Quincy Jones: A Life Less Ordinary Part One

How do you spell legend? With just one letter: Q. Quincy Delight Jones Jr. is a man who for the past six decades has carved a path so strong in the music industry, that his footprints were deep enough for others to follow. As Michael Jackson’s Thriller just celebrated its 25th Anniversary (December 1), it […]

How do you spell legend? With just one letter: Q. Quincy Delight Jones Jr. is a man who for the past six decades has carved a path so strong in the music industry, that his footprints were deep enough for others to follow. As Michael Jackson’s Thriller just celebrated its 25th Anniversary (December 1), it brings to light an important fact that there haven’t been many artists or albums that in some way weren’t touched by Mr. Quincy Jones. From Frank Sinatra to Tupac Shakur, Quincy Jones makes music with no boundaries – as standalone singles, projects, or Hip-Hop samples. It’s no wonder why Astronaut Leland Melvin has chosen Jones’ 1969 classic “Walking In Space” as his song choice for waking up in space. The talents of Quincy Jones have awakened us all, and it was the greatest honor imaginable to have this living legend sit down and discuss his running history with us. As someone whose body of work competes with his number of frequent flyer miles, Quincy enjoys traveling the world as a philanthropist just as much as he enjoys making records. His latest venture Star Camp with his son Quincy III and Nick Cannon brings state-of-the-art technology to shaping young creative minds with the gifts of singing, dancing, and rapping. In addition, there are new album projects coming soon. His mantra of worldwide betterment through music is one that we should all be driven enough to maintain. But it’s all in a day’s work, or as Quincy puts it, “global gumbo.” AllHipHop.com Alternatives: Mr. Quincy Jones, it’s such an honor to be speaking with you.Quincy Jones: Why thank you, honey, where are you?AHHA: I’m in New York…well, sort of. I’m in New Jersey.Quincy Jones: [laughs] That’s the country.AHHA: Yes, I’m actually camping right now. [laughs]Quincy Jones: [laughs] They used to have that old joke way back in the day. A Southern brother came up from Florida dying to get to New York, and he got to Newark, and the conductor said, “New Ark!” He jumped off and in three years he got to New York. [laughs]AHHA: What did Woody Allen say? Anytime you’re outside of New York, you’re camping.Quincy Jones: That’s right! [laughs] You’re camping, huh.AHHA: That’s right.Quincy Jones: God bless ya, honey.AHHA: So how are you today?Quincy Jones: Okay, just lots of stuff to do as usual.AHHA: Well first, congratulations on being honored by the Grammy’s…Quincy Jones: Thank you. Fifty years ago, we’re sitting around the room saying, “Maybe it would be a good idea to have a record academy.” And we’ve got one. It’s amazing. AHHA: Also, congratulations on Star Camp. Your son [QD3] sent us the link and it looks amazing. Quincy Jones: It is the most moving, wait until you see it. [The kids] are so talented, honey, and committed. We’ve really chosen the right eight kids for the right reasons. They have this mission; they’ve got their goals in sight. So much passion behind it, and insight. One girl – she’s a singer, I couldn’t believe it – said she likes all those singers from back in the day, the ‘40s and all. That really impresses me, because it means they’re into the legacy and all. Really incredible singers, dancers, rappers and everything. [Star Camp] really gives them a goal to get into a [career] that they can spend the rest of their lives depending on. Being creative, it’s wonderful. I mean really, really wonderful. I was more than moved, I was touched you know? They’re young too. One of them is 13 years old and says, “I want to be a role model.” [I said], “Well that’s a big commitment, you know? You have to act like one.” A lot of the old ones out there don’t know how to do that. [laughs] AHHA: What is it like working so closely with your son [QD3] on this project?Quincy Jones: That’s the biggest thrill of all. My son has been a professional for a long time, and we’ve done a lot of things together, but we’re getting more and more into television production and DVDs. He has a great DVD company. I just got the rights to a movie we’re gonna do together – a big movie about the Black gangsters. It’s called The Policy Kings. Those were the Jones boys my daddy worked for in Chicago when I was a kid. They were no joke, honey. No joke.AHHA: I’m Italian, so I can only imagine…Quincy Jones: You’re Italian. You know what’s up then. [laughs]AHHA: Italian from New Jersey.Quincy Jones: That’s right. I know all those Jersey boys. Pesci was here the other day. Joe Pesci, he’s from Jersey. So are [Jack] Nicholson, [John] Travolta. Those are all my dogs. I’ve been around Pesci or even Jack before they happened. Before [Jack Nicholson] did Easy Rider. Joe Pesci, we’re gonna produce his next album, singing. He’s brilliant. Oh boy he’s brilliant. I’ve worked with the best and he is no joke. He is fantastic. AHHA: And of course, you’ve worked with Michael Jackson…Quincy Jones: Everybody [laughs] – Ella [Fitzgerald], [Count] Basie, Duke [Ellington], Louis Armstrong, Ray Charles, Sinatra, Paul Simon, Tony Bennett, Aretha Franklin, Dinah Washington, Nina Simone, Michael Jackson, rappers – two dozen rappers. [laughs] Ice-T, Melle Mel, Kool Moe Dee. Everybody. Just amazing. I look back sometimes and say, “How did that happen?” But it’s been 60 years, you know?AHHA: I remember you were rapping with Melle Mel on stage at the Arsenio Hall Show.Quincy Jones: That’s right! I remember when Arsenio first came out here [LA]. He was in a show down at the Roxy – opening act. He came out, and they announced him as one Pip that left Gladys Knight. [laughs] He was doing all of those background dances, and then would go up to the mic and say, “Roo Roo!” [laughs] Greatest act I ever saw in my life. That’s a brother from Cleveland. AHHA: I know there has been talk of a Michael Jackson comeback record. Would you have any hand