Brian McKnight: Back For The First Time

Lately, Brian McKnight has been victimized by the music listening public’s mass narcolepsy. Nevertheless, B. McNeezy remains an R&B icon whose romantic songs have quietly influenced a generation, if not the population. Not only a singer, he’s a down-low musician, producer, athlete and biking enthusiast with thug-like undertones. Still, for over a decade he’s blessed […]

Lately, Brian McKnight has been victimized by the music listening public’s mass narcolepsy. Nevertheless, B. McNeezy remains an R&B icon whose romantic songs have quietly influenced a generation, if not the population. Not only a singer, he’s a down-low musician, producer, athlete and biking enthusiast with thug-like undertones. Still, for over a decade he’s blessed listeners with a homogenized blend of R&B, jazz, harmony, gospel, hip-hop and even rock-n-roll. Brian McKnight, the debut album, dropped in 1992 and now, in 2003, he’s come full circle. He’s got the Grammys, the American Music awards and now he drops U Turn, his latest effort. But, understand, for all of his acclaim and notoriety, we don’t hardly know Brian McKnight. And he’s pretty cool with that.

AllHipHop Alternatives: Can you talk about what is the deal with this album?

B: Basically the short version. This is the most personal record I ever made. It’s filled with cats like Joe, Carl Thomas, Tank, Tyrese, Nelly, Fabolous and Kirk Franklin. Basically it’s an album for everyone. I said there’s every age group, every nationality and there’s every walk of life. I just wanna be able to sorta appeal to everybody out there.

AHHA: Did you take more of a hip-hop approach?

B: No, there are 3 hip-hop songs on the album out of 13 songs. I think its that the very first song with Nelly I did and some people go confused. They make their judgment on the first thing they hear. There is no rock on this record. There’s jazz. R&B, pop and there’s inspirational music all across the board and every tempo.

AHHA: You are considered a veteran. I saw you Ruben and Ron Isley came out on an awards show. How is to see a new generation kind of creep in and then your considered the veteran.

B: I think it great. I think what that says to me is that I’ve been in this business long enough to have gone from being a new guy to an established guy , to a veteran and not everybody gets to do that. I’m still making records and people are still buying them.

AHHA: How long have you been out?

B: I’ve been a professional in this business for 15 years.

AHHA: I read a recent interview with you in KING magazine and you were riding a motorcycle and they said you rode with the Ruff Ryderz. Whats that all about?

B: The LA motorcycle scene is a wild sorta thing. I ride with everyone. I don’t make myself exclusive. My best friend is the west coast director of the Ruff Ryderz and he taught me. We ride together and I ride with a lot of the other guys. One of my past [gigs] was being a stunt rider on street bikes. Seriously, there’s competition and there’s candy racing that we do. Its dangerous and its all the things people think it is but its release for me. Its the only place where I can be truly alone and concentrate on only that is when I’m riding my bike.

AHHA: I had a friend that actually died a couple of years ago in a motorcycle accident. Does that ever worry you? He didn’t get hit or anything. He hit a patch of gravel and crashed. Does it ever concern you?

B: I think that when you’re a real rider you cant really let those moments of doubt creep in. It’s all around you and its constantly around when your on your motorcycle. But if your mind is on anything but what your doing, its over. I would much rather be doing something that I love to do. I watch some of these crazy videos where a guy was walking down the street and a building fell on him. I’m sure that’s not how you want it to go when you die. I’m not trying to die on a motorcycle either but it doesn’t stop me. I want to die doing something I love.

AHHA: Who is the real Brian McKnight because in that same article I saw you cussing up a storm?

B: You know what I didn’t [cuss]. That’s the whole point. The funniest thing about some of these interviews, especially some of these magazines. If you really think that I was standing there doing all that cussing, you out of you mind. “F**k your neighbors?” I didn’t say any of that. It was so funny to me to read that and have somebody write that hoping that that made the article more interesting and more edgy. And even with the picture with the cigarette. What I was trying to accomplish was I was trying to blow the smoke out while I was smoking the tires. Of course they showed the picture of when I was actually smoking the cigarette. So that was kind of interesting.

AHHA: Do you ever have trouble living up to the balladeer image? That’s the first thing that I thought of. You sing these love songs all day.

B: There are so many sides to me man and I think that I’m just finally now starting to let people see those sides. I really only cared that they knew about what I was doing musically. Very few people are gonna be remembered for anything in this life. I’ve been know known as a balladeer so at least I have that. When I step on the basketball court against guys who never played against me you can imagine some of the things that they say. But when they see that I can play then it almost becomes an antagonizing sort of situation because they cant believe that a guy with soft songs can do this. On one hand its great because you get to dispel rumors or dispel that sort of psychology that says if you do this, that’s all you do. I try to be the jack of all trades. I wanted to do everything. I wanted to experience everything. My father was real good with us about saying, “Look there’s a lot out there and don’t put all your apples in one basket. Experience life. Experience the world.” Experience everything that’s out there and that’s all I ever tried to do. Plus he always said do 100% in whatever you do and that’s pretty evident in my life. Especially people that know me. I hate losing and if I do I’m going to keep practicing until I beat you.

AHHA: Who do you listen to?

