During the height of the neo-soul era, a fresh new face out of Philly arrived who went by the name of Musiq Soulchild. This was in the middle of the year 2000 and just before the digital age took over in music. As a result, most music fans’ first exposure to Musiq Soulchild was with the release of his “Just Friends (Sunny)” video that came out as a part of Def Jam’s “Nutty Professor II” soundtrack. Eventually, it would also become the lead single from his debut album “Aijuswanaseing” which released later in the year. For this article, we’ll take an in depth look at Musiq Soulchild’s debut album, with quotes we were given exclusively from some of the creators of the album, Musiq’s original managers (Mike McArthur and Jerome Hipps), along with from the singer himself.
Origins as an Artist – Homeless to the Studio
We know that Musiq Soulchild comes from the streets of Philly, but did you know that he was literally homeless at some point? After making a name for himself singing everywhere from jazz clubs to street corners, he eventually found his way into Jazzy Jeff’s “A Touch of Jazz” studios. During that period of time in Philly, there was no other place you wanted to be as an artist. It was the mecca of fresh music and where Musiq Soulchild’s journey as an artist began.
Musiq Soulchild: To be honest, I really wasn’t paying much attention. I was living on the streets trying to figure out what to do from day to day. Where I’m going to sleep that night, how I’m going to eat that day. I wasn’t really thinking about making music really. I got introduced to my writing partner at the time, through my managers at the time. It was fun. They let me come through and work. Sometimes they would feed me, and that would kind of be like the thing. They’d be like “Yo, you trying to come to the studio?” and I’d say “I dunno man, I have so much to do….” Even though I had nothing to do. Then they’d say “I figure we go get some grub…” then yea, I’d be there. I was just working on records because it was something cool to do. I was stretching and exercising my abilities and figuring out what I was able to do. That’s it. Then when I got told that it got picked up by a label and was going to get put out, I said “Huh? What do you mean?” There was never a conversation with me about doing that. I’m sure at some point in the back of my mind I knew it would get to that point. But I had a totally different image in my head of how stuff was going to go. So working on “Aijuswanaseing” was deliberate but only in that moment. It wasn’t something I was thinking about in terms of creating songs. It was whatever I had worked on that day, and I could put into the song that day, was it. When I was done with it, I was done with it and on to the next. I wasn’t thinking about albums and hit songs and that this might change people’s lives. I was really going through a lot of shit back then, and it just came out in the music.
Vidal Davis: I remember this kid coming into the studio and actually he was homeless, Carvin [Haggins] took a big part of really looking out for him. We all took care of him. Musiq used to come in and sing, he was dope but a little pitchy and we knew we could work on it. We all came together and helped something that Carvin believed in and we all came in and achieved it. Musiq came in and we were working on Jill [Scott’s] album at the time, so we put him on backgrounds, just to get him into the mix on that. We had him around sessions and just watching him grow into the great artist that he is today.
Ivan Barias: When he first came around, I just thought he was super dope because he had this dope vibe about him. Of course he was an R&B/Soul singer, he was trying to become also an artist like Stevie, Donny, and following on what D’Angelo had done. He was an extension of that lineage. What attracted me to him was, his ability to really understand hip hop. The way he approached music, he had this hip hop energy about what he was doing. It didn’t feel like regular R&B/Soul music. He loved J Dilla, I loved Dilla. That’s what was so unique about Musiq. He disproved the myth of what an R&B artist should be. It was totally re-calibrated from what we worked on. Even to this day you can still feel his influence. The hip hop influence of soul music we were able to inject into those early records. It resonated and helped advance the genre in a way it couldn’t have if it didn’t have that element.
Carvin Haggins: The good thing that when were at A Touch of Jazz, we collectively worked together as a group of six guys, so we were all placing records on various acts from Will Smith to Kenny Latimore to Love Jones soundtrack to Cherokee. We were just collectively working, but our first initial connection was with Musiq and that collaboration happened. Basically it came from just Musiq coming into the studio, being brought in by Jerome Hipps and Michael McArthur, and just going in and creating a sound for him and a vibe for him. The initial success was “Just Friends”.
