Phone interview conducted April 25, 2011
Musiq Soulchild proves he has the magic touch when it comes to music. His sixth album to date, MusiqintheMagiq, maintains his usual themes of love and relationships while serving up some fresh and consistent quality soul music. Akim Bryant had a brief opportunity recently to speak with Musiq about the new album and his definition of true soul music...
Akim Bryant: Okay, it’s Akim Bryant here once again for SoulMusic.com, here with the incredibly underrated and consistent singer/songwriter Musiq Soulchild, who’s dropping his sixth album, called MusiqInTheMagiq, on May 3rd. I’ve definitely been a fan of this man and his music from the very beginning, which is why I call him consistent, because the music itself has never faltered. And from what I’ve heard from this new album, you’re continuing to make that magic. Now is that kind of where the album title comes from?
Musiq Soulchild: In a way, yes. The album title comes from a lot of different directions and it was inspired from a lot of different trains of thought, but for the most part it’s more so like an affirmation that I’m making for myself as an artist. I usually offer up credit where it’s due, deserved credit, to all the contributing factors to my success—and I have no problem with that, never have had any problem with that, it’s just that recently it’s been brought to my attention in a way that it registered that I’ve been at this thing for as long as I have been, I’ve never really owned my contribution to my success. And people always talk about the magic in the music but no one really talks about what that magic actually is. And I sat and thought about it: what is the magic to my music, or whatever, and I thought about a lot of different things and I’m grateful for a lot of different things, but the one common thing that I recognized was my contribution: no matter who I’m working with—again, not to say anything against anyone—but no matter who I’m working with I always inject and infuse myself within it, so it’s not to say that can’t nobody do what I’m doing. But I do know that can’t nobody do what I’m doing the way that I’m doing it because it comes from me—I was blessed with it in the way that I was blessed with it. It’s unique to me. So that’s basically a long way of saying that what I’m saying is that when it comes to my music, I am the magic in my music, and that’s why it’s M-U-S-I-Q is in the Magiq—that’s in the music.
AB: That’s dope; that’s dope. And it probably takes a few albums to understand that that is the process—that you are the person who makes the magic, basically.
MS: Yeah, yeah. And there’s a lot that goes on. As artists we never really communicate that or articulate that or express that to the audience, because in a lot of ways they don’t have the capacity to understand it in the way that it goes, because they ain’t thinking about the game like we thinking about it—they don’t have to deal with the same stuff. And frankly, a lot of people just don’t even care: they just want to hear what they hear and they either like it or they don’t. And that’s their right. But it’s our responsibility as artists and as people who do what we do to know what makes things tick, so we can regenerate it and be consistent with it. And that’s something that I’ve done in my career. I’ve paid attention and tried to be as aware as possible of what actually works, so that I can keep doing it and can keep giving you what it is that you like about what I do, rather than like I just winged it and that’s what came out and I can’t regenerate it. I’m not comfortable with that.
AB: And I think that’s why—again, I’m-a go back to the consistency of your career, because I think the music itself has always been consistently good and fresh—
MS: Thank you. Thank you.
AB: —and contemporary, and just everything that it should be for the moment. So talk to me about your first single, “Anything” featuring Swizz Beatz.
MS: The first single, “Anything”… a lot of people think that Swizz produced that track, and he didn’t. I have to give the respect and the credit to where it actually came from: it was produced by Jerry Wonder from New York out of Platinum Sounds.
AB: Wyclef and all those people?
MS: Yeah, he was one of the architects of the Fugees sound, and he’s a really cool brother. He’s a really, really, really dope musician and he has a lot of [audio cuts off]
AB: All right, so we’re back in the building with Musiq. Got a little disconnected, but you were talking about the “Anything” first single?
MS: Right, I was talking about Jerry Wonder, about him being the producer of that record, and it was written by a songwriter named August Rigo. And I definitely came through and tweaked some things, but I really like that record because of the energy about it—it’s definitely something that has a real feel-good vibe to it. And definitely when Swizz came through and did his thing on it, he took it to a whole other level, and I really appreciate him coming out and doing that—he didn’t have to. We were talking about working together for a long time anyway. Last couple years we would bump into each other in airports and things like that, and he was like, “Yo, we need to get together; yo, we need to get together.” That was just an opportunity that was just ripe, man. Everything happened so fast, everything made sense for me. I didn’t have to break “Anything” down to him, he just got it. We didn’t talk about it or nothing; we just got on it and it was like magic. So things that are supposed to happen, they just do—you don’t have to set it up, you ain’t got to think about it, it just happens. And that was one of those moments.
