5. The Value of Criticism
Many artists say that they don’t read reviews. They says that critics simplify their work, that it’s distracting to their creative process, or simply, the press is bullshit, whatever. But Questlove is different; he has an incredible investment in ratings and critiques—unhealthy so. He takes rating personally. From an early age, Rolling Stone reviews captivated him. He writes, “That game—trying to guess how a record will be received, and why, and if it’ll be overrated or underrated—has always appealed to me.” Great reviews contextualize music, reading old RS copies show how a record was perceived in the time it was released, regardless of whether it has proved obsolete or timeless. Quest understands this on a deep level, he knows that kids will discover the Roots through reviews in years to come and he wants there to be a clear positive legacy attached.
Quest is so obsessive about the reviewing process that he lays out Rolling Stone-style reviews for each one of his albums before they're even released, complete with a cover image and a fake byline. He says he took Robert Christgau’s advice after Things Fall Apart dropped, that the Roots really needed to let themselves go and “rock out.” Because as much as Questlove is a musician, he’s a music nerd, and a music critic, and as much as he values and feels validated by other artists, he needs the support of the music press to feel fully accomplished, and for some artists, that can get messy.