Jerome Hipps: I met Musiq in a Record store on 69th St in the Philadelphia area. It was the week before I started to work for Polygram. He would frequently watch movies in the theatre next door and then hang out to listen, sing and talk about music with my old roommate and a group of aspiring artist. One day Musiq and a group of artist were hanging out at our apartment when I video taped him singing a song he wrote called “I Miss You” (Out of all the things to do, I chose to love you. Now that you’re gone, I miss you). I never forgot that. I played the video for Mike and he agreed that he was talented. Ayinke of AAries was working on a song with Carvin and he needed a male background vocalist on a song. I told him I had the perfect person, Musiq. The rest was history, because he stayed in the studio recording songs with Carvin for about a year. Jeff allowed us to use his facility during the midnight shift (with an agreement of course). Long story short, his demo basically became his first album “Aijiswanaseing”.
Direction of the album – Carrying on an Intelligent Conversation
One of the earliest believers in Musiq Soulchild was songwriter/producer Carvin Haggins. He has gone one to become one of the most prolific songwriters of his generation, but perhaps his crowning achievement is helping to launch the career of Musiq Soulchild. If you check the album credits for “Aijuswanaseing”, you will see Carvin Haggins name on just about every song.
Carvin Haggins: The idea when we started the project was like “I’m not trying to appeal to the masses, I just want to have this conversation with people that are just like me”. So there’s an intelligent hoodlum in every neighborhood across the country and across the world. So I want to have that conversation with that intelligent hoodlum. A dude that knows how to hustle, knows the street game, and actually was an honor roll student and good in school. Basically, I want to speak to that person that’s got manners but can be a thug if he needs to be, but don’t really want to be a thug, just wants to have fun. These are the people that I want to talk to. So the idea was that’s the communication, that’s the conversation and that’s what we’re going to talk about. This whole album, to them, for them, the theory that we have that we still have is that the whole world is listening. If there’s a thousand people in one room and there’s two people off in the corner having a really intense conversation, eventually the whole room will start to pay attention to their conversation because it looks that intense. So that was the idea. Let’s have that conversation that’s so intense that the world will turn around to see what they’re talking about versus trying to talk to the whole world at the same time.
Mike McArthur: As soon as you went in and heard the songs, you knew they were something special. It just sounded like they were writing real life music. What people were thinking, they were saying. It was the way they’d say it, the melodies, the music that was backing it. It was like a moment in time. When you’d go in, every night it would be just crazy to see it evolve. At the time, at A Touch of Jazz, you had all of these producers and musicians and people who were super creative and went on to have great careers. We were all there in that basement on 444 North 3rd Street. Most of the time we’d stay there. We’d work during the day, we’d also throw parties as part of our job, and then after the parties, we’d get over there at like 2 in the morning and they’d be in the middle of working. It was a lot of conversations that were being had. Carvin and Musiq would absorb those conversations and they’d turn into records. We knew there were a lot of magical songs being made. The bulk of that album was made at A Touch of Jazz, and there were a few that weren’t made in that studio, once the deal was done. The Scratch intro, that was recorded at another studio called Sonic which later became a studio we purchased for Home Cookin. We got Eric Roberson to do “Mary Go Round”, Musiq loved it, we went to his house and they recorded it. He added some other elements to the record. It just all came together. You knew the songs were special, because they would be conversations. It felt like they were putting together a movie on a song.
Jerome Hipps: There was an emphasis on making a soundtrack of people’s lives. Find a way to bridge a gap between Hip Hop and Soul. Musiq and Carvin focused on lyrics that told a relatable story and along with Ivan they made sure the project had music that people could thump or crank in their Car/SUV. This project was such a collaborative effort. Carvin and Musiq would be writing lyrics to a song and would stop to ask if the lyrics were realistic and would sometimes lead into a conversation that would either confirm the existing lyrics or inspire new ones. Additional producers and musicians (Dre, Vidal, Keith and Dee) worked together on many of the songs. It was a wealth of talented creatives working together. To sum it up, We were living the music. It was the Soundtrack to our lives and its humbling to see many others felt the same way. To be honest, at the time we didn’t know we were making transformative music that has stood the test of time with songs that are relevant today as they were then.
