America’s biggest export is media and I think that’s a positive thing.
I continue to write songs that are topically related to social, political and economic issues of our time, but I also recognize that onstage, I have a lot of fun and audiences have a lot of fun, so I’m trying to package the messages in music and sounds that are fun to perform and fun to listen to.
Music, especially as an adolescent, helps to build identity because that’s when people start developing a sense of self. You can kind of tell based on what music a person listens to what kind of person they’ll be pretty much for the rest of their life.
When I started out, I wrote the songs, recorded the songs, mastered, mixed, did the artwork, made the packaging and did the distribution, all myself. Now I understand what everyone’s jobs are, who is doing them right, and who isn’t.
We develop social systems for the handicapped, but when you’re handicapped in your mind, society doesn’t handle those situations well. I think we don’t recognize or acknowledge the power of messages and how deeply affected we all are by the messages we receive from the media.
I’ve become more introverted as I’ve got older. I used to be an outgoing person who joked around a lot, but as the amount of energy I expend by sharing my music has increased, I like to balance it by spending time by myself and recuperating.
Industry executives sacrificed art for what sells and mega-stars now saturate the market with the same tired lyrics.
Hip-hop educated me about other forms of music, because it sampled from all different styles.
Music critics think of lyrics first and don’t consider melody but so many songs are lyrically depressing but musically great, and that’s why they become classics.
In hip-hop, I wasn’t very focused on delivering a message. It was just a string of lines that didn’t connect. What I wanted to do is write stories… and affect someone’s emotions with that song. I think as a soul singer, I’m able to accomplish that.
I think a lot of self-identity and inner-personal development is hampered by consumerism and capitalism because we see ourselves as a reflection of the TV, rather than as a reflection of the people who are around us, truly.
People in the Middle East may consider the U.S. an evil hegemony that has tainted their culture, but when I look at the growth of racial and ethnic tolerance and understanding in my generation in the U.S., and see those sentiments make it around the world, it makes me feel proud.
Salsa, classic rock, soul music, jazz… all of that was a part of my education in making hip-hop music.
I felt I had an opportunity to follow in the footsteps of great soul musicians of the past, who made a lot of social and political commentary through their music.
In school, I studied psychology, linguistics, neuroscience. I understand that there is a real lack of respect for the brain.