Thursday, May 31, 2007

Gotta Give The People What They Want...

Okay i've been slacking, and my erf fam called me out, so lets talk. i've been tippy toeing around getting too personal or not, but i'm feeling it right now, so lets dive in. Now i just have to decide what it is i want to talk about. i have a few topics.. lets start with "THE MAJOR PROBLEM WITH SOUL MUSIC."
We already now the music business sucks and is in trouble. lets not waste anymore time on that. What does D'Angelo, Maxwell, India Arie, Erykah Badu, Musiq Soul Child, Dwele, The Roots, Common, Kenny Lattimore, Vivian Green, Lauryn Hill and the Fugees, and almost every soul artist outside of Jill Scott have in common? They are no longer with the label or label president who initially signed them. Truthfully if Jill wasn't with Hidden Beach she would be included to. You still have the same problem though, because HB's parent company has been flipped more times than Puffy's name. I mean P Diddy... Diddy? Right. Speaking of Badboy, is Carl Thomas still there? Hmmm.. I don't know enough about Bilal's label situation to speak on it, but i can count how many years it's been since "First Born Second." *shakes his head* I digress..
Do you wonder why its taking so long for our soul heroes on major labels to come out with new albums? Well lets use Maxwell as an example. I can't speak for him as a person, nor can i say anything about his creative process. I don't know him personally. I am just a fan just like you, but i do know about his label. He was signed around 1996 to Columbia Records when Michael Maldin (Jermaine Dupree's father) was president of Black Music there. For one reason or another he was fired, and the artist roster has been unstable since. So I remember Tone and Poke were given the new position. Can't remember how long that lasted, but i can only imagine them in a meeting strategizing over a Maxwell album. I don't know who replaced them, but let's skip a few years and position changes shall we... Well one day Tommy Motolla steps down from the whole shabang. Donnie Iner takes over, and not too long ago he was fired. I lost track and interest in who's in charge now. To think that I almost signed with them, but the deal fell thru. Thank God it did, because i would be sitting next to Lauryn Hill scratching my head too. So how do you remain creative when your main label cheer leader keeps changing? Forget being creative, how can you keep a release date? A worthy marketing budget? Tour support? My head is starting to hurt. wait i'm not in jail, i mean on a major. So the person who brings you in and promises their dedication to your vision is gone. the new cat ain't promising you squat. Hell he's too busy trying to sign a younger commercial version of "you." Next album comes out, but doesn't get the push, nor support you wished for. Egos clashing, budgets slashing, label debt growing... Now you have to write the craziest song in the world just to get someone's attention. But you're a soul artist and you write what you feel right? Do you compromise? Do you change to please the peanut gallery, and make your fans go to the Scream tour in order to see you perform? That has to be a frustrating position to be in. I would be extremely confused and probably uninspired.
So what's the problem majors have with soul music? Well most of today's tunes are assembly line music. What you did first, you do again and again and again. They're against growth, and would prefer you to gain a new younger audience rather than stay with the maturing one you started with. Does Mary J Blige do albums for her "My Life" fans? *ponders..* Let's not touch that. Well soul music is all about growth. Look at our soul heroes we honor every year. James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Miles Davis, Bob Marley (that's right i'm including them in soul music), Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan, Nina Simone, Roy Ayers, The Temptations, The Four Tops, The Ojays, and our other heroes all grew and evolved. Where would Marvin's legacy be considered if we stopped his career before "What's Going On?" Yes he would still be a legend, but look what we would have missed. Think of that when considering we haven't had a studio album from Maxwell, Bilal, D'Angelo, Lauryn Hill and several other very important soul artist in over 5 years. Think of what we are missing?