Creation of the album – Musiq’s Perspective
It doesn’t get much better than hearing directly from an artist on how they approached the creation of a classic album. For Musiq Soulchild, he has perhaps one of the more unique stories of how his debut album even came together.
Musiq Soulchild: The interesting thing about “Aijuswanaseing” is I wasn’t planning on making an album, I was just recording songs. As a matter of fact, when I got the deal, I was planning on going back in the studio and doing songs that were going to be for my album. The reason it was called “Aijuswanaseing” is because when I was recording those songs, that’s where my head was. I had access to a studio and I just wanted to make songs; that’s it. I did “Just Friends” because I just wanted to make a song, I wanted to make it as hot as I could make it. I did “Girl Next Door”, I just thought it was a cool idea and I just wanted to do it. All of those ideas, that’s just what I wanted to do, I wasn’t thinking about songs that were going to be on an album. I wasn’t even really thinking about people listening to them. That was the first time I had access to a studio, so I was learning myself through the studio. I always knew how to sing, but singing in a studio and listening to yourself back is kinda different. I just wanted to do that a little bit more so I could get a grip on my sound. I had accumulated so many songs and my managers at the time shopped me a deal and Def Jam at the time picked up on it and said “We can put these joints out” and I said “Nooooo”. That wasn’t even practice, I was just doing stuff. But they were like “These are hot, they are raw, that’s what we need” and I was like “Ok…..alright, put it out!” People hear it and they call it a classic, and I’m like “Well, maybe yall should hear what I wanted to do then because I was just doing something.” Maybe if yall heard what I really wanted to do, and the thing is I never really got to do that because ever since then, I had everybody that was surrounding me at the time always trying to get me to do another “Aijuswanaseing” and I said “That’s not going to happen because I wasn’t trying to do that when I did the music”.
Getting Signed to Def Jam
Is it possible for an artist to get signed and not even know it happened? It might seem crazy, but that’s almost exactly what happened with Musiq…
Musiq Soulchild: The interesting thing about that, is I didn’t spend a lot of time, where I was recording and trying to get a deal. As a matter of fact personally, I wasn’t trying to get a deal. My writers and producers and managers, I didn’t know that that is what they were doing. I was dealing with my own issues in my life. I was homeless, I wasn’t really cool with my family like that. I was sleeping on people’s couches, depending on the kindness of strangers. Going to open mic clubs, having all of these big grand ideas. I was actually discovering my own creativity. It was a blessing that those guys were willing to work with me and have me record. That within itself was a process. Prior to them, I didn’t record. I didn’t know what it was to record a song. I sang to people, that was my only experience in singing. I didn’t grow up heavily in church. I was there, but even then I wasn’t in the choir. The only role that music played in my life was a personal thing. I didn’t have supporting things in my life that would encourage me to be successful in music. I had people that I would hang out with and other kids I’d sing with. I’d stop strangers on the street around rush hour and ask them to listen to me sing and tell me what they thought. It got mixed reviews, it was weird. *Laughs* I was a different kind of dude back then. You put a nerd, a weirdo and a geek altogether; I was a music geek man. I was really about being creative. It wasn’t just music, it was everything. I was so into the concept of making something. I had friends who almost had to tell me to chill and figure out what I wanted to do, because I couldn’t do it all at once.
