Musiq Soulchild: Traveling Down the Wise Road

Album after album, Musiq Soulchild never fails to deliver. And with the release of his sixth album, musiqinthemagiq, the world has been reminded that there is quite a bit of “magic in the [music].” His latest release pays homage to the traditional elements of R&B, while incorporating contemporary elements of urban music. During a promotional campaign […]

Album after album, Musiq Soulchild never fails to deliver. And with the release of his sixth album, musiqinthemagiq, the world has been reminded that there is quite a bit of “magic in the [music].” His latest release pays homage to the traditional elements of R&B, while incorporating contemporary elements of urban music.

During a promotional campaign for musiqinthemagiq, Music Soulchild managed to squeeze some time out his schedule and settle down for his second interview with – reflecting on a decade of recording, stepping outside the R&B box, and embracing fatherhood.  During our last conversation, in promotion of onmyradio, you were in the midst of a move to Atlanta. How have you enjoyed the transition?

Musiq Soulchild:  Although I live in Atlanta, I have not spent that much time in the city – especially within the last year. I’ve been all over the place – New York, Atlanta, and I was out in L.A. for a little while. But Atlanta has a real calm pace, which allows me to see things from one perspective, compared to New York, which has a different pace and sense of urgency.  Since you are constantly on the road, traveling and performing, how does that wear and tear on you as an artist? How do you keep yourself grounded?

Musiq Soulchild:  Being on the road is a challenging thing. I wouldn’t necessarily say that it always wears and tears on me. But there is some wear and tear. I just don’t wear it like that. Like life itself, anytime you’re up and you’re moving around and you’re doing stuff, it’s going to be taxing on you. I try to relax as much as possible. I try to get as much rest as I can. Whenever I’m out, I try not to stress myself out or allow myself to be stressed out. A lot of people question sometimes about how come I don’t like to go party. Because I don’t really have the energy for all of that after I get done doing what I’m doing. So I just try to maintain myself and stay focused on what’s important. And whenever I can, any time the opportunity allows, I really like to do nothing. If I’m not at home and I’m staying at a hotel, then I just try to go to my hotel and get me something to eat and just chill.  With age comes wisdom. With over a decade of experience in the music industry, do you find it challenging to stay true to your roots while remaining competitive in this current music landscape?

Musiq Soulchild:  My whole career has been a mix of very challenging things but also some very inspiring things, as well, and I’m grateful for them; even the things that were a bit of a hassle. You’re not going to like everything about everything, but it do help you to appreciate it all. If everything was all good all the time, you wouldn’t really appreciate it because you would just take it for granted, you would take it as a given. So besides that, I do have those otherwise moments to contrast the good moments. It’s helped me to appreciate the good moments that much more. But overall, the fact that I’m where I am ten years removed and I’ve accomplished the things that I’ve accomplished. I’m nothing less than grateful and honored, even to the fact that people still care about me for my albums; that they still are looking to go get them and spend money on them and still come to the shows and still asking for me; not just recognizing that I’m still here or whatever, but they’re still asking for me. That’s really dope for me.  Your latest project is entitled musiqinthemagiq. Going off of what you just said, I’m going to flip the title around a little bit: “magic in the music.” As a long-time listener of your work, I have always found magic in your music. When you look back at this recording experience, what does this particular album mean to you on a personal level? At this point in your career, do you feel like you have to prove anything?

Musiq Soulchild:  I guess it’s just that it gives credit to my credibility. I never felt like I had anything to prove, but I do recognize that because there’s so many people out there doing it and there’s a lot of competition; at least in the beginning, nobody really knew who I was. You’ve got to give people a reason to care. That’s just the basic laws of business. You’ve got to give them a reason to want to invest in what it is that you do. I mean, anybody doesn’t just spend money on anything just because you say so. You might think that you’re dope but the rest of the world is not obligated to, unless you give them a reason to remember that. When you’re consistent in what you do, that generates confidence, with your audience and within yourself. People don’t like that unstable state of mind when they go to invest in something. Is it going to be good? Is it going to be in a way that I like it? When you can reassure them every time you come out that whatever you do they’re going to like it and they’re going to enjoy it; that’s what motivates me as far as that’s concerned.

