘Creative Quest‘, written by Questlove. Yes, Questlove, founder and drummer of The Roots, the house band of various talk shows with Jimmy Fallon. I was very curious to read about his view on creativity.

The Roots is a hiphop band from the 80’s with many albums. In 2009 they became famous as the house band of the TV talk show ‘Late night with Jimmy Fallon (since 2016 ‘The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon’). At the show, they play live with the most successful musicians from all kind of genres.

You can best describe the book ‘Creative Quest’ as a song. Just like the songs of The Roots, it’s a hiphop song with a touch of jazz. The rhythm of the book starts pretty rippling and is hypnotizing. Slowly the melody comes in. In the last quarter of the book, after a long intro, the book becomes really powerful. The last two chapters give you the essence of the book, as a kind of climax.

Questlove is a black musician, and it resonates in his book. Most of the examples refer to black musicians from various genres, from jazz to soul, from reggae to hiphop. Only at the very end of ‘Creative Quest’, he explicitly addresses the subject of racism by telling us about the self destructive side of many successful black musicians.

When reading the book, I sometimes got dizzy from all the names and references. Is it namedropping to underline his own importance? I don’t think so. I got convinced that this is what his life is about, working together with many different musicians. Even though I didn’t know several of the countless names and references, the context told me enough to understand the point and to continue my reading.

When you are expecting to read a structured self-help book about creativity ( like I did when I received the book), you might be a bit disappointed. Questlove is telling the story about his musical career. During writing he is discovering the role of creativity during his life. The inspired musician describes himself as ADD, which is reflected in the book by the associative way of writing.

“Creativity is no game of the goose – it is more complicated than that – but it is a play board with certain rules, that is what I want to show the readers.”

Several times in the book you can about the importance of forays, of following your associative thoughts, even if looks like a detour. Especially when suffering from a block of your creative powers, forays to other disciplines come in handy, is the experience of Questlove. With the forays you can keep in touch with your creative flow. Though after every foray it is important to come back to your own basis.

All examples in the book are about the working life of Questlove. I got curious about his private life. With creative people there often is a fluent line between work and private, they are intertwined. Questlove supports this statement when he is talking about dealing with criticism and why criticism hits artists extra hard. Though in the book he seems to draw a strict line between private and work.

In can advise everyone to get the book and read it to the end. The book becomes more and more catchy towards the end. All the previous examples and subjects find there place, like in a big jigsaw. I wish the book would come with a stick or with links to all the music he is talking about. Let’s start with listening to the music of The Roots. What They Do is a great combination form jazz and hiphop, better known are for example The Seed, and You Got Me with Erykah Badu. Enjoy reading 🙂

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