I started recording in November of 1998, very sporadically. I did a couple of months recording and then be off. I recorded literally my first song in fourth quarter of 1998. Then during 1999, I recorded most of what most people know as my first album “Aijuswanaseing”. Even a few songs on “Juslisen” as well that didn’t make my first album. Essentially, that was my demo, that I didn’t even know was being played and shopped around. I didn’t know until I got the offer from Def Jam at the end of 1999. My manager called and said they had a deal for me. I said “What do you mean?” I was back in forth between Philadelphia and Georgia. I had family in Georgia so in the colder months, I’d go down to Georgia, which is essentially why I made the move to Atlanta later on. When I got the deal, I was like “So what am I supposed to do?” I never really chased being signed. If anything, I would have recorded and sold my own stuff. Back in Philly, that was big, print your own CD’s. That was lit to me. I was sitting in Def Jam across from Kevin Liles and all of these people were telling me how dope I was. I said “Thank you, but I kind of don’t care.” So I just listened. All of this talking, and then the check came. “Ooohhh, I think I get it now!” So this means I make money, got it! For a dude living on the street and not having anything to his name, and no plans of getting money, that was a come up. It was the process of being in the business that I learned what it meant to be in the business. I took a lot of L’s, I learned a lot of stuff. I’m sure a lot of people in my time coming up couldn’t figure me out, because I didn’t know what was going on! I didn’t have any artist development process! I used to read music magazines, that was my only connection to the industry! I used to watch a bunch of music videos. I came up with a bunch of ideas, but I never really took it seriously or expected to be a fraction of what I ended up being. It was not on my mind at all. It was a blessing and also a not so good thing.
Mike McArthur: While he was down there working at A Touch of Jazz in the studio, they were making a lot of records and recording songs. At the time A Touch of Jazz was working on different projects like Kenny Lattimore. Some of the songs they were looking to sell. But we were always looking at him as an artist to get him a deal and let people know about him. So when we got the record deal, once we had a lot of the demos, we waited, and one of the stronger demos he made at the end was “Just Friends”. He had been working in the studio at A Touch of Jazz for about a year with the different producers. Carvin was primarily writing and doing all of the vocal production and the work on the songs. At the time I was working at Def Jam on the promotions side. So once me and my partner Jerome talked, we decided to go play it for Kevin Liles. I met with him early in the morning one day before I started my video promotion run for the day in NYC and played him “Just Friends”. That set all the wheels in motion. As soon as he heard it, he said it was crazy, he had never heard anything like it. He kept playing it back to back to back, and asking who it was. At the time Musiq was in Atlanta, he had left Philly for some time to go be in Atlanta. He didn’t even have a phone at the time. We had to track him down and figure out how to get him from Atlanta to New York. They wanted to meet him immediately. I played him maybe about 4 or 5 songs that day. A couple of the records didn’t make the album, but three of them would up being on the album. That was “Just Friends”, “Girl Next Door”, and “Seventeen”. They ended up on “Aijuswanaseing”. As Kevin was playing it, people were coming into the office. Artists starting coming in, Redman came in, he asked us to play it back! He started looking out the window rapping to it! It was crazy. Nobody had even heard anybody beatboxing on a record. When you think about hip hop culture, beatboxing was always that thing about the culture. To hear it combined with R&B and soul, and the beat that Ivan produced, and the way Musiq and Carvin wrote the record, it just sounded like nothing you’d ever heard before. That was it. The whole label got together and we had to figure out how to get him to New York from Atlanta. So when they finally had the meeting, they played some more songs, and at that point they had “Love”. At that point he couldn’t leave the building without a record deal.
Jerome Hipps: Majority of his debut album was basically his demo. It was a year and some change in the studio just recording song after song. It was a collaborative effort creatively led by Carvin, Musiq and Ivan. I also remember the tight bond he had with AAries and that was represented in the music of how their vocals were placed throughout the album that added to the unique sound. Go back and listen. I also remember there were moments Jeff wanted to at least have an opportunity to shop the songs to make money back for the studio time we were using. I remember Jeffs management tried shopping “Love” and “Girl Next Door”. Various label A&Rs turned the songs down. One A&R said Musiq said the word Love to many times in the song “Love”. They missed that one.
Selection of the Singles: (“Just Friends (Sunny)”, “Love”, “Girl Next Door”)
On “Aijuswanaseing” there were so many good choices for singles. Nobody could argue with the songs that were chosen as they were among the strongest and also performed exceptionally well commercially. Here is how the team chose to release them.
