YouKnowIGotSoul Interview With Jon B.
YouKnowIGotSoul caught up with Jon B. to discuss everything from what he’s been up to since “Helpless Romantic,” to his upcoming major network reality show, to the importance of forgetting skin color to his memories on 2Pac as a singer!
YouKnowIGotSoul: First of all, what have you been up to since the release of your last album “Helpless Romantic”?
Jon B: Basically, I’ve been putting together the new album, which is my seventh album. I feel really, really excited about this album because it’s kind of a plateau I feel like I’ve come through now with things in terms of my label and kind of getting everything, finally a home for where I really want to be musically in the industry, you know? And that’s kind of what’s kept me, for lack of a better way of describing it, I guess that’s what’s kinda kept me below the radar I guess over the years. Just trying to get all my mechanics together because it takes a lot to really turn heads in this industry. For me it’s never been something to make an album, it’s never been that hard to make an album, creatively that’s the easy part. All of the promotion and all of that stuff that goes along with it, videos, tours and all that stuff, that’s the tricky part. If you’re really grinding out there, then people are going to see you no matter what. And that’s where we’ve been over the last four or five years, just out there grinding everywhere, the United States and abroad. But this new album, getting back to the new album, and to answer your question, is basically, this new album is the first album that I’ll be releasing through my new label, Vibezelect Records. This will be the first really independent album…well actually following, or along with that I should say, is going to be my reality show, which is going to be called “Still Down.” It’s going to be on major national TV, so I’m really blown away by that, I’m so blessed to be able to have that opportunity come to me and my family. You know, it’s a beautiful year, I expect 2010 to be the best yet that anyone has ever seen of me, you know what I mean?
YKIGS: You mentioned you are working on a new album, what can we expect to hear on this album? Will it be the Jon B. we are used to hearing in years past?
JB: I always try to try something new on every album, but at the same time keep some consistency. In terms of not really….without trying, I think life just kinda, for me, it’s not all about creating a brand new moment, it’s also about reflecting too. So when you reflect, it kinda brings some of the old, some of the past into the present, some of the old into the new. You are definitely going to hear some of that old. As far as the new stuff, I’m really excited about me and DJ Quik collaborating on this new album. That’s really an incredible experience for me being a huge DJ Quik fan. I grew up to his music, but more as a producer, I’ve had so much respect for the guy. He incorporates real percussion, real arrangements, real musical stuff in his music, and he’s a big fan of Roger Troutman, he’s a master of the voice box. I mean he’s basically like one of the sickest producers on the west coast, you know? And I’m just really honored to get with him. And we had such a chemistry in the studio, it’s really incredible man. So I’m really excited about people hearing this first single, it’s called “Fill Your Cup,” featuring DJ Quik. We are shooting a video for that really soon, and I’m really excited, you know?
YKIGS: Very nice, I look forward to hearing that.
YKIGS: Since you do the majority of writing and production on your albums, can you give me a little overview of the overall process you go through of you creating a new album from the start?
JB: Well, basically I think the first process is kinda getting the songs written, you know, getting the songs, the tracks going, and getting a bunch of material. When I say getting a bunch of material, it could be any style, slow, fast, up-tempo, mid-tempo, any style of music. I’m going from rock music, to house music, to r&b music, to atmospheric kinda slow grind music, you know it’s all over the place for me. Then what I do is take that big old smorgasbord of information right there, all those songs, and I try to play process of elimination. It’s almost like I’m like picking themes for a movie or story or something, pages for a book in a story. It’s the same thing, you just wanna make the whole album kinda coincide and have the songs…my thing is the album has to have a flow, the album has to have a feel. So, as long as you know where you start people off, and where you want to take them, and where you want to leave them, that’s pretty much how I do an album.
YKIGS: You released “Helpless Romantic” on an independent label. Do you feel going the indie route gives you more creative control over your music?
