Author Profession: Author
Born: February 3, 1979
The music business is a crazy game, especially for somebody like me who is really a purist about the art. Trying to balance the pressures of commercialism, it’s a tightrope. It’s a fine line between sticking to your guns and insanity.
Business, Really, Art,
I grew up teaching parts to choirs, and I love a whole group of voices singing as one.
Grew, Group, Love,
When I was young, I had an ‘aha’ moment in church. There was a thing called testimony service, and somebody would sing a song, and everyone else would join in, finding a note where they fit. During one of those, a light went on in my head. In that moment, I heard everything – Parliament, the Staple Singers, Curtis Mayfield, Prince – in there.
Moment, Young, Inspirational,
Aretha Franklin was as important to the civil-rights movement as Malcolm X and Medgar Evers. Artists can choose to take on the tremendous amount of responsibility we have, or choose to ignore it.
Rights, Choose, Civil,
I learned at an early age that what we were doing in the choir was just as important as the preacher. It was a ministry in itself. We could stir the pot, you know?
Doing, Important, Cool,
The stage is our pulpit, and you can use all of that energy and that music and the lights and the colors and the sound. But you know, you’ve got to be careful.
Energy, Music, Light,
I’ve always kind of tried to do something that was a little different than just simple ‘I love you, baby’-type songs.
Something, Little, Simple,
I think it just takes one little snowflake to start a snowball to go down the hill. My contribution and, say, Kendrick Lamar’s and some chosen others’ start the snowball. That’s all I can hope for. I don’t know if I’m comfortable being quote-unquote a leader.
Start, Down, Start,
Coming up, the music of my era was very conscious. I grew up on Public Enemy, and it was popular culture to be aware. People were wearing Malcolm X T-shirts and Malcolm X hats. It was a very cool thing to know who Malcolm X was. It was all in the lyrics. It was trendy to be conscious and aware.
Public, Popular, Enemy,
You have to know the forces that are against you and that are trying to break you down. We talk about the problems facing the black community: the decimation of the black family; the mass incarceration of the black man; we’re talking about the brutality against black people from the police. The educational system.
Against, Break, Problem,
I played a lot of keyboards, but I really wanted to produce the sound that was in my head that I was trying to emulate on the keys. I wanted to do it for real. And it makes me look at the keys in a different way. So it’s like I’m looking at the guitar and bass more like meat and potatoes and keys like coloring over top of it, you know.
Sound, Head, Famous,
The thing with me is, about that – about rock and all that – years and years of crate-digging, listening to old music, you kind of start to connect the dots. And I was seeing the thread that was connecting everything together, which is pretty much the blues. And everything soul or funk kind of starts with that.
Years, Rock, Old,
Just about the entirety of the first album, ‘Brown Sugar,’ I wrote it, the majority of that record in my bedroom in Richmond. And all of the demos for it were done on a four-track in my bedroom. I think EMI was a little leery of me being in the studio producing it on my own, which is what I was fighting for.
First, Wrote, Record,
I’m kinda a first take dude. The first time, cut that mic on, and the spirit is there, and what comes on the mic – I mean, even if I’m mumbling, I like to keep a lot of that initial thing that comes out. Cause that’s the spirit.
Cut, Happy, Mean,
I love – you know, I’m a big fan of Prince and Curtis Mayfield and Smoky Robinson. It’s something to be said about a man who can be very masculine but still display that sensitive side, and that falsetto does it perfectly.
Big, Prince, Display,
I think shortly after I got signed, it just started to dawn on me that I had something to say and that Yahweh put something in my heart to share with the world.
Shortly, Befor, Enter,
I’m always writing and learning. It’s about growth. So I’m growing as a musician, as a guitarist.
Growth, Always, Nice,
Prince, you never knew what to expect from him from one album to the next. Miles Davis was like that. You know, once you get used to one style, boom, he switched it and, you know, switched gears on you. So those artists are very exciting to me, very exciting to follow their path, you know, and their journey.
Expect, Album, Next,
It’s about people rising up in Ferguson and in Egypt and in Occupy Wall Street and in every place where a community has had enough and decides to make change happen. It’s not about praising one charismatic leader but celebrating thousands of them… ‘Black Messiah’ is not one man. It’s a feeling that, collectively, we are all that leader.
Street, Place, People,
‘Black Messiah’ is a hell of a name for an album. It can easily be misunderstood. Many will think it’s about religion. Some will jump to the conclusion that I’m calling myself a Black Messiah. For me, the title is about all of us. It’s about the world. It’s about an idea we can all aspire to. We should all aspire to be a Black Messiah.
Hell, Religion, Myself,