As far as like the title of the album, you flipping it is actually what I did with that turn of phrase, “magic in the music”I just flipped it because a lot of people say, “the magic in the music” but nobody’s ever really talked about what that magic is. And I started thinking about that saying and starting thinking about how it would apply to a whole lot of people in a lot of ways and I couldn’t really come up with anything. I mean, I came up with the idea as to why and what it was as far as other people were concerned, but only the person or the people that make the music can really speak on it the best. So when I started thinking about me, I started thinking about: “Well, what is the magic in my music?” And aside from all the other contributing factors like the producers that I’ve worked with, and the writers, and the fans, and the studios; or the time that I made the songs, and the films that I was inspired by; I’ve always given credit to those things throughout my entire career. But I very rarely, if at all, own up to my contribution to what the magic would be in my music. So that’s why the title is musiqinthemagiq. It’s saying that I am the magic that’s in my music.  I appreciate your insight! Throughout your career, you have always made it a point to give people a more realistic perspective about romantic relationships. What elements do you think are the hardest to convey?

Musiq Soulchild:  It’s a challenging thing to express to people the fantastic notions that people have as far as how relationships are and how they progress and how they transpire. The challenging thing is helping people to understand that not only do they not always go that way, but they don’t always go however they go for everybody in the same way. And I think a lot of people jump into relationships with a really high sense of entitlement and a really unrealistic sense of expectation, which leads to a lot of disappointment. And there isn’t enough acceptance: not just acceptance of the other person, and not even acceptance of themselves, but more so acceptance of the situation of being whoever they are trying to be with somebody else, if that makes sense to you. I guess a lot of people expect people to respond the same way that they would.

If somebody’s in a relationship and they do things to show that they care and that they love that person, and the other person doesn’t express the same thing, then they automatically just assume that they don’t care. That’s not fair because, especially if you don’t really know that person and especially if that person has their own way of showing how they love and how they care about someone, they will allow that situation to ruin the potential of how much they can progress with that other person. I learned that myself, that just because a person don’t say the same things that you say or do the same things that you do in the way that you say them and in the way that you do them, it doesn’t mean that they don’t care. It just means that they don’t do it that way.

So instead of expecting that person to be you, why don’t you accept that person to be whoever they are and try to get on their page, rather than trying to get them on your page all the time. Because with all of that, you’re going to be by yourself if you’re trying to be with somebody that’s like you all the time. But you’re asking to be with someone else, and you’re asking that someone else to make room for you in their lives. And I don’t think people consider that either, the fact that they’ve got to make room in their lives for somebody else. When stuff starts to get a little uncomfortable, then people want their own space back. It’s like you’ve got to either accept that person and what comes with it or leave that person alone.  Very true. On the album, the song that I gravitated towards the most was “Yes”. When you hear this song, what thoughts immediately come to mind?

Musiq Soulchild:  Well, this song was written by Claude Kelly; and when it was submitted to me, I thought it was pretty cool. It reminds me of something that I would say. It’s the same topic that I discussed in the song “Don’t Change”. Two or three years from now, if you ever wonder will I feel the same about you or even if the love that I have for you will last, I’m telling you, yes. Because things naturally change in relationships. People change. But whatever the changes are, if you’re wondering if I’ll still be willing to be there with you and adjust with you and do whatever is necessary to still be with you, then the answer is yes. The whole point is I don’t want you to ever worry about if I’ll still be there. If I told you that I love you, and if I told you that I’m going to be there for you, then that’s my final say. You don’t have to keep asking me and keep guessing. It is what it is. I’m here for you.  Over the years, you have always wanted to showcase more of your talents outside of what we consider the “R&B box”. One of the things a lot of rappers tend to do is come out with mixtape albums that whet the appetite of fans in the midst of recording their formal albums. These mixtapes also allow them to experiment and be flexible in their artistic expression outside of a major studio release. Have you thought about any other outlets or avenues to showcase what we typically see? Or are you facing any difficulties in trying to showcase alternative sides of your artistry?

Musiq Soulchild:  Yes, actually. The difficulty is when it comes to R&B or when it comes to singers, at least in the style of music that I make, and really that I make it in musically and professionally, it’s not always a welcome thing for us to do something other than what people know us for. It’s like if you sing ballads, then that’s all people want from you. If you flip the script, then it kind of turns people off – no matter how good it is. They’re just fixed on how they think about you, and that’s all they want from you. And that’s been a huge challenge for me throughout the years. However, you look at somebody like Kanye West. People have been more receptive to change. You can be a beat maker and you can rap on your own sh*t and you can sing your own sh*t. And even with Lil’ Wayne, he went ham on Autotune and just letting everybody know: “I know that I can’t sing, but I can throw some Autotune in that sh*t and you wouldn’t even care.”