Mike McArthur: I think because “Just Friends” was the first record I played in that meeting, and it got the reaction it did, that was a no brainer. Soon as everybody heard that, they were making plans for it, and it ended up on the Nutty Professor 2 soundtrack. From that record, there were so many other good songs on the album. Everyone was in the room picking their favorites. What happened was, we just made a sampler and it was sent out to radio stations. We did a mini tour around the country and he was being introduced at events. So samplers were going out, people were talking. What happened was, a lot of radio stations would just start playing the records. Not just one, but four. Now we had this great thing to figure out, which should we focus on. At the time, I was still at Def Jam working in promotions for the Northeast. So I saw it first hand. When we’d get on calls, they’d tell us which song they were playing. What happened was one of the programmers in DC, she loved “Love” and she played it at her station in DC. She said the phones went insane. People were calling asking what it was, and the lines had never lit up like that. At the time, some stations were playing “Girl Next Door” and some were playing “Love”. But the programmer from DC called Kevin at the label and told him it had to be “Love”. We were torn between “Love” and “Girl Next Door”. Then Chicago started playing it and the same thing happened. So then it just went on its own and took over the airwaves. So then we did “Girl Next Door” after that.
Track by Track (With Backstory from the Songwriters and Producers)
Finally, we take a look back on each of the songs of the album and hear from the majority of the creatives who help bring them to life.
(Produced/Written by: Kyle Jones aka “Scratch”)
This dynamic intro to the album set the tone and let us know we were in for a journey unlike any other we had experienced before in Soul music.
“Girl Next Door” (featuring Ayana of Aaries)
(Produced/Written by: Taalib Johnson, Andre Harris, Carvin Haggins, Jill Scott, Ed Green, Andre Harris, Carvin Haggins)
Aaries: ““Girl Next Door” was originally created for a movie soundtrack and Jill Scott was originally on the song with Musiq. The song didn’t make it on the soundtrack, and eventually was asked (Ayana) to record the song. I recorded the song in a few hours and overall it felt great. The Girl Next Door was so relatable to so many people. It is a universal song…who doesn’t have a crush on the boy or girl they grew up with next door? lol. It is the type of song that has one reminiscing about their first love, or the love you let get away.”
“You And Me”
(Produced/Written by: Taalib Johnson, Andre Harris, Carvin Haggins, Pat Metheny)
Carvin Haggins: “This song was originally produced by James Poyser and Victor Duplix. They gave the track to Musiq to write to. I eventually went in with Musiq to make it work. The song is based on a girl Musiq had a crush on and a girl I was dating. The same girl “You and Me Against the World” was written about. I was finally making money and I could help her but she was to proud to ask.”
“Just Friends (Sunny)”
(Produced/Written by: Taalib Johnson, Vidal Davis, Bobby Hebb, Ivan “Orthodox” Barias & Carvin “Ransum” Haggins)
Ivan Barias: “To me it’s the seminal record for that evolution of Neo-Soul. Even to this day there are so many artists, writers, and producers who come to me and reference that record. It really makes the story of it even greater. I remember that beat trip that we went to Pittsburgh. It was myself, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Kenny Dope, Darren Henson, and Dilla. We all took a trip to Pittsburgh in 98. We started in Philly one day, and by the time we got back two days later, we had gone all the way to Pittsburgh and back. We hit all of these record shops. During that trip, Kenny Dope had already knew the type of sound I was partial towards. He said he knew I’d like this type of sound, check out this label, it was called Muse. They had a lot of dope, jazzy, funky, soulful grooves. The type that I liked to sample. He passed me a Pat Martino live album. When we got back to Philly a couple of days later, I went through the stash and put it on. I knew the record from Bobby Hebb, it was called “Sunny”. I always liked that groove. Put it on, I thought it was dope. Sampled it, loaded it down, looped it up. At that time I was still rapping and trying to be an artist. I got the beat playing, and here walks in Vidal and hears it. He thought it was dope and added a bass line and played a little keyboard embellishment on top of it. I’m looping it up and Musiq walks in. Hears me working on it, and he thought it was dope. I had this little weird little thing, a few little lyrics. He heard it and started singing those lyrics and embellishing a bit. And then he disappeared. I think I made him a tape of that beat and a couple of other things and then he disappeared for like a year! He went to Atlanta to visit his family and moved down there. He already had recorded quite a few songs with Carvin. Then a year later he comes back, and I remember this was around Thanksgiving. We were in the studio, and asked if I still had that beat. I pulled it up and him and Carvin finished writing it. It became that song. That record has so many different stories attached to it for how long it took. Darren had said we should start it with a beat box! Musiq was in the studio beat boxing while Keith recorded it. He was the engineer for the vocal session. As we were figuring out what was going on, we were doing technical stuff, and Musiq is beatboxing in the booth! Just playing around. Darren said it was dope, and told us we should start the record like that! So when Musiq went and put it in there, it kind faded in and you hear it start with the record. It became the most recognizable intro to a record of ours. It just set the tone for the life of that record that it would eventually live. It was just different. That sample was really off too, the way I caught it too make it loop perfectly, I had to program the drums in a way it didn’t feel sloppy against the sample. You had this groove where the kick was kind of on but the snare was rushed. Then the hi hat was really laid back. It kind of helped enhance the sound which was kind of this little interesting bounce it had. Definitely was some Dilla-esque moments and influence in it.”
