Did you ever have a real conversation about what made it great? Have you ever had a great conversations with an artist? Was someone who just loved hip hop you had a conversation?
A: Definitely. I had all the amazing conversations. I was on the phone with Rick Rubin. He was a major part of my upbringing growing up. It seemed to me that he was having the same conversations with a lot of music writers back in those days. He seemed to be really passionate about it, and there was a lot of great conversation. I had the great conversations with Jay Z. I was talking to him after my album was out about this amazing book [In My Life: Conversations about Music and Blackness] that I’d written for one of hip hop’s biggest publications. It was a great conversation after he said, “You should check this out. It totally looks a lot like your book. It’s really good. I’d love to talk to you about whatever you’re interested in.” And I went into his home and we talked about rap and jazz, and we had a great conversation. It felt like he was really, really interested in the conversation. I think most people know this story, but the guy who wrote the book—he said it was my greatest advice: “You’re going to get an idea about your future when you have a conversation with an artist!” So, I always had these great conversations—especially after I made a lot of money. And I just wanted to be around people who were like, “Oh my God, that’s what happened. That’s what happened.” When people say, “We just sold these people out,” that’s how I heard it.
Q: It’s true that people always talk about your music being influenced by jazz or a jazz influence—which isn’t a bad thing in terms of making someone say, “Oh, my God, that’s what’s going on.” But, at what point does that go beyond that and it starts being just the music of somebody like you?
A: It’s not quite that. I’m just a musician who has a lot of people like my dad, my mother, and my friends on my side. That’s pretty much it. As long as there is a community of like-minded people, I think it’s still there. I don’t really want to claim more than that.
Q: Your album is called The Black Album—was that a conscious decision of yours?
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