In part one of EBONY.com's Black Music Month series; we sat down with living legends Narada Michael Walden, Teddy Riley, and Larry Dunn. In part two of the series, EBONY was able to sit down with current producing stalwarts Salaam Remi, Bryan Michael Cox, and 9th Wonder. We were able to continue the discussion of the state of Black music today and what needs to be done to progress our music and culture in the future.
EBONY: How did you first fall in love with music and why did you want to pursue it as a career?
Salaam Remi: Well, it’s in my blood. They’re musicians on both sides of my family. My dad was a musician and his brothers were musicians. On my mom’s side, her sisters sang and her brothers were musicians as well. It was there from birth that this could happen. I played instruments when I was young. As I got older, it remained as an element in my surroundings. When I was coming into adulthood, my father was still a musician and a producer so I felt like it could become a profession for me. I can’t even say I fell in love with music. I feel like I was born of music.
9th Wonder: I grew up around music and I know that’s cliché to say, but I think even for those of us who aren’t musicians in the Black community you grew up around music. You would clean up on Saturday’s around music. Soul Train would be on your television. On Sunday, you would go to church and be surrounded by music there too. Music is a big staple in our community. A lot of us grew up around some type of soul music in the 1970s and 1980s. Growing up around that music, it hits people differently. Some people become fans of the music and others want to become more knowledgeable and understand the inner workings of the music. Some of us end up joining the band or chorus in middle school. I didn’t really want to make a career out of music or be a part of it until I saw Pete Rock and CL Smooth’s “They Reminisce Over You” video because that’s the video where I saw Pete Rock and thought to myself he looks like a regular type of dude. It wasn’t like the 1980s where cats had on big gold chains and rap looked like it was out of reach, especially, coming from the South. Here’s a guy that looked like he just made the beats for the group and it seemed like a more realistic goal for me than to become Big Daddy Kane. A Tribe Called Quest was the group that made me feel like I could be a part of hip-hop. Those two groups made me feel like hip-hop and rap could be for the common man.
Bryan Michael Cox: I’ve always been in love with music. I can remember being attracted to the piano at four years old. My grandmother, mother, and most of my family were all musicians. I grew up around music and it was something that came naturally to me. I just don’t remember my life without it. I’m only 34 years old, but my music knowledge is so deep. I remember my mother being a big Kashif fan. I remember hearing Howard Johnson’s record, “So Fine” and Evelyn Champagne King’s Get Loose album. My mother was really into funk music so I was able at a young age to learn that style of music. Once I started growing up, I gravitated to the hip-hop culture. I really gravitated to Teddy Riley’s sound. When I was 9 or 10, I first started hearing Teddy’s music. I could absolutely relate to what he was doing with the merging of the music because I was listening to hip-hop music and I played music in church as well. It wasn’t cool playing piano at the age of 9 in the hood, but it was always something that I wanted to do. Teddy Riley was the producer who opened up my mind to the concept of being able to merge hip-hop music and gospel music in an R&B perspective. I’m a music producer today because of Quincy Jones and Teddy Riley.
EBONY: Do artists and producers have an obligation to progress the genre of music they represent?
9th Wonder: I live by this quote from Curtis Mayfield, ‘You must educate as well as entertain.’ I’m a firm believer in those words. Sometimes it is hard for great musicians to receive their just due and make a worldly impact let alone in the United States until they’re dead and gone because mainstream media chooses to only play a couple of things. A lot of people don’t get to hear the brilliance