JB: Yea it does absolutely, as well as lucrative for the artist, now with the internet and all that. It’s basically taking the music industry and splitting it into…not only into half, three fourths goes to the internet for free, and now we make one fourth of what we want to make. It isn’t fair, but that is the way of the world. It’s like, yea we have to fend for ourselves now man, unless the big corporations are going to provide ample enough promotion and all of the tools that are going to be successful, then you could go and do joint ventures and that sort of thing. And that’s what I have set up right now, which is incredible. McDonald’s, Save the Music Foundation, right now we are having a meeting with the President of Fox Network next week, I kinda don’t want to speak on things before they actually happen. I’m more or less saying hey man pray for me. Where I stand with this, the reality show, it’s really the future of…the reality, kind of like that whole lane for TV is really a whole kind of a new revolutionary kinda way of being able to expose your artistry. Now, if people take a personal interest in you as a human being rather than as an artist, *Laughs* you know what I’m saying? It’s a lot more potent, it just means a lot more and people hold onto things like that, they tune in quicker when they can see you living real life as opposed to turning on a song on their way to work, they hear it one time a day or whatever, or it might come on the radio ‘oh yea that’s that record.’ I mean it’s like, you get to see what inspires the records when you tune into this reality show. And I’m really excited about that because my little girl is two, my first child, you know she’s two and a half, and she’s just in that time where it’s like they only get older you know what I mean? It’s a precious time for me, it’s great, I’m glad that I’m going to be able to share that with the world.
YKIGS: Very nice, I look forward to seeing that!
YKIGS: Let me ask you about what you mentioned earlier, you know your previous albums I’ve always felt were very strong, but for whatever reason didn’t get the recognition they deserved, whether it be due to lack of promotion….
JB: It’s funny because, people don’t know this, but I’d love for this interview to be the first time I’m divulging this information. My album “Helpless Romantic” sold more than 680,000 copies. And the sound scan has been manipulated by the powers that be, and they say it’s only sold 36,000. But that will let you know how shady the record business is. Anybody who does their research on who’s involved with my deal, you know what I mean, with the “Helpless Romantic” situation, I’m not going to shed too much…I mean people play themselves and then they get mad because they get talked about like they’re herbs because they’re not really people about the music and the culture, they are more about the money and exploiting the culture, know what I mean? I’d like to say thumbs down to my man Max, he’s actually not my man, he’s more like a chump to me. But my man, you basically played me. And he basically, like Third Bass said back in the day, he gets the “gas face.” *Laughs* But my thing is, it’s like where I’m at as far as an entrepreneur now with money in my pocket and a family to support, and talent in my right pocket, and a heart that’s still intact, I still got my feet on the ground, I didn’t give up my soul for money. I didn’t try to chump off some innocent kid who needed money, and give him some money really quick and chump him off, then see how great his music actually was, try to downgrade him and try to hold him back. But basically blessed people can’t be held back. Remember something, and I want everybody that’s hearing this interview to remember something, God does not like ugly, he’ll shut it down real fast. I just want everyone to know, I’m highly favored and highly blessed, and if I wasn’t, I wouldn’t be here to speak about album number seven. And that’s my word.
YKIGS: And that’s something I’ve always respected about you, you’ve never compromised your music, in my opinion, getting on the latest flavor of the moment or whatever, and stick with the trends. I’ve always felt your music was pure and that’s something I really respect about you as an artist.
JB: Thank you, I appreciate that brotha, I appreciate that man.
YKIGS: I was actually going to ask if you feel that the fans embraced “Helpless Romantic” like they have your previous albums, but I guess from what you told me about the sales we already know the answer.
JB: Yea, they have. The fans, I want to thank everyone out there, my family you know what I mean, the roots of the tree. And honestly, without the foundation, I don’t know if I could go on and continue in this idiom, in this style of music, I think that I’m such an eclectic person. I would probably have bounced around to another style of music, and probably been so below the underground, that nobody would have really heard about…people would have heard it in the club and wouldn’t have even known it was me. Because that’s just how I appreciate music, it’s like if the world aint gonna get it, I get it, so I’m gonna do my thing regardless, whatever makes me happy. The thing is, I’ve paid dues since I was 18 years old in this industry, and I’ve been making music since I was a kid, I’m 35, I’m a grown man, if I want to make an album. It’s like someone with a…if you had a whole vineyard, and you decide on when you want to make wine. The grapes might go sour sometimes, but the bottom line is, you decide when you wanna make wine, and when you make wine it takes time, you gotta let that joint age for three or four years. And then you open that bottle, and it’s like ‘what is this, it’s amazing!’ That’s how I like to think about my music, it just gets better with time. I’m not competitive, and I don’t need to be the hottest thing on the block for the time. I’d rather people take my music in a much more cerebral way and just experience the truth and kinda like where I’m at. As a person I can just express myself this way and not everyone can express themselves in this way, so I feel like people just need to embrace the fact that we are all different, we don’t all gotta be the same, we aint gotta always follows trends and do this, and I think that’s what makes the world so beautiful, you know what I mean?
