Ten-time Grammy-award winning vocal group Take 6 has been thrilling audiences throughout the world for years with their immaculate harmonies, and their ingenious ability to incorporate elements of pop, jazz, and R&B in their music.
What was formed by Claude McKnight in 1980 as a quartet eventually blossomed and matured into the awesome recording sextet, Take 6. Members Claude McKnight, David Thomas, Alvin Chea, Cedric Dent, Mark Kibble, and Joey Kibble each contribute a vital part to the groups strength and sonance.
Over the years, they have performed alongside legends such as Stevie Wonder, Miles Davis and Ella Fitzgerald, and have gained the respect of their peers. We recently spoke with member and group founder Claude McKnight about their new album, Feels Good, which features an array of original pieces filled with their vibrant trademark harmonies.
AllHipHop.com Alternatives: The group Take 6 has been around for years and has had tremendous success. You have a new album coming out and a new record label. First, tell us about the new album and what fans can expect.
Claude McKnight: This album is a throwback to the first album. We really worked with what we know on this one. This is the absolute best record weve ever done. We have all original songs, and it is completely acapella. This is probably only our second album like that. I encourage everyone to go get it.
AHHA: The album is dedicated to Ray Charles. What impact did he have on the group?
Claude: We dedicated it to Ray Charles because we actually worked with him. That was a great experience for us all. We learned from him – we wanted to give something back to him.
AHHA: You are 10 time Grammy winners and youve had 18 Grammy Award nominations making you the most nominated gospel, jazz, pop, or R&B artist in Grammy history. How does it feel to know youve had such a strong impact within the industry?
Claude: Its really cool. From the political side of it to the love of it – it spiritually feels good to know youve made a change.
AHHA: Did you feel that when you formed the group that it would be this successful?
Claude: Not at all. It was basically a hobby. The college we went to had a history for music though.
AHHA: Your style of music falls into a number of categories. Is there any one particular genre of music that your prefer to be categorized in?
Claude: Honestly, it depends on how we feel on any given day. Generally, it doesnt matter. Since we are a spiritually based focal group, everything we do has to mean something to us.
AHHA: If someone told you that your sound and style of music is the new gospel, what would your response be?
Claude: I would almost laugh like I just did. I think that when you think of our music you think of contemporary elements of jazz, pop, and R&B. The lyrical content of it makes is gospel.
AHHA: You all have worked with Quincy Jones, Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, Stevie Wonder, and a host of other musical icons. What was it like working with them? Lets start with Stevie Wonder for example.
Claude: Stevie is absolutely the man. He has become really good friends to all of us in the group. They are all just people. Thats what we like and love about them. We love them for who they are. Its refreshing when working with them. You get to share ideas. Its wonderful.
AHHA: A lot of people compare you Boyz II Men. Is that a compliment for you?
Claude: Its not good or bad. Groups like us, Boyz to Men and After 7 are all male vocal groups – thats why they compare us. We did a lot of stuff in the 90s around the same time as they did.
AHHA: What album do you feel may have been one of your most disappointing projects?
Claude: Thats a trick question. It depends on how you define success. We always had to be on one journey musically. There have been more times we have been more successful than others. The least commercial successful album was Brothers. That is also the album we used the most instruments on as well.
AHHA: Who chose the actual name of the new album and why?
Claude: We all talked about it and since it was the name of one the songs on the album, we chose that title. The whole CD makes you feel good. You feel uplifted when listening to it.
AHHA: What is your favorite song on the album?
Claude: There a couple. I love Just in Time and Lamb of God reminds me of the older choir stuff that I used to hear my grandfather do, but one of our absolute favorites is More Than Ever.
AHHA: Are there any artists out there today that you would like to work with?
Claude: There are some younger contemporary artists that we would we love to work with. It would probably be a female since we are all guys. Artists such as India Arie, Jill Scott, and Aretha Franklin are at the top of our list.
AHHA: Are there any artists in the industry today that you would not work with just because of their style of music. Lets say 50 Cent wanted Take 6 on vocals, would you collaborate with him?
Claude: Its not that we wouldnt do it because of their style of music, but the song has to meet our needs. The lyrical content would have to be pleasing and up to par. We are a spiritually based group, but if everything is up to part, we welcome that.
AHHA: All of you guys grew up Seventh Day Evangelist. Do you think your religious background had anything to do with your bond musically, professionally, and personally?
Claude: Yes definitely. The school we went to was Seventh Day Evangelist. We were always like minded. It truly helped us define who we are.
AHHA: Whats your take on the R&B and Hip-Hop movement of today?
Claude: It is very interesting. Music goes through stages. It was 20 years ago when rap started coming to the forefront. The state of music now is just about where people are coming from. They are talking about what they know. It is a new diverse form of art. There are cycles to R&B too – every 20 years, everything comes back around.
AHHA: Tell us about your new label, Take 6 Records.
Claude: This is our brand new venture. We feel that this is something we should have done a long time ago. We plan to help other artists discover their dreams. A lot of labels are run by people who are not musicians – that is scary. This label is for musicians and ran by musicians. We plan to find new talent and exploit them to help them achieve their dreams.
AHHA: Was there anything in working with past labels that may have hindered your creativeness to make you venture into your own business and label?
Claude: Not really, but the funny thing is, it can hinder your creativeness. We would write and produce our own records. Then, we would turn it in to executives and they wouldnt know what quite to do with it. They would tell you that, its good, but I am not sure what to do with this. It gets frustrating after you have worked so hard on a project.
AHHA: What is different from Take 6 today than 10 years ago?
Claude: A lot. We have really matured on how we deal with each other. Your music can suffer if you dont pull together. There are a lot of groups who have not stayed together because of that. We are here for a purpose. We have respect for each other.
AHHA: Brian McKnight is your brother. What impact did he have on the group musically?
Claude: Well, Brian is younger than me, but we are each others biggest fans. We have collaborated on a number of things. We are very good friends. We talk about a lot of things. He has had a positive impact upon us.
AHHA: You won Grammy Awards in 1989, 90, 91, 92, 95, 98, and 2003. Whoa! At any point, was your success overwhelming?
Claude: The first Grammy was interesting. Three of the guys were still in college. We were the first gospel group to be nominated for New Artist. It was very cool. We just keep on thanking everyone for our success. We breed on longevity.