AHHA: On December 25, Christmas morning, The Godfather of Soul, James Brown tragically passed away. How much of an influence has he been to you as an artist growing up and as you continue to make your music today?
Musiq: I don’t think I could really put it into words. Because it’s so many things that he has done and those things had so many different types of an affect on not just me and what I do. But just even contributing to the platform for it to even be possible for me to do what I do. And as long as I live and as long as I have a career, I’m gonna do my best to give back. That’s one of the things that saddened me at the time when I got the news. That I never got the opportunity to tell him and show him how much he’s affected my life. But all is not lost, thankfully through the advancement of technology – you can accomplish some pretty tremendous things. So, hopefully I’ll be able to contribute to his legacy, either in that way or just doin’ whatever I can do from my heart to give back.
But James Brown man, James Brown is forever. James Brown is forever. That dude, he carved a lane so deep that, it just, it’s like water. Once you spill water it gets everywhere – it gets into everything. You know, you can’t stop water from seeping through stuff, you know, eventually it will get there. And that’s like his contribution to music is like that. It’s like, in everything. After James Brown, It’s almost in every facet of music – at least popular music. In one way or another. Yeah, James Brown is forever. He spearheaded, he was the instrumental element of the music of my generation. Hip-Hop music.
Just ask that question. What is Hip-Hop music without James Brown? If you ask that questions, then, you would begin to understand the contribution that, only begin to understand the contribution that James Brown has made to music in general. Not just Black music, music in general. So, God Bless James Brown.
AHHA: Yeah, definitely. You have pretty much been segregated from the rest of the R&B world like Angie Stone, John Legend, Alicia Keys, etcetera Much like the Roots, a Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul. Right now there’s a difference in the days of the “Neo-Soul” movement [late ’90s/early ’00s]. How do you feel it affects the way your music is presented or perceived?
Musiq: I’m gonna put it like this. When I came out, people started callin’ what I do Neo-Soul music. That’s not how I came out, what I came out sayin’. I was like, yeah, I’m Neo-Soul, yeah, I’m Neo-Soul. But that’s what people call it. So, I’m sayin’ it to say, I accept it simply off of that. Simply off of those terms. For me not to accept it, for me to deny it, it’s almost like denying anything that I’ve done. It’s just like, Did you do the song “Love”? Yeah, but uh that song is Neo-Soul. Oh I’m not Neo-Soul, but that song is considered Neo-Soul. Ok, I did the song but I’m not Neo-Soul… but that song is considered Neo-Soul. So, exactly what are you sayin’?
So, to not perpetuate that confusion, I accept the term Neo-Soul what people use to define what I do, however, I don’t accept it completely, because of the attachments and implications that it has in the respect of how it isolates me and the likes [of] artists – the artists who do pretty much the same style of music. It isolates us from everything, and it puts us in this “thing. I don’t even know what this “thing” is. Puts us in a box. Puts us on the shelf. Puts us over there. And it’s cool because it sets us apart to help people say, Ok, this is this and that is that. But I don’t think it’s cool because, it’s makin’ it seem like it’s so much different than everything else, when it’s really not. How much different is me from Stevie Wonder? You know, we pretty much doin’ the same thing. The only thing that’s different is time – that’s the only thing that’s different.
So that’s how I can respect the whole Neo-[Soul]. Because Neo-Soul it’s just the Neo-Soul way of sayin’ “new soul. But the only thing that’s new about it is the fact that it’s being done in a new time. In a new generation. Outside of that, it’s pretty much the same stuff. So that’s why I tell everybody, who ask me, or even care to ask, what would you call what you do? And I always say, It’s Soul Music.
When you put ’em in that perspective, it’s like “Oh.” But when you say Neo-Soul it almost implies that it’s something way over there. And even when they say that you’re an R&B singer, it’s like yeah, I sing R&B songs. I make R&B music, but there’s more to what I do than just R&B music, and when you do that you restrict, you restrict me from being able to do other things that I’m into. That, I would like to show you. That, I wanna give you. That, I’m good at. But you won’t accept it if you’re only willing to expect me to just do one thing.
So, my feelin’ on that is, it’s cool. It’s cool, it’s cool but there’s more to it. I pray that people will not limit me to just as an R&B singer or a Neo-Soul artist. Those are what I am and what I do but there’s way more to it than that. And I just hope people see that.
AHHA: Now, I know you have a very good live show, lots of energy. You really get the crowd hype and everything. How do you feel about the revival of dance in stage shows like artists, Ne-Yo, Chris Brown, Omarion, etc., and how do you keep your own shows fresh?
Musiq: All that dancin’ and stuff. That’s fresh. I’m just not gonna do it.I kinda look at myself as an MC waitin’ to happen. So, it’s almost like askin’ Ghostface how he keeps his show live, it’s almost like askin’ Nas how do he keep his show live. You just use the material, you use the work. I wish that I had the energy to do all of that Chris Brown stuff and all of that Usher stuff. You know, I would love to be able to do all of that.
I put so much energy into the music that I don’t really have time to perform. Only thing I have left to do is to pace back and forth. And I also want people to pay attention to the band. That’s a very important element in my performance. So if I have a whole bunch of dancers on stage, there’s too many things to look at. Definitely, big ups to the people that do it. Beyonce, she’s one of the best people that do it. To have a band and have dancers. But she has to cater to a much broader audience. So it’s almost like, it kinda balances itself out.
AHHA: Now, what would you say was your most embarrassing moment in the spotlight?
Musiq: My most embarrassing moment in the spotlight it used to be the fact when I first came out with Aijuswanaseing and I had to sing “Love and sometimes my throat would like go out. And I can’t hit that note that used to suck. But hey, I’m human. But I think now my most embarrassing moment is when I forgot the line to The National Anthem at Madison Square Garden for the Michael Jordan Championship. That was embarrassing because I know The National Anthem. That night I sound checked it, twice, without even thinkin’ about it. But for some reason, when that line came, I just drew a blank. I really can’t explain it.
AHHA: You just wanted to sing something else.
Musiq: I think I just wanted to sing something else. Or maybe, no, what it was, was it was alot of things goin’ on in my mind. Cause that was at the time of the transition from one label to the next. I been away for a while and people was in my ear. I don’t mean to use that as an excuse but those things they had their effects. And it showed in something as simple as a song that I pretty much knew all my life. But, you know. Yeah, but hey, things happen.
AHHA: Now if we go into Musiq Soulchild’s closet…
Musiq: Wow. Ok. I thought you were gonna say CD player or something.
AHHA: Nah, closet. You’re a fashionable guy. You have your own style.
Musiq: See this is the thing. I didn’t work my own style yet. Don’t get it twisted. I rocked a lot of fresh stuff cause I had to meet it in some way. But once I get to that position, don’t be surprised with the kind of stuff cause I’m a funk child at heart yo. So, don’t be surprised. I mean, I ain’t gonna scare y’all with the George Clinton hair and everything. Eventually, I will get there, in my own way.
In the history of music, when people get passionate about their stuff from Sly & the Family Stone, you know Sly used to rock some crazy stuff. But he thought it was fresh. That’s how he wanted to present himself. To Prince, to George Clinton, even to James Brown, all the way up to Andre3000, to Common, to Erykah Badu they rock how they feel. They rock stuff according to how they feel.