YKIGS: I have to say I really liked the song “Paradise in U” from your last album. Tell me about this song.
JB: Oh word? Now see when you talk about some of the old and some of the new on the album, that’s one of the joints that’s dug up from the crates from back in the day. That’s actually from the “Cool Relax” days, that was done actually for the album “Cool Relax,” it was a record that the record company passed on, and they didn’t get it back then. I was really into my Sade, I’ve always been really into Sade. The rhythm sections in Sade’s music just always messed me up, I’m really in awe of that. So it really inspires me and so I made the track “Paradise in U” to kinda like show that influence, you know? I’m glad you liked that man, that’s kinda like a record, a celebration record for me and my lady and my family. It’s almost like I predicted it before it was happening, you know? And that’s what’s up, because later on in life, when you are listening back like ‘damn how old was I when I wrote this?’ I think I was like 22 or something, like 23 when I wrote that record. I’m 35 now man, and I feel like I can still relate so I’m like dang, aiight, that’s what’s up. That works well with the album, it blends well.
YKIGS: That’s timeless music right there, to me that song is just so smooth, I love it.
JB: Thank you brotha, thank you, I’m glad.
YKIGS: Another favorite song I have of yours is “What Do You Want.” I’ve had a bunch of people on the blog ask where they can find it, it seems to be a rarity these days.
JB: Oh yea exactly, “What Do You Want.” That was a B-Side song, it was actually released as a bonus track for the album, it was a limited release of “Pleasures U Like” where we put the two extra tracks on there “All I Can Do” and “What Do You Want.” That’s basically, you know I think the best place is probably on the good old internet *Laughs* I mean honestly, you can find it on ITunes I’m sure. That song, to get to the heart of what made that song for me, I was going through this relationship that was just going…it was not right. I was just trying to ask this girl ‘what do you want, what is it that you could possibly want now that I have given you everything that I can give.’ And you know that my all time low is just being alone, you know like why would you do this to me, what do you want? And it’s like really kinda, that’s probably one of the most heart wrenching records to hear, because for me it just takes me back to such a lonely place, but at the same time, it’s peacefulness in that loneliness because it’s almost like this guy in this record is letting go, you know? He’s just like ‘aiight’ you know?
YKIGS: Now if I could just take you back in time a little bit to when you were recording “Cool Relax.” Can you just take me through your state of mind when making this album and what you were trying to do with it?
JB: Well I remember that the album was kind of like my backlash, I guess if you want to call it, or the pendulum swings both ways, I was swinging back the other way like towards everyone who was on this ‘you sound just like Babyface, you are Babyface’s next little twin, mini-B!’ *Laughs* Nah, I have been producing music for years, I’m a seasoned writer and vet in this game already, even though this is only my second album, and this is me, and here it is. I’m going to work with Ali Shaheed Muhamed from A Tribe Called Quest, I’m going to work with Tim & Bob and work with those guys in Atlanta and feel that vibe for the first time in Dallas Austin’s studios. And then, getting with David Foster, and Diane Warren on that record as well, on a pop level, in a realm I had never really been other than Babyface. Babyface is really so down to earth and really so cool, I never really considered…he made me feel really comfortable in the studio, after the initial meet and greet and being star struck, that was that, he was pretty much my pops after that. That album was a diversification album, I was like I’m diversifying myself from Babyface, this is Jon B right here. And I can’t forget about my man 2Pac, of course that was the groundbreaker from that album. “They Don’t Know” and “Are U Still Down” were the two records to really kind of…I mean you could just feel the power in terms of the singles from that I was on, in terms of just like really, really wanting to step out of the box, I don’t want to say I was put in, but that I had really put myself in. You know, because I was so adamant about working with Babyface and so adamant about admitting my influences, and showing my influences, and giving it up to my influences. That’s one thing I’ve never been shy about, never been the kind of person who kept my mouth closed and been quiet or timid or shy about it, man, you better tell the people who you love, who you appreciate, because that’s about giving it back!
