By the time he started elementary school, Thompson had spent more time outdoors with adults his age than in Philadelphia with children. When his first grade was to bring music to school, he chose “Why Do Fools Fall in Love” by Frankie Limon and the teenagers, not realizing it was not a contemporary option. In his own right, he was an unusual child, not wild or temperamental but easily obsessive. As a child, to calm her down, her parents would put her in front of something she liked—a spinning record or an episode of “Soul Train”—and she would almost be seduced into a trance for hours. His father used to half-joke that the family worried whether he was well or not. (“I don’t think ‘autistic’ was a common term at the time, but I found out later that they took me to the doctor to see if anything was really wrong,” he writes in his memoir, “Mo’ Meta blues.”) That, combined with the violence of her neighborhood — the rise of crack cocaine, state-sanctioned MOVE bombings — and her parents’ sudden conversion to Christianity in the early 1980s, led to a sheltered childhood. was created.
Fortunately, the music was enough to distract from the lock on the front gate. As a teenager, Thompson adored the review section at Rolling Stone, visiting the library every Saturday to request microfilm reels of back issues and outfitted his bedroom with cutouts of key reviews. (Even now, in order to make sense of his own record, he would scoff at fake Rolling Stone reviews—bylines, cover images, full story—before their release.) His parents welcomed his interest in music, But he hoped he would find a more traditional, stable job within it. They wanted, they write, “to raise the future ‘Jeopardy!’ Instead of the future competitor ‘Danger!’ Clues.”
Nevertheless, when he entered Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, they transferred him from the Christian school he was attending. CAPA, as it is called, was a hotbox of ingenuity and real success. Thompson played drums in a music video for some of his classmates – Boyz II Men. He harmonized with bassist Christian McBride. He took singer mile Larriaux to prom. But the real prize was getting from Tariq Trotter, the kid of the rebellious art, who was caught hanging out with the girls in the bathroom that somehow covered Thompson and his geeky hippie jeans in acrylic paint. Trotter asked Thompson to go on with his freestyle in the cafeteria, with Thompson playing to the rhythm at the lunch table in front of whoever eventually wanted to play.
The Roots’ career, while both commercially and critically successful, has been marked by a series of hits. When they started, they hoped to follow in the footsteps of groups such as A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul, cutting a strong niche in the alternative hip-hop arena. But by the time he began casting for record deals in 1993, the tide had turned: Dr. Dre had broken records with “The Chronic” and all the label wanted were gangsta-rap artists who could record huge numbers. could sell. After a brief stint in London, he signed with Geffen, released two albums and eventually landed a successful single, “You Got Me”, with Erica Badu from their 1999 album, “Things Fall Apart”.
By this point, they were hosting jam sessions at Thompson’s Philadelphia home, gathering like-minded musicians into a creative community that differed from gritty coastal rap filling the airwaves. He called this community a “movement”, and his experiment worked almost as well: Jill Scott, Musik Soulchild, Bilal, Eve, India. Ari, Jazmine Sullivan and Common were all regulars. Thompson also began working with D’Angelo, which he called one of the most important achievements of his life. “When I think back to that time, the most surprising thing is how many of those artists made it,” he writes in his memoir. “There were at least 18 record contracts in the room, and at least nine people who became recording artists were older than us.”
Thompson began making people’s records, becoming one of the architects of the hugely influential strain of soul music. He was the backbone of a group of bohemian neo-soul and alternative hip-hop artists called the Soulquarians, named for the shared astrological sign of several members, including Badu, Common, Talib Kweli, Mos Def and Q. -Tip included. But eventually, the collective loosened up: People quit the game, or started filming movies, or making music with the new superproducer in town, Kanye West.