Exclusive Q&A With Musiq
Few artists have captured commercial success and critical acclaim as has Musiq. The Grammy/Soul Train/NAACP-award winning platinum artist is riding high off of both the impact of his first album I Just Want To Sing, and the buzz and popularity of the first single entitled "halfcrazy", off of his second album, juslisen to be released on Tuesday May 7th. Musiq spoke to BlackElectorate.com publisher Cedric Muhammad about his success, his second album, and a variety of other subjects.
Cedric Muhammad: First of all, congratulations on all of your success. In light of that success you are experiencing from the first album, is that causing any tension or pressure for you as you bring in this new album, juslisen, and a new flavor?
Musiq: Thank You. I guess so. I am definitely getting a wider audience. That is one thing that the first album and all of its success has brought for me, and I am definitely grateful for that. I've got alot of supporters and people out there who are definitely doing things to make sure that my situation continues to fly, and this new album is giving me something else to contribute to all of them and so I am definitely looking forward to the release of my second album.
Ceric Muhammad: Well, tell me a little bit about juslisen and whether you are worried at all about the "sophomore jinx".
Musiq: To answer the latter question first, I am not afraid of a so-called sophomore jinx because that does not really exist to me, whether it is a reality or not, it is beyond me. So I don't think about that. But where the album juslisen is concerned, it is pretty much the sequel to I Just Want To Sing. Some of the songs on the new album you can actually pair up with the last one. But then you have a lot of original material also on juslisen. And pretty much I am just trying to push things along to introduce to folks what it is that I am really trying to do. Hopefully people will get that.
Cedric Muhammad: And what exactly is that?
Musiq: Basically it is a music expression without boundaries, guidelines and without restrictions.
Cedric Muhammad: In light of that, how do you feel about the talk in reference to, a new Philadelphia sound, or "neosoul". Do you think that has been helpful or is it a case where somebody is trying to put a paradigm from an old era onto something that is new and fresh?
Musiq: It is actually both because (the labeling) kind of helped. When you start adding stickers and labels to something it just causes more attention to be drawn to it. And whether people are supporting it for the proper cause, whatever that may be, it, in the bottom line, is still support and it contributes to the promotion and progression of it. However, I think that as you are saying, it is some form of a paradigm that people are using from latter days - trying to match it up and pair it up and categorize it as "soul". I mean, it is what it is. There is really nothing new about it except for the generation. It is the same thing that has been done in years before and even prior to then. It is just that it is being translated and communicated in a new generation. People are going to call it whatever they are going to call it. The only thing that I can call it is soul music, and I will just leave it at that.
Cedric Muhammad: I want to get into your creative vision and what you go through as an artist when you are making the music. There may be instances where you are in a basement studio, or at a club with a live band or a state-of-the-art studio etc...and in these settings closer to the genesis of your creative inspiration. Do you feel that what we hearing of your songs on the radio, is a true representation of the core of what your creative energy is producing in the beginning?
Musiq: Well, it is not necessarily doing that core a disservice but it is not it (sighs). It is not the entree or the main course but it is definitely a good appetizer. It is a good starter. Pretty much, juslisen is using the blueprint of I just Want To Sing and I Just Want To Sing was pretty much an experiment. And it was an experiment that worked. And it was supported by fans, radio personalities, stations, sales and retail and definitely the DJs. But in terms of what it is that I want to truly do musically, compared to the image and what is heard on the radio? No it is not really the core but it is definitely scratching the surface.
Cedric Muhammad: Our worldview at BlackElectorate.com is that you are more than an artist. The artist we see is usually a reflection of a social reality, musical expression as well as a concept and vision that you may be aspiring to or hoping to project. Having said that, who are the people that have influenced you as an artist - musically and otherwise?
Musiq: Hmmm... Wow! (laughs). That is a wide range there, sir.
Cedric Muhammad: (laughs) well, give me one of each.
Musiq: Ok...well, musically I would have to say Stevie Wonder, for all of the boundaries that he crossed and all of the progress that he contributed to not only music but Black people, actually all humans. And just in general as a person that contributed to my basic aspirations as a man? I think, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Stevie Wonder and Dr. Martin Luther King contribute to the type of person that I am today and what I aspire to be and accomplish as an artist .
Cedric Muhammad: Do you think that you personally and the artistic community have a responsibility to the overall mental and spiritual well-being of your audience?
Musiq: Oh (laughter) Lord, Jesus, help me Father, what is going on? What a question...
I'm a put it like this. Anybody who is anybody doing anything that is a cause for attention is going to have an effect on people, however minute or great. It does really depend upon how much you care. I just think that people should be responsible for what they say and do, to a certain degree. However, we are all humans, living out our own lives. There is only so much that I can be responsible for in someone else's life. That is their own life and what they have to be responsible for. I can only speak for myself. I can say that I know that certain things that I say and do may have an effect and I should be conscious of that. However just like the next person, I am a human just living out my life and I have certain perceptions and points of view and ideas that I would like to live out and they may not necessarily agree with other people. That doesn't make it right or wrong. I am just doing my thing so I don't think it is necessarily fair to say that the artistic community have a job to be responsible for certain things. But I would say that the artists of today, because of the recognition that they get and the kind of effect that they can have on people, and their power and influence, they should be considerate and conscious of what they do with that power. Because they can do alot of good. And I like I tell everybody, I hope that I can have some kind of a positive effect on people. I don't set out to do anything to offend anybody but if I do I apologize but I am just trying to do me.
Cedric Muhammad: In terms of people being influenced by artists, here is a paradoxical situation. Recently you had Halle Berry winning her Oscar and many people saying it was an inspiration and then on the flip side you had your friend, and the person you escorted to the Grammy's, India.Arie, having 7 nominations and winning no awards. What do you make of that and its impact on people who may admire both women? Did you ever think of that?
Musiq: Man, it is like trying to find out the mysteries of life. People don't know why things happen. God allows things to happen for whatever reason and we don't realize why...until we do. So, I am not even going to try to make sense of that. It is what it is. You could wish and hope and pray that things were a certain way but just ask for the serenity to change the things that you can and the courage to accept the things that you cannot and when to know the difference between them.
Cedric Muhammad: We always ask the artists that we talk to about our premise that economics is a means to protect culture - commerce protects culture. So what is Musiq's business vision, are there ways that you try to generate and protect your streams of income?
Musiq: I don't really think like that. I know that in this world whatever is considered good has a chance to be considered marketable, and whatever is marketable has a chance to be profitable. So, I don't focus on being profitable, I don't focus on being marketable. I just focus on being good. And hopefully my producing good can somehow be marketable and that could somehow be considered profitable and I could take care of my family and loved ones.
Cedric Muhammad: So you let the creative energy move you in different directions. You never set out to have a record label or own and grow your publishing income?
Musiq: Not particulary, but the fact that I have a record label and the fact that I have a publishing company; it is wise to utilize those resources to my best advantage.
Cedric Muhammad: Is there anything that you wanted to say or express to the viewers of BlackElectorate.com?
Musiq: juslisen will be out on May 7th and I thank everybody who supported me so far and I hope that you will continue to do so. May God Bless you and support soul music always. Peace and Love.
Cedric Muhammad: Thank You Brother.
Thursday, April 18, 2002