New Jacks Swinging

New Jacks Swinging

In part 2 of our BMM series, EBONY chats with young icons Salaam Remi, Brian Michael Cox and 9th Wonder about the past, present and future of Black music

Chris Williams

by Chris Williams, June 25, 2012

New Jacks Swinging

Salaam Remi, Bryan Michael Cox and  9th Wonder

problem with giving I-Tunes my credit card number and I’m in the music business. I think there’s a fundamental disconnect when it comes to our culture and technology. It’s not that we don’t want to have the technology we just have trust issues with the system itself. I think, once we get over our trust issues with technology, Black music will be back. I don’t think the music is wack. There are artists who are making good music, but I think our lack of trust with technology is a real problem.

9th Wonder: We have to do it. We have to put the onus on ourselves. We wait for other people to do it. There is a disconnect between hip-hop and the older generation. I’ve heard a lot of folks from the Civil Rights generation say that they didn’t properly pass down the torch to the next generation. I think that there can’t continue to be that same type of disconnect between different generations. Technology now has us split into three categories. You have the sixty year olds then the thirty to forty year olds and the twenty year olds. These are three generations that don’t communicate with one another. You have the Tom Joyner generation who throws their own parties then you have our generation who like Tribe, Biggie, Mary J. Blige, Jodeci and Boyz II Men and then you have the generation below us who like Drake, Lil’ Wayne, and Nicki Minaj. To be honest with you, these generations don’t communicate with each other. We’re always saying, ‘That music ain’t saying nothing.’ Instead of trying to find the common ground between it all, we won’t talk to each other at all. That’s the best way we can preserve black music for generations to come. If we can begin to understand the connection between a 60 year old man and a 30 year old man, a connection can be made between Bobby Blue Bland and Jay-Z and the song ‘Heart of the City.’ If we can understand and embrace that two generations is coming to that song from two different directions and liking it because of the Soul, then we would be better off, but we refuse to take the time. It is the downfall of us.

EBONY: What are you doing to continue the musical traditions established by the legends who came before you?

SR: That’s a good question. I can’t really say I’ve set out to do anything that’s on a certain level, but when I look back on my career it’s always been a situation where I’ve found different things that actually kept it going without me intentionally trying to do so. I don’t go into any creative pocket saying ‘Hey, I’m going to accept the standard for whatever it has been.’ I’ve been blessed to be in the position to push artists forward and in return they’ve pushed the music forward. My work with the Fugees was allowing them to unlock their talents and helping them get the leverage to inspire them to go on and inspire their entire generation. They inspired artists who bounced back to me in the next decade such as Amy [Winehouse] or Jasmine [Sullivan] or any of the other people I’ve worked with because they were inspired by them in 2003. So in 2013, there will be someone who was inspired by the artists I worked with 20 and 10 years ago. My whole game right now is inspiration. How many people can I touch without ever seeing them? I’m trying to be as forward thinking as I can be creatively, and hopefully, it will inspire someone else to become better.

9th Wonder: Educating the youth is very important to me. I’ve been at Duke University for three years and I’ll be at Harvard University this fall to teach. Some may say you’re at Duke and you’re at Harvard but that doesn’t mean outside of those walls I won’t continue to educate the youth on where we came from. I don’t teach from the perspective of the ‘You don’t know what you’re talking about kind of way,’ but more of an ‘OK, I understand what you mean, but check this out.’ There’s a way you can open the youth’s eyes without brick and mortaring them to death. There’s a way you can get them to listen. You have to invent and find more creative ways to reach the youth as opposed to sitting in a classroom with a blackboard. That’s not going to get it especially when they have so many distractions. I choose to teach music through the music that taught me more black history when my teachers didn’t and that music is hip-hop.

BMC: All we can do is to continue to make quality product and continue to evolve as this business evolves.

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