YKIGS: I just have to say a personal favorite of mine from that album is “Let Me Know.” That’s a song I’ve been able to relate to in the past, and it just stuck with me.
JB: Oh man, good lookin! That was a big D’Angelo influence on that record, I’m not going to lie. D’Angelo and Raphael Saadiq, I was listening hardcore to their music, and just rolling in the ride, bangin their music all the time. The Tony Toni Tone album, and the D’angelo “Brown Sugar” album, that pretty much just sums up soul music, modern soul music for me, retro sounding soul music, but made in the present time. And that really kinda put me on the movement, people call it neo-soul, I hate that because there’s nothing neo about it, it’s absolutely the real thing, “neo” means almost, you know what I’m saying? *Laughs* I really love the fact that you like that man, because that was like a happy record for me, almost like really, when I think about it man, after I had kinda gotten the love that I wanted from “They Don’t Know” and it was playing all the time on the radio, I wanted to tell my peeps, you know, I wanted to tell everyone around me, ‘I would do anything for your love, I just want to keep this feeling.’ And that’s what “Let Me Know” was, just let me know the deal, could you fall in love, it’s a very kinda uplifting positive record. I would almost say, I would like to give it up to Bob Marley for inspiring records like that, because Bob Marley had “Could You Be Loved” and that kinda right there is the same premise for that record.
YKIGS: You mentioned Babyface and about how you came up with him and collaborated with him on your earlier albums. Do you see yourself collaborating with him again in the future?
JB: Definitely, definitely. I’m tryna snatch up Babyface for this album right here, the album seven, get that reunion back, we need that next 2010 “Someone to Love.” Two grown men doing their thing, it’s a rarity to see. And you know I think that it’s just time, I think it’s just so incredible how God works, because everything happens when it’s supposed to. I just feel, with his new baby, and his new relationship with his new wife…he had a baby girl right around the same time I had my baby girl. So it’s amazing, there’s no other word about it, it’s amazing. So I would love to be able to go visit that guy on just a personal level, at the studio or at the house or whatever. And I definitely plan to, but at the same time, get in the studio and make that music and make that magic happen again.
YKIGS: You also mentioned “R U Still Down” as a signature record for you, just give me a memory you have from having the opportunity to work with 2Pac?
JB: Oh man, Pac was on the bus, he had this RV that he had, you know one of those film RVs that they have for the movies when they are filming videos and stuff like that. He was up on this bus, and it was K-Ci and JoJo, Johnny J, rest in peace, and his wife. Wow, it was 2Pac, it was Sway and it was Tech, and they were all up on there. 2Pac had all these girls comin up on the RV and going in the back room and being back there for 10 to 15 minutes and coming back out and being like ‘What up Jon B.!!!’ *Laughs* And I was like ‘Yo Man you wildin man!’ And I was just playing my track and K-Ci and JoJo, I had already met them before, so they were already cool with me and everything. It’s all love, and I’m sittin there, and 2Pac comes out and starts free styling to one of my beats and I was like ‘Yooo!’ This is like a real simple beat that I have, called “Down and Out on Lonely Street.” This is back before “Are U Still Down,” this is the end of ’95. Yea man, so he starts rocking to this beat, and Sway and Tech and everybody, we’re all listening to him, and he goes ‘How the hook go, how the hook go?’ And I’m like *Sings* ‘Down and out, On lonely street, Down and out, On lonely street.’ So he starts going ‘ok, ok, you got me down and out, on lonely street.’ And I was like ‘that’s straight’, the exclusive 2Pac record that never got recorded that should have. *Laughs* It was like on the spot, like ok, Jon B. and 2Pac gotta get it in in the studio in a real way, because this is magic right now. And K-Ci and JoJo were on the side going ‘aaaahhh dammnnn!!’ That was a beautiful memory you know? Two weeks later we were in the studio and three hours after being in the studio, we had penned the track that Johnny J, my man resting in peace right now, we just lost him this last year, the producer of the track of “Are U Still Down,” my good friend. But along with my man 2Pac, rest in peace. Bottom line is, that was a record that all in all took about seven or eight hours to finish. Once we got started…2Pac also, I wanted to let people know, he did sing, yall just never got a chance to hear him sing too much. But he was the one who came up with that hook *Sings* ‘Girl it’s alright baby’ And I was like ‘Yo, what is that!’ And he’s like that’s how it goes, that’s the melody right there. Big up man my man 2Pac resting in peace, Johnny J resting in peace, “Are U Still Down” you know, that’s one of my, it’s kinda like it will never get better than that, but I look to the future and the present, working with cats like DJ Quik it’s almost like full circle. Coming from working with a cat like 2Pac, back to coming to working with a cat like 2Pac, who worked with 2Pac, whose favorite rapper is 2Pac, DJ Quik, gotta big my man up.