Carvin Haggins: “The creation of that record was something different too. My partner Ivan wasn’t landing any projects. I told him to give me his beat tape. He gave me it and gave Musiq a copy of it. One day Musiq came in with the “Just Friends” beat. He sang a song to it, and I told him the song was trash! But the flow was dope. I wanted to see if we could flip it and make sense. So we re-wrote it and it made sense.”
“Mary Go Round”
(Produced/Written by: Taalib Johnson, Eric Roberson, Osunlade)
Eric Roberson: “Musiq was one of the most unique singers I ever met. His approach to a song was unlike anything I had ever heard. So we were constantly bringing songs to him just to hear how he would interpret it. Initially, I just wanted Musiq to record ‘Mary Go Round’ to get a different perspective on it, but he took a liking to the song. I remember we cut that song in a small bedroom studio in my parent’s house. A lot of great records were done in that room. No super expensive equipment but that room had a vibe. I don’t think we knew we had something special. We were just trying to make magic.”
Osunlade: “Eric Roberson and I were writing quite a lot of tunes for several artists as well as himself. I gave him the track, he wrote the lyrics and the demo, he knew Musiq’s managers and made the link for us to work on the project.”
(Produced/Written by: Taalib Johnson, Keith Pelzer, Carvin Haggins)
Carvin Haggins: “Actually “143” came from, I don’t know if you remember, back in the day we had pagers. On a pager, the number would come up. So I had this girl who said hit me up on the pager and say “143”. So one day I called her and said “What is 143? Why do you keep asking me to type it?” She said “143 means I love you”. I thought that was a dope concept so I started working with the idea. We needed to make it feel like a Stevie Wonder type feel. Once I heard the keys, it started coming together. Me and Musiq started to figure the song out. It really was just like everybody says I love you, it’s so easy to say I love you, but it’s hard to say a creative way to say I love you. So “143” was our creative way.”
Keith Pelzer: “I was a good guy at the missing link stuff. You had the other guys who were great at just creating great stuff. I was more targeted because of my skill set with music. Musiq was already rolling, Carvin was already rolling with the guys. I think he got what he needed from Ivan and Andre. They were looking for a Stevie Wonder type of vibe. So the inspiration for that was, I took out of all of the church music I knew, I put progressions together that would do it. Carvin and Musiq were talking about a song that was very creative. Remember when you used to say “143” for I Love You on the pager? We did that. We wanted to do a song like that. When they were talking it, I could hear it while I was playing it. That’s how it basically came together. It was just sitting around playing on the Rhodes. If somebody were to do a film on all of us, it would be funny to see Carvin. Whenever he was singing, he’d always have Skittles or M&M’s or something and shake it! *Laughs* He can’t sing, but dope singers can listen to him and get an understanding! It’s something about his heart and the way he would go at it. It didn’t matter if his tone was off, you could feel it and keep creating from it.”
