21st Century Soul: An Interview with John Legend

John Legend Flyer

This past Friday (March 29), I had the opportunity to talk with 9-time Grammy Award winning singer John Legend. Along with Julia Klein of Slope Media Group, she and I traded off questions to Mr. Legend ranging from his college days at The University of Pennsylvania, philanthropic endeavors, his passion for music, and of course his new album Love In The Future, which is due out on June 25th. One of the things I hope you conclude from both reading this article and listening to the interview is that John Legend credits passion and luck to where he is today. As he mentioned to us, “You’ve gotta meet the right people, you’ve gotta have a roommate who’s Kanye’s cousin and that helps.”

John Legend Breezy

Going into this interview I wasn’t the biggest fan of John’s music, but I certainly have great respect for him and his talents. After about 15-minutes of speaking with him, followed by about an hour or so lecture and performance, I now know that John Legend truly enjoys sharing his voice to his audience through teaching. As a committed philanthropist, John Legend is on the board of Teach For America and the Harlem Village Academy. He also spends a lot of time trying to improve inner city schools and education reform. I guess we’re all just ‘ordinary people’…

The promotion for your new album Love In The Future is now underway. Last week you released two new tracks; the first being the Hit-Boy produced “The Beginning” and the official single “Who Do You Think We Are” featuring Rick Ross. What has the initial feedback been on these tracks?

It’s been great. Only time will tell with these things because a lot of it is determined as things get to radio and they kind of build an audience from week to week so we’ll see how it goes, but so far I’ve almost seen nothing but positive feedback and so I feel good about it. I feel very proud of the songs themselves, I feel very proud of the album and I think it’s going to be my best album yet so I’m excited.

Personally, I think “Who Do You Think We Are” is an incredible track. The passion and soul you incorporate with the Jean Knight sample is really something everyone could enjoy. On top of that, Rick Ross’ vocals glide right over the beat. Obviously the chemistry between you guys is undeniable from “Magnificent” to “Sweet Life”, “Rich Forever” and Meek Mill’s “Maybach Curtains.” With that being said, can you explain your relationship with Rick Ross and when are we getting a collaboration album! 

Well, Rick and I aren’t close friends who call each other up and hang out, it’s more of a professional relationship, but it’s one of mutual respect for each other as artists and the recognition that we really do sound good together. So we’ve done a lot of those tracks and we have similar musical sensibilities, I think. When it comes to bringing hip-hop and soul together, our voices just work really well together. And, it is often been kind of discussed the idea that we could do something together as a full album and I think that it is still possible.

Love in the Future, new album is coming out June 25th, and the title has a few meanings. Of course you’re getting married so congratulations on that, and on top of that you said it’s about the style of music that’s on the album which you called a 21st century soul album. So what is the meaning behind a 21st century soul album and what can we look for?

Well you know, when I went into this project the main thing I talked about with my collaborators was, everyone knows I do kind of a vintage soul sound, everyone compares me to singers that came like 40 years ago. How do we keep that but still move the music forward? That was really the mission musically and creatively, thinking about how to make a really beautiful modern soul album that was the goal.

In regards to your 2008 album Evolver, you’ve mentioned that during that time period Kanye wasn’t really around to be fully invested in your project…

Kanye’s been more involved in this album then any of my other albums.

Kanye/John

Does it feel like the Get Lifted era again?

I think there are some elements of that, but he’s actually more creatively involved in this album then Get Lifted. Once again, he was involved in those albums, but this time less as a beat maker and more of a creative advisor or executive producer.

I wanted to take a moment and reflect on your career, specifically as a member of G.O.O.D. Music. When you see everything from Consequence acting crazy on VH1’s Love and Hip Hop to G.O.O.D. Music affiliate Travi$ Scott on this years XXL Freshman cover to Big Sean & 2 Chainz becoming hip-hop superstars, what are you thoughts on the evolution of G.O.O.D. Music and where it is now? 

GOOD Music

Well, I think Kanye has great taste and he is a great executive producer and a great creative mind, and so he’s been good at signing some really talented people. Some of those people are more unofficial G.O.O.D. Music members, like 2 Chainz, but either way, Kanye knows talent and he knows people that have something special and he’s able to help them become even better than they were without him. I think those two things; the ability to help them get better and ability to find them in the first place, are two things that make a great label executive.

Signed "Cruel Summer" CD

Signed “Cruel Summer” CD

What’s next for you in preparation for the album?

We have a video for “Who Do You Think We Are” that we shot last week, and that will be coming out in April. The video is awesome. Then we’ll put out another single right before the album comes out and we’ll keep on moving. We’ll be touring in Europe over the summer doing festivals, then we’ll come back to the States and do a U.S. tour in the fall/winter and I’m excited to roll this out.    

Update: John Legends album “Love in the Future” will now be released on September 3rd, 2013

Advertisements