YKIGS: I know you’ve done a bunch of writing for other artists over the years. Tell me what it’s like writing a song for another artist compared to writing one for yourself?
JB: Writing for other people is a little…I dunno, it’s cool, it’s fun, because in a sense, you can take a look into someone’s life, into what they are personally going through, in terms if that’s how they want to approach the song, if they wanna say ‘hey I want to write about something personal, this is what I’m going through right now, this is what I’m feeling, but I don’t know exactly how to say it.’ You kinda have this meeting of the minds which is really cool, and I think that communication itself is what really makes it fun to collaborate. It’s like “R U Still Down” what it was for me and Pac, not to go back to that, but at the same time to reiterate, you know? That chemistry, it’s like, I was going through something at the time, and so was he, but we had to come together on a mutual line to be able to say ‘hey, let’s just wrap it up and say ‘R U Still Down”’ and that’s the title of the record, and that’s the premise of the record. So yea, a lot of times I like helping someone figure out what they are trying to say and having kinda like a theme for that, and that’s the name of the record, and we just go from there. And that’s how you build an album, you have a theme and it’s just one story after another with all of the different elements that go on.
YKIGS: To go along with that, is there any song you’ve written for another artist that you wish you would have kept for yourself?
JB: Ummm, hmmm, wow. Well you know, I mean nah because everybody who has gotten songs from me, I’ve been so honored that they would have even done my record. I’ve done records with After 7…for those young’ns who may not know, that’s Babyface’s brothers’ r&b group. Anyway, I did that album “Reflections” with Babyface, and I produced five songs and wrote them myself and everything. Face came in and kinda helped mix, but all those tracks were like tracks I did in my mom’s house before I even got signed, you know they were on my demo with my voice on them, and those guys heard it and loved it and cut five of my records. I was 18, producing for these grown men, so I was very honored. At the same time I was getting to work with Toni Braxton, I wrote a song on Toni Braxton’s biggest record, the “Secrets” album, I wrote the last song on the album which is called “In the Late of Night.” You know it’s an honor, just an honor to be able to look back and say ‘wow!’ We had the Japanese Orchestra, some sort of Japanese Philharmonic or something that Babyface went out in Japan and recorded with the Orchestra. He turned a piano track that I started on his piano at his house, he came downstairs ‘What you playin man, what is that?’ *Sings* “In the late of night, just before I close my eyes.” And he’s like “Whaaatttt!” I was like just playing the keys, and he starting singing that melody on top of it. And I was just sitting there going ‘Oh my God, this is insane!’ And so many records got written that week in his house at that piano, I remember a lot of the songs, ”Someone to Love” and all of that man, it’s amazing thinking back.
YKIGS: I wanted to ask you about a song I recently discovered that you wrote for Gina Thompson. The song is called “Cool Out With You” and I believe it never officially was released. Can you tell me about this song?