(Produced/Written by: Taalib Johnson, Andre Harris, Carvin Haggins)
Carvin Haggins: “That song was created simply because we were in the studio working and at the time Andre Harris was in there and I was working behind the mixing board. Musiq came in and was like “Yo man, I want to make a sex record!” I said “Nahhhh, you aint sexy though!” I said we can do something better than that. I said we should make a love record. We started working on the record. I said we should have a conversation with emotion and have a conversation with Love. That record manifested from there. In hindsight, when you look back, you realize that God is Love and Love is God. It is a spiritual record, but I didn’t know at the time.”
Aaries: “We were not there during the initial creative process, but the vibe in the studio was amazing. Once we all heard the rough cut, we knew this song would go down in history as one of the greats! LOVE is timeless. We recall Musiq saying that “people sometimes forget the real meaning of love and what Love actually is.” This is what inspired the song. We sang backgrounds on the song and there were so many intricate parts and harmonies, which was really fun. We tend to gravitate towards harmonies in the songs we write and sing. We love to be challenged with our ear and in music theory.”
(Produced/Written by: Taalib Johnson, Junius Bervine, Ed King, James Poyser, Carvin Haggins, Vikter Duplaix)
Vikter Duplaix: “The main thing I remember is the first time Carvin played me the demo of “Girl Next Door”. It wasn’t tight yet. The vocals were kind of out of pitch and super raw. That is to be expected when you’re learning how to record. I also think it was a rough mix. Regardless, as soon as the chorus played I turned to Carv and said, “This is great!” The Magic was instantly obvious to me. It was also the first time that I felt something from our creative crew had the potential to jump out of the “artsy” space to become big in the mainstream RnB world. I’m glad was right. The rest of the album ended being equally fantastic. I knew that the combination of Philly street speak mixed with Musiq’s unpolished vocal style and the thick-n-clean sounding production was perfect for that moment. It felt like they took a step back from the overly sophisticated musical concepts that we all were doing at that time to connect with an “average joe” type listener. They sprinkled raw jimmies on classic ice cream.”
“Musiq Soulchild (Intermission)”
(Produced/Written by: Taalib Johnson, Milton Brand)
A flavorful interlude containing a mix of hip hop, soul, beat boxing and more.
(Produced/Written by: Taalib Johnson, George Winston, Carvin Haggins, Andre Harris)
Carvin Haggins: “This was supposed to be a 3 part song to tell 3 different stories but once I finished the 1st verse and hook it was evident to continue the story. It’s a fictional tale based on and comprised of hood stories.”
“L’ Is Gone” (featuring Ayana of Aaries)
(Produced/Written by: Taalib Johnson, Carvin Haggins, Tariq Trotter, Kamal Gray, Leonard Hubbard, Mercedes Martinez, Tracey Moore, Ahmir Thompson)
Carvin Haggins: “”L” is Love not weed but the idea was borned from Rick James’s Mary Jane and DeAngelo’s “Brown Sugar” instead of describing weed like a girl (I never did drugs), I wanted to describe sex like a drug.”
(Produced/Written by: Taalib Johnson, Kyle Jones aka “Scratch”)
A masterful production from Kyle “Scratch” Jones who was also known for his work with The Roots. Just like he did on the intro, Scratch crafted a production that we really hadn’t heard a soul singer croon over. Musiq added a dynamic flavor to it with his melodic tone while putting a different twist on a timeless story.
(Produced/Written by: Taalib Johnson, Charles Wright, Yusuf Rahman, Ivan “Orthodox” Barias & Carvin “Ransum” Haggins)
Ivan Barias: “That’s another one where I just found a sample and thought it was crazy. I was working on it and for no particular reason, just for the catalog. I remember working on it and Andre Harris walked in. That was A Touch of Jazz, anyone would walk in at any moment and just add to it. He came in and added these strings under the sample and it just made it so epic. It was a dope sample to begin with, but it injected this other energy to it. We also had another record we did during that session called “Stop Playin” which ended up on his second album “JusLisen”. It had a similar vibe. Dre and I used to work on a lot of music together. Those were two records we worked on together for Musiq indirectly. I just had these tracks and he came in and added to them. Musiq always loved that sound. “Poparatzi” was another one production wise that didn’t feel conventional the way the drums hit. It was a different your typical groove. It was something a little bit different and it worked for what they were doing. It’s funny you say the title isn’t in the lyrics. They didn’t even spell the word right! It was a clever way of saying “picture me while I’m sitting here down and out”. It’s one of those deep cuts on an album that sometimes early on people didn’t get, but over time it became a fan favorite.”