B: What’s interesting is that I do not use music the way other people do. I use music more as an education than anything. Music ends up being such a big part of my life when I’m not working I try to get away from it. I watch a lot of TV. I watch a lot of movies. I ski, dive, scuba dive. I do all those crazy things. Even when I’m in the car, I listen to talk radio just to give me an idea of what’s going on. I can’t listen to music radio.

AHHA: I listen to a lot of music but deal mainly wit rap and some R&B, because of work. I’m to the point where any work outside of the industry is special because it has nothing to do with music.

B: Exactly my point. There are other things that I’ve done that are so much more interesting and are different. You listen to the radio Its the same stuff over and over again and every now and then something will come on that’s interesting and then it goes right back to being the same again. With talk radio there is a different topic everyday. It gives me a relief from my life.

AHHA: You had a recent divorce. There were some accusations of abuse in some of the reports. Do you ever feel like you were mistreated or misrepresented in some of the publications?

B: I understand when people sell magazines, they think that the only way they can do that is to make the story seem interesting. The same way they did in the KING magazine. As long as my family and I understand each other, we’re fine. I can care less what anybody else writes about it. People that read magazines they don’t really know you. They are never looking at the opportunity to know you on a level that could change their minds. Whatever they read they’re gonna have their perception anyway. One thing that happens with stars a lot of time is that they end up caring so much about what every single person reads or writes about them that they go crazy. My immediate circle of friends know me and they are my friends I had for 10, 12, 15 years and as long as they are cool with me, I’m happy. I make my music and people have a opportunity to meet me and we have a chance to talk. The problem is that when people meet you all they care about is getting something from you. They don’t care about “Who is this guy. Let me ask them a question that may give an idea of who he is.” All they want is their autograph and your picture and they on their way.

If for some reason you had a bad day that day then that’s a whole other perception. You do what you can and your never going to please everybody and once you understand that, you can just live your life

AHHA: Yeah that makes sense. I get tired of hearing from publicist all day – sometimes I spazz out on them and feel bad later. They just want something from me! [laughs] Ok, how is it now that your not 20 years old or married. Do you go out more?

B: Nah. It’s really silly out there. When I was 22 and I wanted to go out I’d go out and I’d see the same people out doing the same stuff they did years ago. What I’ve really done is probably become more reclusive than I was before. I go out every now and then but I try not to do the stuff that everybody else does. I don’t just go to the club and hang out. I may go to the pool house with my friends or with the motorcycle club we might go places and hang out and talk bikes. But other than that it’s not something to be out in a hurry out doing those types of things. At least, not for me.

AHHA: So there wont be any Brian McKnight “Girl Gone Wild” videos?

B: Nah, I don’t think so. I still have to talk to my mother for certain things. I have children that I’m not trying to embarrass. I gotta go to [their] school everyday.

C: I just got a tattoo recently my third one and I still didn’t tell my mom.

B: Yeah I never tell my mom. I have three too. The last one was pretty big. It wasn’t till I saw her she was like, “What’s that?” The very first one I got she was like, “Oh my god! You’re a criminal.” I was like, “Are you kidding me?”

AHHA: You acted recently in the now-deceased “Platinum” series with Sticky Fingaz from Onyx. I was a huge fan of that show and when it went off the air, I was upset. Do you have any plans of doing any more acting?

B: Absolutely. I’m actually in talks in developing three different things right now. One thing is an A&E talk show kind of thing. Another is a full-blown sitcom series and the other one is a motorcycle stunt reality situation

AHHA: What other projects do you have going on?

B: I’m actually signed to my own label. The name is FOS. Fortress of Solitude. It’s like for artist being safe,[playing off of Superman’s home]. Its kind of cheesy but It makes sense to me. They are mostly all young. I got a 14 year old. I got a group of kids from 14 – 20. They are kind of the next Boyz II Men. We’ve had all the white groups come and go. Now its time for the brothers to show back up again. I got a country female. I got a rock act. Wayne Brady is actually one of my artist.

C: He gets dissed a lot. I was defending him the other day. I was talking to somebody about and he starts bashing Wayne. I think that African Americans can have different images and personalities just like our shades of skin.

B: That what people don’t understand. They look at it as being corny. We all grow up differently. Wayne and I grew up in the suburbs so we talk a certain way and we act a certain way, but don’t think that for a minute he can’t be a n####. He’s about to do the HBO thing. The Def Poetry thing. Wait to you see what he does on there. I think it’s going to start to change your perception of him.

AHHA: As long as people are fair.

B: People don’t think that you can be black and successful. You have to do it the way the black public thinks you should do it. That’s ridiculous.

AHHA: Do you have a situation with your label yet? Are you independent?

B: What we’ve decided to do was just to make the records first. The label situation as it stands is about to break down. The corporate structure. All the jobs. The way records have been made. All the infrastructure about to break down because the business is 80 % down. So once you figure that out and we figure out how to get the music to the consumers with out all the mail men. That’s going to be the future of this business.

AHHA: Have you thought of the internet as one of those ways of getting the music out there?

Until they figure out a way to regulate how the music gets to the consumers it’s going to be difficult. When they make it that you can’t just get the music for free and then the internet will be the greatest tool ever.