5 ‘Message’ Albums You Should Own!…According to Questlove


VIBE / September 21, 2010

O’Jays – Ship Ahoy

Way before Alex Haley, Gamble and Huff made side one [of this album] about the slave trade. Even though I was 5 when that record came out I was very aware and well informed of how we came in from Africa. That was a risky thing to do in ‘73. Nobody was writing about the slave trade in pop music especially for a new label trying to find success on the pop charts after the success of the OJ’s “Backstabbers”. We tried to do a song off this album, “Don’t call me brother”, but it would have been a duet.

Eugene McDaniels – Headless Heroes of the Apocolypse

A lot of his message songs were so hard hitting that even John [Legend] thought it was a bit too much. Every song of this record had ended up in samples by Pete Rock, ATCQ, Beastie Boys…with his vocals that the VP of the USA in the Nixon admin and called and had him blacklisted from the musicians union. When the United Stated govt and vp has you blacklisted then you must have said something really really strong. The last time I played the record was on a L Hill record and one song “The Parasite” 10 mins by the time your got to the 5th min the audience would be like “what the hell is this”

Curtis Mayfield – There’s No Place Like America Today & Curtis

Even though most people gravitate towards Superfly there are two. Curtis deals with the book of Revolulations. He also owned his label he had less to lose when you are depending on someone else to feed you.


Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On

The first politically social ablum of which al the songs run into each other. It covers a lot of ground. Marvin’s thought’s on Veitname, gov’t IRS even writing black music’s first and last song about the ecology (minus the hip hop contributions).


Gil Scott Heron – From South Africa to South Carolina

He is an important artist. I will say that probably my fav albums is From South Africa to South Carolina. He’s one of the first to talk about what was going on in Johannesburg, South Africa and Bantu Stephen Biko who mobilized the youth to march against the government. The fact he brought it up first before everybody. Noted achievement of his career. Clive Davis called him the black Bob Dylan.


Honorary Mention: 

Richard Pryor – Bicentennial Nigger

“I consider them more political commentary then comedy. What it’s like on the middle passage. There’s a sketch he does, the ghost of our ancestors reflect on 300 years. He runs down a litany of subjects…I want to thank my slave masters, my half-breed brothers from the diseases given to us and the last line: ‘I’m never gonna forget it. I’ll never forget'”