People really like this record. It kind of throws people off because of the energy and the tempo on it. Many people are just accustomed to me coming out with ballads. But I like the fact that it threw people a little bit, because I don’t think I like the feeling that people expecting too much what I’m gonna put out. All I really want you to expect is the fact that whatever I do is gonna be quality work. I don’t want you thinking, “Musiq come out with a new record, I already know what it’s going to sound like,” and blah-blah-blah. It makes me feel like people get too comfortable, that they don’t feel like they got to pay attention anymore. So I like the fact that it threw people a little bit. And eventually, I know you’re gonna like it—not to be cocky or nothing, but I know you’re going to love the work that was put into it. Like I said, when people saw Musiq Soulchild and Swizz Beatz, a lot of the comments were like, “Whut?”
AB: [Laughs] Like isn’t that just a bit oxymoronic?
MS: But when you hear it, though, it’s like, “Oh, okay—I get it. It makes sense.”
AB: It’s definitely one of those type of records. And something that I’ve kind of noticed a bit throughout your career is it seems to be important to you to maintain that mainstream R&B appeal when it comes to your music, as opposed to just being soulful?
MS: Well, the best way I can put it is, I always want people to understand that everything that I do is from the idea and concept of contributing to the legacy and tradition of soul music. I don’t mean soul music as far as, you just call it soul music because that’s what you can call it—no. I’m talking about the basic simplicity of a person that expresses their soul through music. And whenever in history someone has done that, at least in my community, it just happens to come across a certain way. There’s many different representations of it, like R&B, blues, gospel. But in my opinion, to be honest, every genre of music can be called soul music, because at some point or another that person or that group of people or that band or producer or musicians or whatever, wanted to express themselves through music that way—they felt passionate about expressing music that way, whatever the genre is. Just to be general, just for the sake of conversation. But traditionally, we’re known as the certain types of chords that we use and certain instruments that we use, or certain subject matter that we talk about, and things like that. So having all of that taken into consideration and coming from that perspective, I feel like it’s important—at least, it’s important to me; hopefully it’s important to someone else out there—that this music, this legacy of music, should be appreciated as such and not watered down to fit a certain criteria, or to be put on the radio because it’s too deep, so we gotta dumb it down, or whatever the case may be. I feel like it should be appreciated in the way that it was intended to.
So the best thing that I could think of in order for it to appeal to a broader audience instead of a small group of people… and that’s the thing that I had about the whole neo-soul thing: it’s not so much about the title or even the type of music—I definitely recognize that I make that kind of music; I make music that would be classified as neo-soul—but it’s just the implication that was put on it, like only a certain elite group of people can appreciate this kind of music. I just personally don’t think that that’s fair, because music should be appreciated by everyone. If it ain’t for you, it ain’t for you, and I get that, but I personally am not the kind of person that likes to withhold my music from any group of people—my music is for anybody who is willing to listen to it. So saying all of that to say that the reason why I push for the type of music that I make—which I would classify as soul music—the reason I push for it to be mainstream is because I want the whole world to listen to this. I don’t want it to be heard or playing on AC stations; I want it to be played anywhere at any time. But it also means that the responsibility is put on me and artists like myself to incorporate things within it that people like. I’m not gonna try to browbeat you to like this, but I’m gonna find out what it is that you like about music itself and incorporate that into what I do, so at least at the very end I have some elements about what I do that you already like, and maybe that may be a way to introduce you to all the other aspects of what I have to offer musically. But it’s almost like I’m trying to make soul music popular—
AB: Like it once was.
MS: Hip-hop music is popular; pop music has always been popular—that’s where the name comes from—but I want soul music to get that same kind of attention and appreciation, because it’s good music. Good music is good music, yeah.
AB: Like you said, soul music is just simply music that’s coming from the soul and it’s not from the soul of any one particular group or person, or anything like that.
MS: Yeah, it’s just the music; yeah, man. You either feel it or you don’t, and nine times out of ten you gonna feel it because of where it comes from—the motivation behind it. If you’re human and if you got a soul, you’re going to love soul music.
AB: Exactly. So you got your second single, which officially just dropped, called “Yes”. I checked that out.
MS: Well, the thing about that is it’s not technically official, because we didn’t really send out for it or make a big deal about it. What happened was, iTunes actually took a personal interest in that song, and as an incentive we collectively came up with the concept—mostly them—but we came up with the concept of allowing you guys to get that song automatically as soon as you download the preorder: as soon as you preorder the deluxe version of the album, you get that song downloaded automatically. You don’t have to wait for the album to come out. So by default I guess you could say yeah, that is the second single, but we’re not going around telling people that because that’s not how we went about it. But basically that’s what it is, ’cause that’s the only other new song on the album that you guys are getting. I just wanted to make that clear ’cause I don’t want you to think it’s the official second single—
AB: Okay, and we see something else come out later and it’s like, “Which one is it?”
