Erykah Badus debut album, Baduizm, marked the beginning of a unique blend of old school soul with Hip-Hop sensibility that would dominate and influence the way soul was done from that point forward. Since then, artists like The Roots, Lauryn Hill, DAngelo, Jill Scott, Anthony Hamilton, Common, Talib Kweli, Bilal, and Musiq have all released albums touched by this evolution in R&B.
The man whose hands have been involved all of those projects is musician/producer James Poyser. He has become the Soul Man, the go-to creator of that soul that goes bump. Within in the industry Poyser is known and revered, but among fans his name still hides in the tiny print of liner notes.
Preferring the anonymity of his studio to the shine of a video shot, Allhiphop.com Alternatives puts Poyser and his talents on blast. Get to know the cloaked man who has been turning out baby-making music for an entire industry.
AllHipHop.com Alternatives: You are so revered within the R&B realm of things and youve contributed to your fair share of Hip-Hop albums as well, but youve never become that celebrity type of producer thats always in the video. Why is that?
JP: Thats not my personality – Im not really one to be seen. I like to just contribute the way I can and leave it at that. I just love the music. Im not into the whole glory thing or whatever. Im not dissing it, if thats your thing cool, do you. Im a musician first and foremost and I just like to play music.
AHHA: What was the first instrument you played?
JP: I played drums first and then I switched to bass guitar, and now Im a keyboardist. I wouldnt dare call myself a drummer now surrounded by cats like Ahmir [?uestlove].
AHHA: With the immense respect and popular that you have in the R&B world, have you thought about being the first R&B producer since Quincy Jones to do an album the way that the Hip-Hop producers often do?
JP: You know that has be talked about and discussed for year actually. I really didnt want to do one cause I didnt want the attention, but lately I have been thinking about doing that kind of thing. Following the blueprint of what Quincy did with The Dude with some guest singers and emcees.
AHHA: What happen to the Soulquarians?
JP: Hey, I dont know, I still consider myself one. Jay Dilla is working and Ahmir is doing his group thing, and I think [DAngelo] is working on some things here and there. Im still friends with everybody, its the kind of friendship where you might not speak to someone for a while, but I still consider them friends. Theres no ill will between anybody that I know of. I think what happened was that the thought was out there that everybody who was doing soul music was part of the Soulquarians. Some articles were written about who the Soulquarians were, and I dont know if everybody considered themselves a part of the whole thing. Initially it started out as us four cats, and we all liked the same music and all our birthdays were around the same time. We all are Aquarians, so thats were the name comes from.
AHHA: Us four cats? Who are you speaking about?
JP: DAngelo, Jay Dee, Ahmir and myself, thats who it was originally. I dont know how it turned into everybody who was doing some soulful music was a Soulquarian. Thats the way it was portrayed, and I really didnt see it like that and I think some other people didnt really see it like that either.
AHHA: You think any bitterness was created because of that?
JP: Ughhhhh, maybe [laughs]. Ya know, there were some established artist themselves that were kind of lumped with us. From my point of view, I was like, Oh no, no, no I never contributed to his success or her success. I may have worked with them. Then there were some artists that I had never worked with that were lumped in. It got sort of messy.
AHHA: Do you see a possible reemergence of whatever project was talked about with the Soulquarians?
JP: I would really hope so. Me and Ahmir still work on some projects from time to time, but ya know his main hustle is with The Roots. His studio is right down the hall from my studio, and when hes around were always in each others studios. Me and Jay, I havent spoken to him in a while, but weve worked on stuff in the past and I dont see why we wouldnt work together again. The same thing with D, hes working on some things and if he would want me to do something with him, Im there. Again theres no beef that I know of.
AHHA: Speaking of DAngelo, the rumors surrounding him are wild. Have you seen or spoken to him lately?
JP: I have spoken to D in quite a while, I really dont know whats going on with him.
AHHA: As far as him not talking to anyone, why do you think that is?
JP: I dont know man, I honestly dont know. D is a genius in my opinion and there are many other people who would say the same thing. He is doing his thing in his way and maybe thats part of being a genius.
AHHA: But if you had it your way, you and he would be speaking?
JP: Yeah, but hes doing it his way and I dont really know anything about what hes doing. I do know this, from what people have told me who have heard some of the stuff hes working on, the stuff is like wow. I havent heard anything myself, but these are trusted people who are great themselves, so if theyre saying wow, than I can only imagine [laughs]. I can only imagine.
AHHA: What types of music do you listen too?
JP: Everything from Lloyd Banks to Jill Scott to Herbie Hancock to Audioslave.
AHHA: The production on a song like Jill Scotts Talk to Me – is that production already done before Jill does the vocals or is that a collaborative effort to create a song that works on two distinctly different levels like that?
JP: Me and Jill were working on something else and when Im working my hands are constantly playing the keyboard. I hit a couple of notes and she said, Oh play that again, and those notes became the essence of Talk to Me. I built the track around that motif and Jill put down the vocals and the song was done. Then Jill comes up with the idea to do a jazz version of the song, so I called the musicians and we did a rhythm session and we track a full version. Then I thought, why dont we just put both the songs and styles together. In my mind I was thinking about Frank Sinatra at The Sands.
AHHA: Whats the next musical challenge for you?
JP: I want to score, I want to be the Black Hans Zimmer.
AHHA: Hans is the truth, I love his stuff.
JP: Yeah hes dope, him and Danny Elfman.
AHHA: Do you have any scoring projects lined up?
JP: Ive done some really small budget indie projects, but Ive got lots more to learn. Ive been going to the movies lately and my friends will be like, Did you see that scene? Ill be like ,Nah I was listening to the music.