Carvin Haggins: ““Poparatzi” is one of my favorite records that’s highly slept on. When we created, Musiq’s management team at the time, Mama’s Boys, said “Yo, the song doesn’t say Paparazzi in it!” And I said “Well “Just Friends” doesn’t say “Sunny” in it!” But it’s the concept, “Picture Me”, that’s what paparazzi do. That’s why the song is called that.”
“Settle For My Love” (featuring AAries)
(Produced/Written by: Sheree Brown, Patrice Rushen, Freddie Washington, Osunlade)
Aaries: “Musiq had recorded a couple of covers for the album but still wasn’t sold on anything. One day we were hanging out at a dinner on South Street, and he played us Patrice Rushen’s, “Settle for My Love.” We were always singing together, so we were excited about exploring the possibilities with the harmonies on this song. He played it for us and asked us if we would like to be on his album… we were over the moon. Musiq was such a blessing to Aaries. Osunlade was amazing and the vibe in the studio was so very relaxing and calming. We truly enjoyed recreating that song with Musiq and Osunlade. Good times.”
Osunlade: “”Settle for my Love” was actually Musiq, Aries and his managers idea. I think I was chosen to produce it as Eric and I were also working on Vivian Greene’s Emotional Rollercoaster during that time which was all live production and what they envisioned for the cover.”
“You Be Alright”
(Produced/Written by: Taalib Johnson, Andre Livingston, Charles Robeteou, James Poyser, Vikter Duplaix)
Vikter Duplaix: “The sessions with James Poyser and I were relatively smooth. The way we create usually starts with us just banging on sounds until with find a pocket that we like. Then we tighten it up to either write to or send to the artist for further collaboration. We came up with 2 of the songs in our Axis Music Studio just catching a vibe. The level of musicianship is so high that it rarely feels like work with the Philly crew. James and I are fast workers so wasting time in the studio wasn’t our thing. I definitely wasn’t into wasting time in square boxes and the travel bug was starting to consume me. Once the tracking was done, we tag teamed cutting the vocals. Musiq liked to stack vocals. That was part of his signature sound. So the only somewhat time consuming part was recording so many tracks. Sometimes it was 60 plus.”
(Produced/Written by: Taalib Johnson, Osunlade)
This song sounded unlike any other contained on “Aijuswanaseing”, in a good way. The airy and subdued tone of the song show us another side of Soulchild.
“The Ingredients of Love” (Duet with Angie Stone)
(Produced/Written by: Ivan “Orthodox” Barias & Carvin “Ransum” Haggins)
Ivan Barias: “That was inspired by A Tribe Called Quest song on “Midnight Marauders” album. It was a replay, Frank Romano played the guitar over. It was a really dope record. I got a record with Marsha doing that song first! She was doing a song for Bilal, and it was super dope, I have to dig it up. Marsha did a really dope song to that for Bilal. I don’t think Bilal heard it. I remember about a year later we were in the studio with Angie and I played that beat and Carvin and Musiq heard it and thought it was a dope beat for that song. We just ended up doing it with Angie.”
(Produced/Written by: Taalib Johnson, Carvin Haggins)
Carvin Haggins: “This was a Carvin and Musiq production. It was done for a movie soundtrack but wasn’t accepted so we added it to the album. We recorded it in Rasheed Wallace’s studio.”
You’d be hard pressed to find many music fans who have heard “Aijuswanaseing” and don’t consider it a classic. Not only did it turn Musiq into a star, but it also helped to put Philly on the map and boost the careers of Carvin & Ivan and Dre & Vidal. It will always be interesting that the body of work we got wasn’t even intended to be an album, but that’s what helped to make it so raw and honest. Musiq Soulchild really just wanted to sing.