Written by | Ray Cornelius
For 12 years, Taalib Johnson aka Musiq SoulChild, has charmed audiences with his authentic soul music; proving that the lid on the coffin of R&B hasn’t been entirely nailed shut. He has consistently remained on the music charts with songs that make you feel like he is truly living what he is singing about.
I had the pleasure of talking exclusively to him before his concert on Friday, February 10th at Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel at Morehouse College.
We talked about everything from his partnership with the Susan G. Komen for the Cure as well as his collaborations with everyone from jazz pianist, Robert Glasper to new comer, Kuddie Fresh.
RC: You and Chrisette Michelle are both featured on “Ah Yeah” which is the lead single on Robert Glasper’s new CD, Black Radio. What was it like working with the both of them?
MSC: Yes! Personally Robert Glasper is one of my handfuls of geniuses that I’m an honest and genuine fan of and I tell him that all the time. So, it ain’t somethin he doesn’t know.
Chrisette Michelle is just a beautiful lady and has a wonderful spirit. Every time I meet up with her and do a show together, it’s always really cool. In fact, I’m looking forward to working with her on her new album. I really admire her and want to contribute to her legacy of music.
So it is an honor to be of a part of that situation more so because of what Robert Glasper is doing with this music and what he is presenting to people. It’s such a combination of so many different genres and its helping to “reinvent the standard.” And apparently fans get it because every time I turn around people are like, “Yo! That new Ah Yeah joint is bangin!”
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RC: You’re from Philadelphia. How much of an influence does the Philly Sound have on your music style?
MSC: Actually it wasn’t until I got older that I realized the affect the sound of Philadelphia had on me. People like Gamble and Huff, The O’Jays, Teddy Pendergrass…that sound really affected my upbringing.
So when I started making music, I had that as a level of expectation as far as how tight my music needed to be. Pushing the envelope as far as the potential my music could be; rather than whatever was popular on the radio. I was looking beyond that, I was hearing beyond that.
RC: Don Cornelius just passed last week. How important was Soul Train to your career?
MSC: Soul Train was very important beside the fact that they acknowledged me as an artist, nominating me and awarding me for my contributions to music.
And then having the show introduce me to the possibilities of how far I could go as an entertainer and how much of an effect our music has on people – the fact that it makes people want to move their body and express themselves was dope! Don honored that and celebrated that. I just think it was an amazing thing. There wasn’t anything like Soul Train. They were the originators and Don Cornelius was a landmark of that tradition of celebrating music in our community.
RC: Let’s talk about your role as an ambassador for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the song YES. How did this partnership come about?
MSC: Umm! Very organically I was looking to shoot a video for that song and it had no implication of being a song for breast cancer. It’s just that things transpired that way with trying to find a treatment for the video. We thought about a number of topics. But when we got to breast cancer, everybody was like, “Yo! Let’s stop right there.”
And then when the Susan G. Komen For the Cure Foundation caught wind of it they were like, “Yo, this would be awesome if we could take advantage of this song and have you speak on our behalf and we will make you an ambassador. So I was like, “Hell yeah!”
And so working with them only enhances the work I’ve done. It only authenticates my credibility.
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RC: So who is Musiq listening to?
MSC: Robert Glasper for obvious reasons. I mean, even if he wasn’t a friend of mine; I would still listen to his music. Lalah Hathaway. Ryan Leslie. I was actually introduced to a band that I’m actually working with called Snarky Puppy.
And a friend of mine by the name Kuddie Fresh. We’ve become quick friends because we identify with each other so much…we are actually alike in so many ways. Our sounds are different but what we like about music are the same. So you will hear about him either through me or through someone else. But he is definitely on the rise.
RC: You are in Atlanta this weekend headlining the Morehouse College Founder’s Day Concert with special guest Avery Sunshine. What can fans expect?
MSC: Just a soul brother doing soul music for my soul people is the best way I can put it.
RC: Speaking of the AUC Center, I heard you’re a fan of Clark Atlanta University’s WCLK 91.9 FM in particular the Jamal Ahmad’s Soul of Jazz music program…
MSC: LOL…I think he’s really cool. I commend the brother for really reaching out there and playing stuff and bringing light to folks you hardly ever hear about.
RC: Define the Musiq SoulChild sound?
MSC: Oh brother, there is a whole lot to it but I’m gonna try to simplify it. The Musiq Soul Child sound is whatever can be categorized as real music. That’s the best way that I can put it. I think it’s also whatever is necessary; that thing that you need to hear and feel in music. At least that is what I’m always aspiring towards.
Musiq SoulChild with special guest, Avery Sunshine – Friday, Feb. 10th at 8pm at the MLK International Chapel at Morehouse College – Atlanta