People are more willing to allow artists to be more expressive in different ways. And I’ve attempted to give it a shot, and it was definitely met with a lot of opposition because I tried to go about it professionally. I tried to get the label involved and all of that. And they were like: “Look, homie, you already got a brand. Stick to that.” So now I’m thinking about just doing stuff, especially nowadays with all of these outlets. I’ll just do stuff and put it out, not necessarily for profit but just to showcase the fact that I’m capable of doing other things than just what you’ve been exposed to. So definitely keep your eyes and ears open for other stuff other than my doing my label Musiq Soulchild thing. Look forward to me doing other stuff, and in other ways; possibly even under different names.  Well, I definitely look forward to those releases! Since the music industry goes through cycles, a major testament to your longevity is the fact that you have survived in an industry that has not been kind to male R&B artists. If you think about your contemporaries, who were on the scene when you first started, and then look at who have remained active and relevant, why do you think you have been able to accomplish this feat?

Musiq Soulchild:  To be honest, I really don’t know. I really don’t know how to answer that question as far as what is it about me that set me apart from everyone else. But I do know how to answer the question as far as what was done for me to accomplish that. Typically that was that I just kept working at that. I maintained my focus on what was important and what was important to me with you guys being entertained by whatever it is that I do. So, I’ve never put out anything that’s just been totally about me, that’s just been like this is what I want to put out 100 percent. It’s always been a collective process that I’ve always incorporated outside influences and people’s opinions and things like that. And I’ve done that on purpose because if I’m going to try to entertain a broad audience of people, then it helps to get information from outside of myself.

I can’t think of everything, and everybody in the world don’t listen to the same stuff or don’t like music for the same reason. I just like to always learn about different ways to get my music out, different ways of expressing myself and different ways of communicating my music to different types of people. I listen to all types of different music. I personally have never been genre-specific, but the industry is in the way that they have these different categories and they sort of demand you to appeal to different demographics. Even with the [critic’s] process, you’re categorized and you’re awarded according to the category that you’re in. Personally, I’ve never looked at music like that. I’ve always looked at it as it’s just the same thing being expressed in different ways, and it all depends on who you’re trying to entertain. So I just try to stay open. I try to stay grounded. I try to stay optimistic and forward thinking. I try to be as innovative as I possibly can. I try to be versatile. I try not to redo and remake the same thing over and over and over and over again.

There’s a certain magic to being persistent, but it’s also a slippery slope because you can be so consistent that people tend to stop caring because they kind of see you coming after a while. I don’t like people to feel like they can see me coming. If anything, I want you to at least know that whatever I put out is going to be quality work, but I don’t want you to always assume, “Oh, he’s just going to put out a ballad and that’s it.” It’s like no, there’s a whole lot more to me than what you’re getting, and I would like to get it to you, but I can’t get it to you if you just expect a certain thing and try to keep me in a box. Outside of that, I don’t know.

I definitely have appreciation and respect for anybody else that I started out with and came out around the same time. But I also know this thing ain’t easy, man. This is a very challenging business for a soul singer, because that’s not necessarily what’s necessary to become successful. You don’t really have to be that passionate. You don’t really have to be that artistically substantial in order to make a hit or to make a name for yourself or to get a check these days. Anything could pop off nowadays. And that’s another thing: the fact that there’s an audience for what I do. I give a lot of my success to the people who supported me, my fans and different people in the industry: different companies, different institutions, different businesses. I’ve gotten a lot of support. I’ve definitely been blessed.  Between the release of onmyradio and musiqinthemagiq, you became a father. After listening to your latest album, I know that fatherhood  has not necessarily influenced the content of your music, but I wonder how has fatherhood impacted the day-to-day decisions in your music career.

Musiq Soulchild:  Well, simply it just changed because now it’s not just me. Now I have my own personal family to take care of. It’s not like my brothers and my sisters and my mom and my dad who have grown up and take care of themselves and I just look out every now and again. Now it’s about this person who doesn’t know how to take of himself, and his mother and I – we’re his only source of anything. And with a child, not being able to provide is not an option, so it definitely ups the ante as far as how I go after things and how much harder I grind and my lack of tolerance for unnecessary things. I’ve been a very patient and tolerant individual. After I had my son, all of that tolerance went out the door. It’s reserved for him. There is a lot of foolishness that’s going on in this game. I’m sure you probably heard of it before, but a lot of crazy bullsh*t goes on. I used to just recognize it for what it was and kind of give people passes because I don’t really get too much into it. I just find another way and find another way. But now it’s at the point where it’s like I don’t even have time to entertain it. So in that way I would say that’s how fatherhood has changed me.

For more information on Musiq Soulchild, visit his official website and “follow” him via Twitter [@MusiqSoulchild].