JB: We have a real family member right here my bro, ok! That’s what’s up man! That was a pleasure working with her. We did like four or five, I don’t even remember how many records we did. Gina Thompson was, for those who don’t remember, she sang that song *Sings* ‘The things you do, makes me keep running to you’ and that was the jam man back in the day! That was the jam! So I remember hearing that and being like ‘man who was that? I wanna work with her, I wanna work with Coko!’ And later I ended up working with Coko from SWV and Jay-Z as well on a song called “Keep It Real.” For those who don’t know that was on the Hav Plenty soundtrack back in the day, the Edmonds put that movie out, that was one of their first Edmonds…before Soul Food actually, that was one of their first movies they put out. Speaking back in retrospect, Gina Thompson, you caught me with that one man, how many others of those you got in the back of your head?
YKIGS: *Laughs* I got a few here, you know you are a personal favorite of mine so I’ve tried to go back and find some of the songs you worked on. I even think that Gina Thompson is unreleased right?
JB: It actually, it is unreleased, but I think back in the day, it got leaked, we actually had a really dope song that was a duet that we did together that was called “Up All Night,” you can find that one too. Man I’ve done records, just in terms of records that are kinda underground records that were never officially released, but they are out there. But I’m not mad about that, I love the people for loving it, and I love the fact that people appreciate the music. But there’s a track called “Lifted” that I did with Hi-Tek, DJ Hi-Tek, and he’s one of my favorite hip hop producers, you know? Right along with J Dilla rest in peace, I wish I woulda got a chance to work with him. But the closest thing we have, and just as soulful is my man Hi-Tek, he’s always been nice with the beats. That was an honor to do that. We also had another song called “One for Life” that we did together. You might look out for these records anywhere you hear them, for the real die hard fans out there who just love the music, love that good music, that’s what up. I’m a lover of good music whether I produce or whether someone else produces it. I like to think of myself as a DJ too, and I just appreciate music.
YKIGS: You mentioned earlier that “Paradise In U” was from back in the “Cool Relax” days, do you still have other unreleased tracks from back in the day that nobody has heard yet?
JB: I mean the stuff that I wanna do with this new record label, is about releasing a lot of that old material. It’s funny to think about re-mastering a lot of that stuff, going back and trying to find the reels, and it’s going to take a lot. Kind of like when you filmed a movie with an old movie company, and now you are no longer in a deal with them you gotta go back to the offices and be like ‘hey can we get in your vaults and go through your reels and get our reels back?’ *Laughs* It’s kind of a difficult thing, but at the same time it can be done. And now with the powers that I’m involved with, I’m telling you it’s going to be an amazing year for music, and my music as well.
YKIGS: Tell me about the group album you were supposed to put out years ago, Jack Herrera, did you ever release that officially and if not do you plan to release that some day?
JB: It never did, it got signed officially, I got the group signed. Everybody got to tour, we got to shoot….what I did was, that was the first self funded project that I ever did. I took money that I was making at that time, you know, from “Cool Relax,” and instead of going forward with the whole fame, kinda, ‘I wanna be famous, I wanna be the next Elvis Presley,’ I was like I wanna go straight to the soul side, I don’t want to necessarily dive into this artistry thing. I’m down to do the whole Puffy thing and sign artists and do that whole thing, I’m down to do that because that’s really what I wanna do. To do like Diddy and have that…really stamp on music that he has, and because ultimately that’s the way I’ve always seen myself as being a producer and a person who’s behind music, not just someone who’s out front doing my thing, but also really assisting others to be the best they can be. And really just putting out classy music, a thing that Diddy has always done. Really, for me…yea it’s just, the Jack Herrera project just fizzled away because everyone had different aspirations about how to go about doing this, and Sony had there’s, and we had ours, and I was definitely loyal to my band. At the same time I continued to do Jack Herrera for a long time after we had already been released from the label. In my heart, it still has an incredible resonance, I love that project, I always will, I just hope that there’s a chance where everyone can get into a mind state where we are able to record again, be able to get that project back. That’s almost like the same thing I said about Face. It feels almost there’s just the same impression on me in my life, I really appreciated those guys for what we did together.
YKIGS: I gotta also ask you about another song you did, “Pleasures U Like.” This is another of my favorites that you’ve done over the years, tell me how you created this one.