MS: Yeah, yeah. Trying to get BDS on it or whatever. I mean, it’s fresh if we do, but…
AB: Exactly, exactly. So I want to actually throw some historical-type questions in here where going back to songs like “Don’t Change” and “Love” and “Who Knows”. You have a number of wedding-appropriate songs in your catalogue.
MS: Yeah [laughs].
AB: Is that something that you go for, or it just happens naturally?
MS: I guess it just happens naturally. When I’m in the studio I’m not really thinking so much about “This is going to be the next hot wedding song,” or “This is the next anniversary record,” or even “This song is gonna stay on the radio for years and years.” I’m not even thinking like that. What I’m thinking about is, whatever the song I’m working on, I’m thinking about how much that song will soundtrack the moment in which the song is about, you feel me? So however it applies, that just happens—that’s why I say I guess you could say it happens automatically, because that’s just how you would apply that song, or apply that sentiment rather, to whatever occasion. All I’m thinking about is being as true as I possibly can to whatever the song speaks to. So if it speaks to an undying, unconditional love between two people, then you can apply that to whatever situation it’s appropriate for: apparently that happens to be a wedding setting. If it’s about going through whatever particular issues you may be dealing with of an unpleasant nature, even—whatever the case may be, I just focus on trying to stay true to whatever the song is about. However you choose to apply it in your life is how choose to apply it.
AB: And you’ve done so beautifully throughout your career.
MS: Thank you, man.
AB: Okay, I guess we can just bounce all the way to the end, basically then: what’s next for Musiq in terms of… are you interested in going into acting, reality TV? Anything like that?
MS: I’m not really interested in reality TV and I’m not really interested that much into acting. I don’t mind doing it but I’m not really interested in the acting as much as I am in the behind-the-scenes work. I would more so rather produce something or direct something rather than be in it. To be honest, contrary to what people may believe, I’m not really comfortable in front of the camera. I do it because it’s part of my job requirement which I hope to be successful in, bringing attention to myself in the way of selling records and things like that, but I ain’t really too big on being in front of the camera. I make it look like it’s all cool and fine, and that’s not a big deal, because if it’s what I gotta do, it’s what I gotta do; I ain’t tripping off of it like that. But if you ask me, I would rather be behind the camera than in front of the camera; because as a songwriter you’re a storyteller, and as a storyteller you just see the platform of filmmaking as a bigger canvas. So if I do get into film or TV, I would rather do it behind the scenes rather than in front of it.
AB: Okay, okay. Sounds good. And how can your fans keep up with you going forward, in terms of updates?
MS: You can check musiqsoulchild.com. I’m also on Facebook, which is musiqsoulchild.com as well, and you can follow me on Twitter, which is @musiqsoulchild. I’m planning on going out in June. Still trying to work it out, but that looks like it’s pretty much gonna happen—still figuring out the dates and the routing and who I’m going out with, but I’m looking forward to going out in June. But as of right now you can check out walmart.com/soundcheck for a live in-studio performance with my band. And I’m performing three old songs and three new songs…I did an interview with them as well, which you can check out right now, actually—you don’t have to pay for anything, you just go to the website, walmart.com/soundcheck, click on my name and just follow the directions. And there you have it. And that’s pretty much it for now. I’m just promoting the album, MusiqInTheMagiq, in stores May 3rd; you can preorder it on iTunes as we speak, and when you preorder the deluxe version of the album—and it’s the deluxe version because it has two extra songs on it—you’ll get the song “Yes” downloaded automatically.
AB: Which is a great song, so definitely check that out.
MS: Thank you.
AB: All right. I appreciate you, and good luck with the career and good luck with the album—
MS: Thank you.
AB: —and I’ll definitely be one of the fans picking it up as soon as it—actually, I’ll preorder that baby on iTunes right now.
MS: Pick it off the shelf. Thank you, man, I appreciate your support.
AB: No problem. All right, thanks a lot.
About the Writer
With nearly a decade of experience in programming content for Music Choice (24/7 music channels, cable-on-demand shows, website and cell), Akim Bryant has just begun to scratch the surface of journalism having already written for GIANT and The Source magazines as well as a number of start-up publications. This self-professed R&B junkie also has a strong knack for the art of interviewing. Be on the lookout for his semi-autobiographical debut novel coming out in 2012.