in the production of that?Quincy Jones: Nobody’s told me about that or anything like that. Number one, we’re so overextended, but no nobody’s even talked to me about it. I saw it in the Post too about [working with] Whitney [Houston] and Michael. It’s not true! Nobody called me about that. With my international foundation work, which is extensive in Cambodia, Brazil, Kidali, South Africa, it’s so much time. That’s my real passion, my foundation. We’re working with Harvard now and with the International Development Fund and Inter-American Development Fund for Katrina and Latin America. We’re going down [to New Orleans] in February to film with Brett Ratner. It’s just wonderful.AHHA: That’s phenomenal. Rumor has it you’re also going to be working with the Olympics…Quincy Jones: Yes in Bejing, but before that I wrote the theme for the Special Olympics. It’s exciting. We’ve been busy, busy, busy. I like being busy. Especially if it’s something you’re passionate about. These kids to me are number one because they symbolize the future of the country in reaching out to other countries and having allies that love each other. I spend a lot of time traveling so I know the territory backwards for 54 years. Our problem is we have 11% of Americans that have passports and only 6% use them. We don’t know what’s going on outside of this country. I just advise young people – no matter how you do it, with backpacks or whatever – to travel. Jamaica and Saint Barts don’t count. [laughs] I’m serious, the Bahamas doesn’t count. I’m talking about getting over there where stuff is going on. Go to Croatia. Travel around, go to Cairo, Kidali.AHHA: Definitely.Quincy Jones: You’re Italian. Do you speak Italian?AHHA: You know what’s funny…I speak more Spanish than I do Italian. Quincy Jones: More Spanish? Really? You’ve got a little ghetto goin’ there too. I like that. [laughs] I call that the “global gumbo.” That’s where we’re going to go with our kids, teaching them how to be producers, writers, and singers and actors, etc. to fill their lives. Then we’re going to interface them with kids like the Coconut Kids of Cambodia and everywhere else so that they can introduce other kids to the rest of the world. I think it’s very important. Do you travel much?AHHA: I try to. It’s hard with school and work.Quincy Jones: How old are you?AHHA: I’m 28. Quincy Jones: You sound like you’re 14. [laughs] That’s very nice. I have six daughters of my own you know…AHHA: Yes, I know. I watched The Office.Quincy Jones: Then you know Rashida!AHHA: Yes and I know Aaliyah, God rest her soul, was very good friends with your daughter Kidada. Quincy Jones: Aaliyah used to stay at my house; she was like one of my daughters. I love that little girl. I have her picture right on my desk. Just love her.AHHA: You also knew the late Tupac Shakur was quite well…Quincy Jones: All of them. You know, personally I’ve lost 97 friends in a year and a half. It was really heavy. The ones Aaliyah’s age and Tupac’s and Biggie’s…it’s just terrifying. AHHA: In your book Q, there’s a point where Kidada was speaking about Tupac making some comments about your family, and then later apologizing. Then Tupac had to sit down and meet you and talk to you one day when he and Kidada were at a deli. What was that like when you were sitting down in that deli and you told him you had to come speak to him?Quincy Jones: What happened was he said something, I think it was in the Source. He dissed me about my kids being mixed. I don’t like that and neither does my son. [laughs] So I was going to Jerry’s Deli one night and I was dropping Rashida off, and lo and behold there’s Tupac sittin’ in the booth with Kidada. Like an idiot, I jump over to the back of him and put both hands on his shoulders and yelled, “HA!” Thank God he wasn’t packin’ and all. [laughs] AHHA: Oh my goodness!Quincy Jones: Anyway, I wasn’t worried about that. I was raised in Chicago, honey. Are you kidding? That’s the OG ghetto. So I said, “Pac we have to talk a minute. We went over and sat down.” He had written an apology before that, so that was out of the way because he apologized. At that point, I could tell he was falling in love with my daughter and she was in love with him. So we sat down, and he was so beautiful. We became really good friends after that day. He said he didn’t even have that kind of relationship with his own father – that somebody cared about his future and all that stuff. We became very good friends. At one point I was gonna do Pimp with him and Snoop Dogg, the film. We used to talk on the phone, [Tupac] was very excited about it. Then after a series of events, we lost a very young brother. Very brilliant. I came to know him through the letters he wrote to Kidada. Brilliant writer. Jada Pinkett Smith told me she went to high school with him in Baltimore and he was an A student. With screenplays and everything; a lot of that other stuff was psychodrama, just trying to be a gangster. But he was a very bright kid. In fact, I was very proud that we inadvertently shared one of his biggest records, “How Do U Want It?” he used my sample from “Body Heat” on that. There was some kind of divine connection there, but my daughter was responsible for us hookin’ up.AHHA: When the Vibe cover with Tupac and Biggie was released…Quincy Jones: The magazines, they imitate life. [Magazines aren’t] the cause, they’re the effect. We had summits at my magazine Vibe at the time, we had Colin Powell, Flava Flav, everybody, we had real private summits to keep [violence in Hip-Hop] from happening. I remember Colin Powell asking for two hours to come up, and he ended up staying for five hours. It was heavy, and Biggie was there, Public Enemy, everyone was there. We’ve always been connected as a community, and always will be. I think that Hip-Hop can be so vital in revolutionizing education. I really do. Peace is hard, but keep the knowledge. Drop the knowledge. The young kids need it now too.Watch Tupac’s “How Do U Want?” which samples Quincy Jones’ “Body Heat”

Be sure to check back tomorrow for Part Two of Quincy Jones!