JB: Thank you bro! That was actually, I gotta big up my peeps Az Yet, we were in the studio with Az yet, and yea man, it was a good time we were all hanging out, they were on the backgrounds on that song. My man LeDon, I remember comin in back when he was in the group Az Yet, and he was definitely comin with that pocket and that flavor on the background. And I just really love working with cats when they bring such swag and just energy to the room. It just makes it that much for fun for me, and that record was a really fun record to record, “Pleasures U Like.” That’s why I kinda called the album that, that record says it all where my head basically is right there, hence the single “Don’t Talk” *Laughs* ‘I’m just tryna have a good time man, I don’t wanna talk to anybody, I just wanna hang out!’ And that’s what we did, that was a good time, I mean you could see we had a good time with that one *Laughs*. We were really partying too, we were really drinking alcohol and everything, it wasn’t no apple juice getting passed around, the apple juice had vodka in it! *Laughs*
YKIGS: You’ve managed to succeed in a genre of music typically dominated by African Americans. Have you ever found any difficulties finding this success due to this?
JB: I’ve felt like you know, when the comparisons come, you know after 15 years of being in the game, and being one of the first white…I think I was the first real white quote unquote r&b artist, like that claimed he was r&b and didn’t claim he was pop r&b and didn’t claim he was whatever, like I’m an entertainer. Like I’m r&b, I’m soul from the jump, from album one. I think I was the first white artist to be number one on the urban, or something like that. I dunno man, my thing is I don’t give a fluck about status and stuff like that. I will say this, 15 years after still making music, they wanna bring up the fact that other cats are in the same, being white, like “what do you think about that?” As if posing it like ‘Is there a problem with that, or should there be a problem with that? Shouldn’t anyone sing who can sing, regardless of what color they are?’ I mean, it’s really a mindless philosophy to think about where, trying to preserve the purity of where music comes from, because that’s not ever going to be. The purity is in sharing the music, and knowing that the truth is in that we bleed the same blood, that we all have a soul, and that we all have a chance here on Earth to express ourselves. So if you believe that, and you still wanna talk about this black music and white music and this and that, then you missed my point, and that’s all I got to say about that. But stop asking me about Robin Thicke and Justin Timberlake man! I mean that’s my point. You know it’s like that’s what I’m talking about, it’s just ridiculous, I wanna work with them, that’s the bottom line, that’s all I can say about that. I wanna work with John Mayer, I wanna work with anybody that has talent like that. But it’s almost imposed to me as a competitive sorta like let’s talk about ball players, and you go talk to Jordan and you ask him ‘hey man what you think about LeBron James?’ You know, ‘Cool he’s a great player, what you asking me about another grown man for? Let’s talk about my game!’ So my thing is just, I think alto of it has to do with the whole white/black thing, and white is not necessarily something that ever worked for r&b, it’s just kinda something that came and went. It was like the flavor for the month, or the flavor for six months. But it never really had any true, you know in terms of an artist like George Michaels I really gotta give it up to, and an artist like David Bowie, these are artists that kept changing with the times like Madonna and Duran Duran. A lot of these people set the standard. Prince, set the standard for artistry whether you are black or white, just pure artistry, and I think America really has to really wake up in 2010 and really ask yourself ‘Are you open now in your heart, are you open in your mind in terms of is soul just soul, or is there a white and a black soul, are you thinking that way still?’ Isn’t that sad to think that way? Because I think God made us the color of our skin for a reason to kind of speak to each other and kinda tell each other ‘you are wrong about that, we are the same, check it out!’ I can do that too, and you can do this too. So you know, it’s love man, it’s love music, we gotta get down and we gotta make this music together and we get off our high horses and we gotta really realize that hip hop will never be a billion dollar swag fest. It’s gonna be the streets and the grime of where it came from. It’s gonna be the culture of the people that the blood, sweat and tears; that’s where it came from. R&b is always going to be the rhythm, and the dancing, and the blues and the emotion of what we are seeing. Rock and roll is always going to be rocking out, feeling that aggression and getting out of those grey areas. And classical music is always going to make you want to go to sleep *Laughs*, it’s gonna relax you. So it’s everything is what it is, and we outta just embrace it, and stop tryna draw lines for it and stop trying to separate ourselves. I think this year is absolutely the most eclectic year for music right now man. I mean I’m really excited about where music is right now because they are mixing that house…like artists like Lady Gaga and Rihanna, I mean c’mon man, that’s what I’m talking about, that’s true artistry. Don’t nobody care whether Lady Gaga is white, she’s just hot, and Rihanna is just hot. So let’s get it man, 2010 keep the skin out of your mind man, get it under the skin, get it under the under it. Underneath the under it, and grab whatever that is. And once you get down deep under there, climb over that wall, and then you will be where I’m talking about. It’s a lot of people out here fronting man, it’s a lot of people out here hating, a lot of people out here acting like they got something. Step up to the table and bring it if you got it, or else stay out of my lane, stay out of this lane, this professional music making, because this is what we do, this is what we do. Don’t ever try to turn this thing into simple tinker toy beats that anybody can do, because anybody can pick up the video game and play rock band and do that shit, but this is something different. It takes time, it takes passion, it takes dedication. So for all the artists out there trying to make their way and they expect it to happen in a couple of years, man that aint payin no dues! You better put yourself a good 5, 6, 7 years you can expect. Something, anything, I don’t are what it is, for seven years, I guarantee you, you will have mastered that something and you will get to the next level on whatever it is, and that’s my word!
YKIGS: In your bio I read that you grew up on artists like Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder from time spent in your grandparents record store. How were you originally drawn to r&b and soul music?
JB: I really think soul music always spoke to my through the rhythm. My first memories as a kid were banging on my dads barbecue grill, he had one of those Weber barbecue grills, and he was like ‘Dang my son has rhythm!’ And he recorded it on his little tape recorder, and I don’t know what happened to the tape. But anyway, soul music it just really spoke to me because it had rhythm, then the melody came into it, and the hookiness, and how songs just stayed in your brain, you know what I mean?. Once you hear the songs, its like ‘oh man, what is that?’ I didn’t know the difference between white and black people or anything like that. If there was a difference, I didn’t know what the cultural differences were. I went to school with everybody, I had a very integrated school in California where I grew up. It was like, you’d turn on the TV and you’d see everybody from Earth Wind & Fire to Kool & the Gang to Michael Jackson to David Bowie to Duran Duran to In Excess to Blondie to Devo, you know what I mean? And then Grandmaster Flash and Run DMC and the Beastie Boys, so it’s huge dichotomy of music coming at me as a kid. I don’t know man, it’s just soul music never really, it’s not like it really presented itself and I decided one day that I was going to like r&b instead of popular rock music or classical music or jazz or something like that. I think it was the song and the movement, and the bobbing of my head. I remember that song…*Sings* One of my first favorite soul bands was the Bee Gees and they were an album that was given to me as a kid that I used to just listen to over and over and over. And Rod Stewart, he was a white artist who was singing quote unquote black music, and doing it really, really well and working with some of the greatest producers in that genre of r&b. So you know, yea man, I learned a lot and a great deal at a young age, and that’s why I think some of the greatest musicians in the world are soul musicians, playing r&b and soul music. Some of the most complex arrangements and just the most intense melodies, the most emotional music there is on the planet is classic r&b, it will make a grown man cry!
YKIGS: Final Question, tell me a memory from your time so far in the music industry that you will never forget?
JB: Man my favorite moment so far was basically I can say, in the music industry my favorite moment so far was just walking into the door of Babyface and getting to meet him. Like after I had basically said to my mom and my dad, I said I know who I want to work with, I know who fits as far as my style and who I want to get to and work underneath him and learn and be like. You know, exactly what I said I was going to do, I did. That was my senior year in high school, my dad told me, he was like ‘if you don’t get a deal by the end of the school year, then you are going to college. So you have the whole summer to do that if you don’t get it before you graduate, you know you are going to college, if you are going to live here in the house, you are going to college.’ So I smashed man, I grinded and that’s what I remember the most and after all that work, I think it was like my whole high school three or four years, that I was doing demos and shopping my stuff, and finally getting it to Babyface was my greatest moment, I had finally found my destiny.